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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » April 30, 2018
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Poland–EC Dispute
April 30, 2018   
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Three first months of 2018 did not bring any solutions in Warsaw's conflict with Brussels over the rule of law in Poland and logging of the primeval forest of Białowieża.

February 20:
Brussels is happy with the current direction and form of dialogue with Poland, European Council president Jean-Claude Juncker told Polish president Andrzej Duda during their meeting in Vilnius, chief presidential aide Krzysztof Szczerski said.

February 21:
The Polish government broke the EU law by allowing the much-protested logging in its ancient Białowie˝a forest, advocate general to the European Court of Justice Yves Bot stated in a formal opinion that could likely be taken into consideration by ECJ when debating a final ruling in the Poland-EU strife over the matter, the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna wrote.

The government will follow the ECJ ruling and implement the recommended procedures to protect Białowie˝a, environment minister Henryk Kowalczyk said following the announcement. Kowalczyk discussed his idea of establishing a special panel for preparing a comprehensive plan for Białowie˝a at his meeting with the European environment commissioner Karmenu Vella.

On the flip side, environmental organizations point out that the primeval forest is still at risk as a controversial document allowing increased logging in the forest, introduced by Kowalczyk's predecessor Jan Szyszko is still in force.

February 22:
Poland should be able to avoid a Council of Europe vote on the country's observance of rule of law as the idea is opposed by the European Commission and most EU members, daily Rzeczpospolita wrote.

However, a group of over 10 EU member states are refusing to let Poland off the hook completely. The Council may consequently adopt a set of own recommendations for Poland, which would indefinitely prolong the dispute with Warsaw and considerably limit PM Mateusz Morawiecki's options on the international front.

February 22:
Poland should have no fear of receiving smaller funding from the European Union as a result of its reputed problems with abiding the rule of law, as the EU institutions have no legal instruments to bind the question of financing with politics, minister of investments and development Jerzy Kwieciński told the daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna in an interview.

On the other hand, Poland is likely to feel the impact of recession in some of EU member states, Brexit and EU's additional expenses connected with fighting terrorism or migration crisis when it comes to the scale of funding it will receive under the new 2021-2027 financial framework, Kwieciński added.

February 26:
Poland will support tying EU fund payments to observance of European values provided it is based on "very objective criteria", PM Mateusz Morawiecki said at the EU summit in Brussels, where he also talked to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Recent signals coming from the EC head and his deputy Frans Timmermans give hope for discontinuation of the Article 7 procedure launched against Poland, according to unspecified sources in the Polish government quoted by the paper Polska The Times. The EC will provide its justification for launching the procedure at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

February 28:
The Polish government is running out of time to address the country's rule of law issues; the European Commission received no signals that Poland will meet a March 20 deadline to present solutions to issues with judiciary reform, Timmermans said following the debate of EU ministers on the issue.

The government will try to explain the intricacies of its judiciary reform in the so-called white book, and should EC question the explanations, Warsaw will request an in-depth analysis of its reform, this time carried out by member states rather than the executive arm of the European Union.

Even partial concessions from Poland, in writing or promised publically, could lead to the suspension of the Article 7 procedure launched against the country, the daily Gazeta Wyborcza writes of its own findings in Brussels.

March 2:
The Polish government should not count on leniency of European Commission Vice President Franz Timmermans, piloting the Brussels-launched Article 7 censure procedure against Poland, a prominent EC representative told the daily Rzeczpospolita.
Timmermans will ultimately want Warsaw to provide the EU community with specific answers to the Commission's recommendations concerning Poland's much-debated judiciary reform, according to the source.

March 7:
Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki was expected to present the so-called "white book" explaining recent changes to the Polish judiciary system during his visit to Brussels March 8, the daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna wrote of its own information. Morawiecki was to do so following his meeting with European Commission head Jean-Claude Junker, one of the most ardent supporters of EU and Poland's burying the hatchet, according to unspecified sources.
Poland might avoid penalization under the Article 7 procedure if it makes concessions regarding some aspects of its judiciary reform, for example by going back on the new retirement regulations for the Supreme Court judges, an anonymous source said. Poland's willingness to cooperate is seen as the key factor in taking further diplomatic and legal steps against the country, the daily added.

March 8:
Poland risks considerable weakening of its position on the international stage should the EU member states vote over a formal statement that there is a clear risk of a breach of EU values in Poland, Marek Prawda, Head of the European Commission's Representation in Poland told the daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna in an interview. Poland needs a good reputation to successfully negotiate its share of the EU funds under the new post-2020 financial framework, he added. Poland might also find itself on a lost negotiating position due to its reluctance to participate in solving EU's refugee crisis, Prawda said.

March 9:
Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki's meeting with chair of European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker brought no breakthrough in the long-lasting strife between Warsaw and EU, resulting from the latter's concerns about the rule of law in Poland, the daily Polska The Times wrote. The dialogue is going to be continued, both officials assured following the meeting at which Morawiecki presented Juncker with the so-called "white book" explaing the much-contested changes to the Polish judiciary system. Poland now hopes for a thorough analysis of the digest by the European Commission, Morawiecki said, while reiterating that Warsaw will respond to the Commission's recommendations regarding the observance of the rule of law in Poland to March 20. Polish PM's "number one" goal is to reach the compromise with EU partners, a source within the government told the daily. Poland is ready to make some concessions, including the much delayed publication of some important rulings of its Constitutional Tribunal, or giving up on the idea of extraordinary complaint to the Supreme Court, the daily adds, citing unofficial information.

March 20:
PM Mateusz Morawiecki and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the future developments in the EU and the rule of law in Poland during Merkel's visit to Warsaw March 19. Merkel stressed she was hoping for a constructive dialog of Warsaw with Brussels on that latter issue. The chancellor's visit was an attempt to move the Polish government to reach a compromise with Brussels concerning the judiciary reform, which is reportedly a condition for achieving "normal" mutual relations, the daily Rzeczpospolita wrote pointing to a source close to German Foreign Ministry.

March 21:
Poland might have lost a chance for ending its long-standing strife with the European community over the rule of law as it effectively refused to rectify the most contested elements of its controversial judiciary reform in a response to European Commission's recommendations, the daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna wrote, citing anonymous sources in Brussels. The government-prepared "white book," intended to explain the fresh changes to the judiciary system, drew firm objections from a number of EU members, especially those pointed at by Poland as countries with legal solutions similar to those introduced by the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), the daily Gazeta Wyborcza wrote citing own information. By reiterating its willingness to continue talks on the matter, both in the "white book" and its official response to EC recommendations, Poland is simply playing for time, a source within the foreign ministry told the daily.

March 22:
Polish government disagrees with the European Commission's reservations regarding the rule of law related to the judiciary reform in Poland, according to the answer Warsaw issued in response to the EC recommendations the Polish Press Agency got access to. Poland's authorities will not go back on the introduced changes, but are willing to cooperate with the EC in terms of evaluation of their effects, the document reads. The government officially confirmed its engagement in solving the strife with the EC and declared willingness to continue talks, foreign ministry press office announced.

March 23:
The Polish government hopes to persuade the European Commission to withdraw its motion for a probe into observance of rule of law in the country within 1-2 months, unspecified sources told daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily ahead of the meeting of PM Mateusz Morawiecki with EC head Jean-Claude Juncker.

Meanwhile Poland's latest attempt at justifying its judicial reform with "different historical experience" of particular EU member states is said to have baffled many European capitals.

March 27:
Poland's cabinet members are optimistic about the protracted impasse in the dispute with the EC on the rule of law in Poland, sources from the government told the paper Polska the Times.

EC President Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly suggested in the talks with PM Mateusz Morawiecki that the EC would drop the procedure against Poland if Poland makes any concessions, the source said.

Even if the Commission does not withdraw from the procedure, it may slow it down so much as to let it die after next year's elections to the European Parliament, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna sources suggested. The EC only needs a pretext, according to the source.

Proposals of bills amending the act on common courts and Supreme Court as well as the bill that would allow for the publication of three, still unpublished, rulings of the Constitutional Tribunal of 2016, were submitted to the Polish Sejm on Thursday, the paper reminded.

March 28:
Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) may have to make further concessions to the European Commission to ease the conflict over the rule of law, Rzeczpospolita noted.
According to the daily, Adam Bielan, an envoy of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, met with the commission's secretary general Martin Selmayr to discuss the issue.

PiS hopes that closing the conflict will help the party win the centrist electorate, without affecting its core electorate, as the essence of the judicial reform will remain untouched.

April 05:
The Polish government plans to introduce changes agreed upon with the European Commission into its judiciary regulations, ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) head Jarosław Kaczyński told the weekly Gazeta Polska. Poland is likely to end its strife with the EC over the disputed judiciary reform "soon", Kaczyński added, citing his own information.

April 06:
The Polish government is now as close to solving its strife with the European Commission over the contested judiciary reform as it has never been since the crisis erupted, deputy foreign minister Konrad Szymański told the daily Rzeczpospolita.

Hopes are high ahead of EC's deputy head Frans Timmermans visit to Warsaw. Poland is ready to make concessions regarding some aspects of the judiciary reform, including the abolition of the extraordinary complaint to the Supreme Court, but expects a gesture of goodwill from Brussels, EU sources told the daily.

A visit of EC head Jean-Claude Juncker could be one, insiders suggested, as it would be generally perceived as a symbolic sign of Poland and EU burying the hatchet.
Source: Polish Press Agency (PAP)
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