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Poland set to get more than 5 billion euros in EU money after commission approves recovery plan

Last Updated Nov 21, 2023 at 8:27 am MDT

Leader of the Polish Civic Coalition Donald Tusk, left, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen walk off the podium after addressing a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Poland is set to receive more than 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) in EU funds after the European Commission gave a positive assessment Tuesday of the country’s revised recovery plan that includes green reforms and investments.

The 5.1 billion euros pre-financing is part of the bloc’s REPowerEU program aimed at helping the 27 EU nations recover from the energy crisis that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and reduce their dependance to Russian fossil fuels.

The announcement came a month after an election in Poland secured a parliamentary majority to pro-EU parties aligned with Donald Tusk.

A former EU Council president, Tusk is expected to become Poland’s next prime minister. He traveled to Brussels last month to meet with top officials and repair Warsaw’s ties with the bloc, aiming to unlock billions of euros in funds that have been frozen due to democratic backsliding under the outgoing nationalist government. The EU previously blocked to €34.5 billion ($37.8 billion) in post-pandemic aid over rule of law concerns.

Following the EU’s executive arm’s proposal, the council representing the EU countries has four weeks to greenlight the disbursement of money. EU finance ministers are expected to approve the plan at their next meeting on Dec. 8.

The total value of the Poland’s recovery plan, which includes the REPowerEU chapter, amounts 59.8 billion euros ($65.5 billion), including 34.5 billion ($37.8 billion) in loans and 25.3 billion in grants ($27.7 billion).

The European Commission says that Poland must reach “super milestones” before the bulk of the money can be released. A key milestone involves ensuring the independence of the judiciary.

“This means that no disbursement following a payment request under the (program) is possible until Poland has satisfactorily fulfilled these three ‘super milestones,’” the commission said.

The ruling party, Law and Justice, which has governed Poland for the past eight years, implemented a number of new laws that gave the executive and legislative branches greater control over the judicial branch. The steps have caused years of tensions between Warsaw and Brussels, and led to the funds to be frozen.

Law and Justice, however, is expected to have to hand over power soon to a bloc of pro-EU parties under the leadership of Tusk.

Law and Justice was the biggest vote getter among the parties that ran in national election on Oct. 15, however it lost its majority in parliament and the ability to govern.

The pro-EU parties, which already control a majority in parliament, are expected to have a government in place by mid-December. They have promised to take steps to ensure judicial independence.

However, much also depends on President Andrzej Duda, who is allied with Law and Justice. He holds veto power and his term lasts for another year and a half.

Samuel Petrequin And Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press