Dutch Ask EU to Freeze Billions for Poland in Rule-of-Law Clash
(Bloomberg) -- The Netherlands’s caretaker prime minister, Mark Rutte, will call on the European Union to withhold 36 billion euros ($42 billion) in recovery money earmarked for Poland following a controversial Polish court ruling that undercut a pillar of membership in the bloc.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has already delayed an assessment of Poland’s request for stimulus funds and is still deciding if, and when, to release the money. Warsaw is bidding for 23.9 billion euros in grants and 12.1 billion euros in low-interest loans from the bloc.
“It’s very important and a priority to call on the commission to not approve the Polish recovery plan,” Rutte said in a debate in Dutch parliament on Tuesday. “I will call on the commission in the council next week -- also supported by the House -- not to approve the recovery plan, in any case to wait until the issue of which court has priority has been settled.”
EU leaders will meet in Brussels Oct. 21-22 for a summit.
Also on Tuesday, a majority of lawmakers in the Dutch legislature supported a motion calling on Rutte to ask the commission and the Dutch government not to approve the funds. That would entail triggering an emergency brake in the EU’s budget that would also freeze the money.
The motion is significant because a qualified majority of EU member states for the first time has the ability withhold budget payments to countries accused of rule-of-law violations.
The Dutch motion was supported by Rutte’s People’s party as well as the pro-EU D66 group. Both are in four-way talks to form a new governing coalition.
“I don’t care how Rutte makes this happen, either with the emergency break or in another way,” Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, the D66 lawmaker who drafted the motion, said in an interview on Wednesday. “This is not against Poland or its people, this is against the government of Poland.”
Poland’s nationalist government on Tuesday cemented into law a ruling that challenges the EU legal order by saying Polish law can override it. The primacy of EU law is written into its treaty.
As many as 100,000 people turned up at a rally in Warsaw on Sunday evening to hear Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk accuse the government of trying to take Poland out of the EU, with similar protests taking place in 120 cities across the country. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the accusation fake news and said he had no intention of leaving the bloc.
“The EU is not an a la carte menu -- you can’t ignore the basic values of the EU and just take a free ride,” Sjoerdsma said. “That would be the end of the EU.”
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