Poland’s Government Shoots Down Call to Stop EU Budget Payments
(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s government rejected a suggestion from a hardline coalition leader that it could stop paying into the European Union budget in an apparent attempt to lower the temperature in its clash with the bloc over the rule of law.
The government distanced itself from a comment from Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro , who told the Financial Times newspaper that Poland should suspend payments to the EU budget and veto its policies if a standoff that has delayed the payout of 36 billion euros ($40.6 billion) in recovery aid escalates.
Ziobro was expressing his “private opinion” in the comments, and the minister only represents a junior member of Law & Justice-led administration, cabinet spokesman Piotr Muller said Monday.
Ziobro plays a crucial part in the standoff because the EU’s executive commission and top court have demanded that Poland roll back parts of a controversial judicial overhaul that he authored, including a panel that punishes judges that an EU court has found to be illegal. The minister has so far adamantly refused to heed the EU’s demands.
The government has for months promised and failed to present a plan of how it intends to dismantle the disciplinary mechanism. Its failure to do so has blocked the release of the recovery aid, while the European Court of Justice has also imposed a 1 million-euro-a-day fine for its failure to end the system.
Ziobro also opposes reinstating judges who lost jobs in disciplinary proceedings. EU Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said this month that the commission is unlikely to approve the disbursement aid this year, suggesting both sides remain apart in finding a compromise.
While Poland receives more in funding from the bloc than it pays in contributions, suspending its budget payments would set a dangerous precedent. It would also mark an escalation in the conflict with Brussels after the country’s top court ruled in October that some of the EU’s laws are incompatible with its constitution.
Ziobro has long cultivated a role of a bad cop to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s more conciliatory attitude in dealing with Brussels. The ruling coalition depends on Ziobro’s United Poland party to keep its narrow majority in the parliament.
Ziobro made headlines in August by publicly musing that Poland shouldn’t remain in the EU at any cost. He gave EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders two framed photos of Warsaw leveled by Nazi Germany during the World War II as a gift during their meeting in Poland last month.
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