(Bloomberg) -- Poland’s justice minister lashed out at the European Union -- and took a swipe at Germany -- for “stealing” billions in EU funds, as a standoff between Brussels and Warsaw over financing escalates.
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who leads a euroskeptic party in Poland’s nationalist coalition, accused European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen of “cheating” the Polish government nearly three months after signaling the nation was closer to accessing as much as 35 billion euros ($35 billion) of the bloc’s pandemic recovery funds.
The barbed comments come as Poland’s ruling Law & Justice party grows increasingly doubtful the funds will be paid out. The commission, the EU’s executive arm, has made an overhaul of Poland’s judiciary a condition of releasing the financing. Steps taken by the Polish government to address the issue haven’t gone far enough, von der Leyen has said.
“Poland is being robbed, and a leading role in this plundering is played by German politicians led by von der Leyen,” Ziobro told reporters in Konin in central Poland on Monday. Conflating Germany with the EU as a whole, he called on the government to stop yielding to demands from Brussels and Berlin.
Von der Leyen, a former German cabinet minister, was appointed by the European Council, made up of the 27-member bloc’s leaders, and confirmed by the European Parliament, whose legislators are elected by European voters. The commission president represents the interests of the EU as a whole.
The commission and Poland discussed Warsaw’s recovery plan for months and it was signed by both sides, according to a commission spokesperson, who added that there was no room for misunderstanding.
Ziobro has been outspoken in his criticism of EU institutions -- and has broken ranks with Law & Justice with his uncompromising positions on European policy. But he took particular aim at the commission’s tentative approval of Poland’s post-pandemic recovery plan in June, only to see no funds transferred.
After passing legislation that reversed some of the contested changes in a system for disciplining judges, the Polish government hasn’t yet met the bloc’s remaining requests. Ahead of next year’s general election, the blockade has raised the ire of the ruling party, which wants to tap the EU cash to fund an investment program.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s most powerful politician as head of Law & Justice, said this month that the nation won’t budge in its standoff with the EU over the independence of its judiciary.
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