Eu Releases Blocked Funds Of $6.7 Billion To Poland As Part Of Its Post-Pandemic Recovery Package

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The European Union disbursed 6.3 billion euros (about $6.7 billion) to Poland as a part of the 27-nation bloc's post-pandemic recovery fund, the biggest single transfer ever to the country, a government minister said Monday.

Poland's former national conservative governmen t, voted out of power in October, made changes to the judiciary which the EU said violated democratic checks and balances, and so decided to block the money.

The European Commission had said at the time Poland must meet certain “milestones” to guarantee the independence of the judiciary to get the funds. Brussels emphasized that an independent judiciary is vital to respecting hte EU's democratic norms, while some also argue that independent courts boost investors' confidence in the country's ability to adjudicate commercial disputes.

Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Poland's minister of funds and regional policy, hailed the move while stressing that the value of EU membership goes beyond money.

“Being in the EU pays off, but the EU is not only about money, which our predecessors forgot,” she tweeted. “We are united by values: democracy, equal opportunities, rule of law, civil liberties!”

Poland’s pro-European coalition of three center-left parties led by current Prime Minister Donald Tusk won parliamentary elections and took over in December. It succeeded the nationalist Law and Justice party that had ruled for eight years and introduced changes to the justice system, reproductive rights and the media that put Poland on a collision course with the EU.

The Commission announced in February that it would start releasing funds, confident in promises by the pro-EU Tusk to restore democratic norms.

The fund, known as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, was set up in 2020 and approved a 672.5 billion euro ($815 billion) recovery package a year later to help member nations recover more quickly from the coronavirus pandemic.

Poland is set to receive 25.3 billion euros (about $26.9 billion) in grants and 34.5 billion euros (nearly $36.7 billion) in loans as part of a post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery plan.

A commission's spokesperson said Monday Poland is expected to request a total of 23 billion euros ($24.5 billion) this year.