Tusk's government wants to restore rule of law in Poland

The Polish government on Tuesday unveiled an action plan to restore the rule of law in the country now that the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has been relegated to the opposition benches.

The plan was presented at a meeting of European affairs ministers from the EU's member states. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk's government faces a particularly difficult task, "but where there is a will, there is a way" said Belgian minister Hadja Lahbib, who chaired the meeting.

Because successive PiS governments have undermined the rule of law in Poland, the European Commission opened a so-called Article 7 sanctions procedure against Warsaw in 2017.

In the extreme, the procedure could lead to Poland temporarily losing its voting rights in European councils of ministers, although it has never come to that. Tens of billions of euros in cohesion funds and money from the Covid-19 recovery fund have also been blocked.

No preferential treatment

The Tusk government is committed to restoring the rule of law, closing Article 7 and accessing the blocked funds. Justice minister Adam Bodnar presented his government's action plan to other member states and the European Commission on Tuesday.

The action plan is a step in the right direction that can lead to the closure of the Article 7 procedure, but there is still a lot of work to be done, said European Commission vice-president Vera Jourova.

She hinted that the Commission would not give preferential treatment to the new rulers in Warsaw and would assess the new reforms by the book. Not only what is in the action plan is important, but also how it is implemented, she said.

Majority risks facing opposition

Tusk's coalition government does not hold all the cards. Spanish state secretary Fernando Sampedro Marcos, for example, warned that while he thought the action plan was "very solid", the majority risked facing opposition from Polish president Andrzej Duda.

The head of state is a PiS loyalist and could refuse to ratify the laws passed. The opposition does not want to cooperate, said Sampedro Marcos, summarising the challenge facing Tusk. PiS supporters accuse the prime minister of undermining the rule of law and turning Poland into a dictatorship.

European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said he would present a formal assessment of the judicial reforms in a few weeks' time. He noted that some concrete initiatives had already been taken and said he was confident that the rule of law would be restored in Poland. The other member states had already responded very positively to Bodnar's presentation.


Polish prime minister Donald Tusk © Photo Sergei GAPON / AFP

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