Commission President von der Leyen traveled to Warsaw on Thursday to officially announce the release of the Corona reconstruction plan.

If the plan is also approved by the EU finance ministers, probably in mid-July, the government in Warsaw can apply for EU financial aid to be paid out.

A total of 23.9 billion euros in grants and a further 11.5 billion euros in low-interest loans, which can be accessed until the summer of 2026, in two tranches per year.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

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However, the money does not flow automatically, but is linked to reform steps that are defined as "milestones" in the reconstruction plan and have to be checked by the Commission.

In the Polish case, the negotiations were so lengthy because the Commission insists on judicial reform, with which the government in Warsaw must correct itself.

It now depends on three milestones.

The first provides that the disciplinary regime for judges will be changed by the end of June.

This concerns the dissolution of the Disciplinary Chamber at the Supreme Court and the change in disciplinary law;

both were classified as illegal by the European Court of Justice.

The Polish government has presented a draft law on this, which the Chamber of Deputies has already approved and which is now being dealt with by the Senate.

When this procedure is completed and the Polish President has drafted the law, the commission will examine whether the new chamber and the new disciplinary grounds are in accordance with the rule of law.

The focus will be on judges' independence, an official said Thursday.

This affects, for example, their appointment, their salary, the size and composition of the chamber.

one expects

Pressure from Greens, Liberals and Social Democrats

According to the second milestone, the Polish government must also start the process of reviewing disciplinary decisions made by the previous chamber by the end of June.

The proposed law provides that judges who have been sentenced can complain and be heard within three months.

The process should be completed within twelve months.

The EU Commission does not mandate, as the official pointed out, that every judge be reinstated.

The only thing that matters is that the revision satisfies constitutional standards.

That is why there is a third milestone: In the fourth quarter of next year, it will be checked whether all procedures have been properly completed.

The Commission assumes that Warsaw will apply for the first tranche of Corona aid in September, around four billion euros.

The Commission then has two months to assess whether the first two milestones have been met.

The finance ministers then release the money.

So, if Warsaw meets all the conditions, it could receive the first payment by the end of the year.

The third milestone is linked to the fourth payment at the end of next year.

And what happens if the government suddenly changes its reform again?

"There will be no further payments to Poland if the judicial reform is reversed," another EU official said on Thursday.

In this case, payments can even be reclaimed.

It is to be expected that the Commission will take a very close look at this case.

On the one hand, it is under pressure from the European Parliament, where Greens, Liberals and Social Democrats are already heavily criticizing the approval of the reconstruction plan.

"The EU Commission can be fobbed off with a Polish judicial reform," criticized the SPD MP and former Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley.

"There will still be no control of the government by an independent judiciary in Poland and the judgments of the European Court of Justice will continue to be disregarded."

The FDP MP Moritz Körner called "Von der Leyen's carrot-and-stick strategy" a "playing with fire".

On the other hand, the decision was also highly controversial in the commission.

The two Executive Vice-Presidents, Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager, a Social Democrat and a Liberal, voted against.

Three other commissioners - Vice-President for Rule of Law Vera Jourová, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson - expressed their reservations in letters and urged a close scrutiny of the milestones.

You and your specialist officials will have a lot of control over this process.