Poland gets paid to “unblock” EU recovery fund

Poland’s ruling nationalist coalition led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party struck a surprise deal on Tuesday with the opposition Left party, allowing the ratification of the EU’s €750 billion pandemic recovery fund.

The fund has to be approved by all 27 member countries, but it stalled in Poland after a smaller right-wing member of the coalition balked at the measure.

That party, the right-wing United Poland, refused to boost the EU’s borrowing levels and is upset EU countries would have to jointly repay the recovery fund. The party is also wary of the demand that recipient countries follow the EU’s rule-of-law principles to get the money.

The coalition government only has a three-seat majority in the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, so had to hunt for the votes it needed among opposition parties.

That left the opposition with the dilemma of whether to support a government it doesn’t trust and accuses of corruption and violating the Polish constitution, or else reject a spending bill that would block a crucial recovery program for Poland and the rest of the bloc. Poland stands to get over €58 billion in grants and loans.

The deadlock was broken by the Left, with 47 MPs, which struck a deal to support the rescue fund in return for a series of spending promises from the government.

“One of the conditions of [our] support for the government is building 75,000 flats for rent. We have also negotiated €850 million to support local hospitals [and that] local governments would decide how to spend 30 percent of recovery fund money,” one of the Left’s leaders, MEP Robert Biedroń, told reporters.

Biedroń also said that €300 million would go to support Polish restaurateurs and hoteliers who were hard hit by intermittent lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Left also said that it agreed with PiS that the disbursement of recovery funds would be supervised by a “monitoring committee” made up of government officials, unionists, representatives of business, local governments and NGOs.

The EU recovery program now has to be supported by the Polish parliament.

The liberal opposition is fuming about the deal; there had been growing talk of an early election to break the logjam in the ruling coalition, and polls show that PiS would struggle to hang on to power.

The party plans to vote against the deal.

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