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Poland’s Legal Mess

Owing to the constitutional chaos that the right-wing populist government has created for itself, the country will not see any EU recovery funds before this fall’s general election. That should give the opposition a big advantage, though that remains to be seen.

WARSAW – Next door to Ukraine, where people are being killed every day for wanting to join the European Union, Polish leaders are waging what they have called a war on two fronts – against both Russia and the EU. As a result of this “war,” the country’s populist government, led by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, has failed to unlock the €160 billion ($170 billion) that was allocated to Poland under the EU’s pandemic recovery fund. While the government has negotiated a program with the European Commission to release the funds, which requires merely clearing the low bar of not brazenly undermining the rule of law, getting the reforms approved by the Sejm (parliament) has proven to be difficult.

Poland cannot afford to forego such money. Few other European countries need economic support as much as Poland does. The country’s GDP growth is among the weakest in the EU, and, thanks to the country’s notoriously incompetent central-bank president, Adam Glapiński – a close friend of PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński – inflation is running at almost 20%. Making matters worse, in October 2021, the European Court of Justice fined Poland €1 million per day for ignoring an EU ruling ordering it to suspend a judicial disciplinary chamber created to punish judges who do not toe the PiS line. Those daily fines now total close to a half-billion euros.

This all comes at a time when Poland urgently needs to increase its defense spending. The government has plans to purchase 250 Abrams tanks, 32 F-35 aircraft, and 500 HIMARS from the United States, as well as 180 K-2 tanks and 48 FA-50 fighters from South Korea. Moreover, the Polish army is expected to grow to 300,000 soldiers, making it the strongest and best-armed military in the EU.

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