Poland, the EU budget’s largest net beneficiary, caused outrage in Brussels after passing legislation to give the ruling Law and Justice party effective control over judicial appointments and the supreme court.
The move, which the nation’s government claimed last month was a means of speeding up the legal process, was accused by international justice watchdog the Council of Europe as being a “grave threat” which “puts at serious risk the independence of all parts of the Polish judiciary”.
And the bloc responded by invoking Article 7 – allowing them to level sanctions on Poland and revoke their EU voting rights
Now the EU are believed to be considering holding back cash from the less economically developed member state.
Poland was allocated €80billion of cohesion funds in the EU’s current €1trillion budget.
But eurocrats reportedly see their next budget as a means of forcing their will on member states as they scramble to save money and force cohesion on the EU27 with expansive new projects in the wake of Brexit.
Under the scheme, Brussels will demand member states have a “functioning and independent judiciary” – in a direct challenge to Warsaw.
Günther Oettinger, the EU’s budget commissioner, said the bloc are considering either making compliance a direct condition of claiming cash back from Brussels, or introducing an “incentive scheme” in which more obedience to the rule “could be seen as a way of getting more resources”.
Vera Jourova, the EU’s commissioner for justice, has been tasked with finding a way to assess a member state’s compliance, reiterating the the bloc might “insist that independent justice systems are necessary for the effective control of the use of EU funds”.
The EU’s bid to bully Poland into changing the very fabric of their government follows demands from Paris to withhold cash from any nations who act “contrary to European goals”.
Speaking at a high-level conference on the EU budget for 2020-26, Nathalie Loiseau, a French European Affairs Minister, said “conditionality of funds was not a dirty word”.
Mrs Loiseau said new budgets rules need to include “conditionality” provisions that would tie cohesion funding to member states’ adherence to minimum rule-of-law provisions.
She added this issue was the “elephant in the room” at every EU meeting.
Mrs Loiseau said: “It would be totally inappropriate for a Member State to receive EU funds for a goal and pursue other goals with national money.”