EU Set to End Rule-of-Law Dispute With Poland in Boost for Tusk

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union is poised to close the chapter on its long-running dispute with Poland over democratic backsliding under the previous nationalist government, offering a boost for Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday the so-called Article 7 procedure, which was launched in 2017 and threatened to strip Warsaw of its voting rights, can be closed.

Earlier this year, the commission decided to free up as much as €137 billion ($148 billion) in blocked aid to Poland after Tusk’s government presented a plan to restore judicial independence, the main point of contention that had led to a conflict between former ruling nationalists and the EU’s executive arm.

The move underscores confidence in Tusk, whose ruling coalition secured a majority in an election in October last year on a pledge to mend ties with the 27-member bloc. Once approved by the commission, the decision still needs a sign-off from EU member states planning to meet during the next General Affairs Council on May 21.

“This is a very important day for Poland,” EU Affairs Minister Adam Szlapka told Bloomberg. “Restoring the rule of law is one of the top priorities for this government and we are very determined to achieved this.”

Judicial reforms have been at the heart of a bruising conflict between Brussels and Warsaw that’s involved legal procedures and hundreds of millions in euros in fines. Poland has presented the EU with a plan to adopt several draft bills, including changes within Poland’s key judicial bodies, to end the Article 7 procedure.

But reversing the changes is an arduous task without the backing of President Andrzej Duda, a staunch ally of the previous government who has veto power over legislation. Duda approved the majority of the controversial judicial reforms and has called several of the new government’s moves illegal and pledged to block them.

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