The European Parliament on Thursday backed tying pay-outs of EU money to the observance of the rule of law in member states, a move opposed by Warsaw, according to reports.
The plans would allow Brussels to suspend funds for EU countries, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.
The changes were opposed by MEPs from Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party but backed by deputies from the opposition Civic Platform (PO) group.
Zbigniew Kuźmiuk, a Law and Justice MEP, said such new rules could be used as a political weapon against governments “disliked” by Brussels.
The conservative PiS government in Warsaw has been locked in a dispute with Brussels over sweeping changes to courts in Poland.
Under the plans for potential fund freezes, the European Commission would have to consult independent experts, according to IAR.
If these confirmed there was a threat to the rule of law, the Commission could suspend pay-outs to countries as long as the European Parliament and Council did not object.
A member state could regain access to funds if the European Commission, the EU’s executive, judged that a country was upholding the rule of law, IAR reported.
New European Parliament
The agency added that the plans would have to be accepted by the new European Parliament due to be elected in May.
The Law and Justice party has said far-reaching changes are needed to reform Poland’s inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system tainted by the communist past.
But opponents have accused Law and Justice of aiming to stack courts with its own candidates and to dismantle the rule of law.
The European Commission in December took the unprecedented step of triggering the punitive Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland.