Brussels to Warsaw: Pay up!

The European Commission has sent Poland a letter demanding that it pay €69 million in fines over failure to comply with a court order. 

The Court of Justice of the EU imposed a record-high daily fine of €1 million on Poland in October for ignoring an order to suspend the country’s controversial disciplinary mechanism for judges. The court said that the fine “is necessary in order to avoid serious and irreparable harm to the legal order of the European Union and to the values on which that Union is founded, in particular that of the rule-of-law.”

But Poland has refused to pay, deepening a long-standing dispute over the independence of the country’s courts and adding to Brussels’ concerns about the state of democracy in the country.

A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed Thursday that a call for payment was sent on Wednesday and that Poland now has 45 days to comply. 

“After analyzing the reply from Poland to a letter from 22 December, the European Commission has concluded that Poland failed to provide evidence that it complies with the order issued by the Court of Justice,” the spokesperson said.

“The measures so far adopted by the Polish authorities had already been brought to the attention of the vice president of the Court in the context of the Court proceedings and deemed as insufficient,” the spokesperson said, noting that the Commission will continue issuing calls for payment to Poland. 

If Poland continues not to pay, the Commission will ultimately move to deduct the funds from Poland’s EU budget payments. 

In parallel, the Commission is also preparing to withhold funding from Poland over an unpaid court fine in a dispute over the Turów coal mine. 

The Polish government did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the government has previously referred to the fine as “blackmail.”

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