On February 16, the European Union's top court rejected a legal challenge by Poland and Hungary to a conditionality mechanism that would link EU funds for member states to respect for the rule of law. The Polish government stands by its controversial judicial reforms, despite criticism from local judges. On the ground in Poland, many development projects that were counting on EU funding have already been halted. One example is in the town of Wieliczka, as our correspondent Gulliver Cragg reports.
In a highly anticipated ruling on February 16, the EU's top court ruled in favour of making the bloc's cash handouts conditional on a country's respect for the rule of law. It's a setback for Poland and Hungary, which have carried out controversial judicial reforms and risk seeing money cut from the billions in EU funding they receive.
In its judgment, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that all EU member states had signed up to the bloc's "common values... such as the rule of law and solidarity" and that the European Union "must be able to defend those values". It added that the so-called rule of law or conditionality mechanism "was adopted on an appropriate legal basis" and "respects, in particular, the limits of the powers conferred on the European Union and the principle of legal certainty".
Warsaw reacted immediately, called the ruling "an attack on our sovereignty". "Poland must defend its democracy from blackmail that aims to take away our right to self-determination," Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta wrote on Twitter.