The Polish government has been waiting for the approval of the National Reconstruction Plan by the European Commission for over a year. It looks like this will change soon and Brussels will give the green light to mobilize billions of euros for Poland. What was in the document that the European Commission received?
Application for The government sent the approval of the Polish KPO on May 3, 2021. Since then, several times one could hear the assurances of representatives of the authorities that the consent of Brussels to the mobilization of funds from the EU Reconstruction Fund is at hand and the last details remain to be negotiated. Meanwhile, time was passing, more countries were receiving their first money – we recently reported about almost EUR 100 billion paid out – and Poland, like e.g. Hungary did not receive a cent.
The delay is due to the resistance of the authorities to the fulfillment of the conditions set by the European Commission related to the rule of law. Brussels demanded, inter alia, liquidation of the unrecognized Disciplinary Chamber The Supreme Court and reinstatement of unlawfully dismissed judges. It was only in mid-May this year that the government spokesman, Piotr Mueller, informed about the achieved z The European Commission agreement on the so-called milestones. A few days ago, the Sejm decided that the Disciplinary Chamber will be replaced by the Chamber of Professional Responsibility, and on Thursday, June 2, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen will visit Poland to announce Brussels’ consent to our KPO.
What was in the KPO?
Poland has a total of EUR 58 billion at its disposal from the EU Housing Fund. For now, the government wants to use all the funds transferred as non-returnable funds (i.e. EUR 23.9 billion) and EUR 12.1 billion from the loan part. Therefore, the total expenditure of EUR 36 billion has been planned under the KPO.
The KPO contains information on what Poland wants to spend the money on. At the same time, changes were announced in the regulations that do not require the spending of EU funds, but are to facilitate the recovery of the economy after the crisis caused by COVID-19. All this is in line with the guidelines of the European Commission, hence the emphasis on digitization (this word is mentioned in the National Reconstruction Plan 800 times) and the green transformation of the economy (the word “green” is used almost 350 times).
In total, the document, in many places very general, has as many as 500 pages.
Energy and green transformation
As for the green transformation, the document that the government sent to Brussels – the final version that is to be approved by the European Commission, we do not know yet – included, among others gradual phasing out of hard coal mines by 2049, commissioning of a nuclear power plant in 2033 (financed from outside the Casing Fund), obligation to install 80 percent by the end of 2028 meters with remote reading of electricity consumption. This is related to the need to increase the efficiency of using the energy produced.
The KPO also announced a move away from burning coal in households in cities by 2030, and in rural areas by 2040.
At the same time, renewable energy sources are to be used in Poland to a greater extent. The KPO includes declarations of introducing solutions increasing the possibility of investing in wind farms, both on water and on land. This is the last PiS government for several years blocks using the so-called the 10H Act.
Electric buses, new trains
According to the government, the share of collective transport vehicles powered by alternative fuels, including electric vehicles, is insufficient – with nearly 12,000 only about 450 are electric buses. Therefore, investments in the purchase of zero and low-emission rolling stock are to be financed. By the end of 2023, another 400 such buses are to appear on the streets of Polish cities, and by 2026 – a total of 1,580.
At the same time, an obligation was announced that would require larger cities (over 100,000 inhabitants) to order only electric and hydrogen buses from 2025.
The KPO also promised compulsory clean transport zones in cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. – during consultations on the draft on this matter however, the government withdrew from such a change.
There are also plans to invest in passenger rolling stock, with support available only to zero-emission vehicles, i.e. vehicles powered by electricity or hybrid vehicles using other zero-emission solutions apart from electricity and equipped with the ERTMS system. The shipment sent to Brussels informed about the planned financial support of PKP Intercity SA in the purchase of 38 PUSH-PULL trains, i.e. 7-car double-decker trains with 45 multi-system locomotives. Support for the rolling stock for regional transport (approximately 70 trains) is to be granted as part of a competition procedure.
Changes in the labor law
The KPO proposed a different regulation of issues related to health insurance. “Separating the status of the unemployed person from health insurance will result in registering as unemployed or jobseekers only those who are actually looking for employment or other form of support offered by the office. The above solution will make it possible to better use the potential of employees of public employment services, which will translate into a more effective help for the unemployed and employers “- explained.
Among the so-called milestones, as recently reported by “Dziennik Gazeta Prawna”, was also a broader contribution to work performed on the basis of civil law contracts. Poland was to undertake a commitment that such a solution would apply from the beginning of next year. According to the journal, the changes will only apply to orders (full premiums for the second and subsequent orders), and the government also wants to postpone their implementation to the beginning of 2024.
The KPO also announced the introduction of incentives to remain in the labor market despite reaching the statutory retirement age. The solution indicated was “automatic reduction of the amount of income tax on remuneration under the employment contract and contract of mandate for people who have achieved the right to retire, but decide to continue employment”. Then this amount would go to individual retirement account worker’s. These changes were announced before the entry into force of the Polish Order that it introduces other solutions for working pensioners.
Laptops in schools
As part of the KPO, it was also declared to accelerate the development of high-speed internet in Poland. The idea is to increase the percentage of households within the range of internet access with a capacity of at least 100 Mb / s from 61.3%. in 2019 up to 100 percent in 2025. The result is also to be an increase in the percentage of people using the Internet in contacts with public administration from 42 percent. in 2020 to at least 60 percent in 2026.
At the same time, the necessity to introduce standards for equipping schools with “digital infrastructure, enabling the use of digital tools at an equal level in each school” was indicated. This is to help equalize educational opportunities for students all over Poland.
Therefore, EU funds may be allocated to the purchase of up to 1.2 million laptops for schools, which is to increase the number of students per 1 laptop from 9 students per 1 laptop to 4 students per 1 laptop. The final decision will be up to local governments, which may also decide to equip classrooms with kits for teachers to conduct remote lessons or invest in a high-speed Internet connection.
Main photo source: PAP / Marcin Obara