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Poland goes from zero to hero in EU thanks to Ukraine effort

Poland’s government hopes that its aid for Ukraine will help it in its rule of law dispute with Brussels.

Poland has gone straight from being the EU’s bad boy to star pupil thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

For the first time in years, Poland is getting some positive press.

Huge numbers of ordinary Poles have responded with astonishing generosity to the more than 500,000 Ukrainian refugees pouring across their eastern border — sending relief aid and opening their homes to thousands of people. As a nation scarred by centuries of Russian aggression, Poland has also become the main staging point for sending a flood of anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets, rifles, ammunition, weapons, armor and other war supplies to the battling Ukrainians.

Poland’s rare moment as the good guy is sparking hopes in Warsaw that the European Commission will let bygones be bygones and give the country a pass on accusations it’s violated the bloc’s rule of law principles and will release billions in delayed EU funds.

“The [European Commission] should immediately cease any sanctions against Poland,” said Patryk Jaki, a member of the European Parliament from Poland’s nationalist United Right ruling coalition.

To a degree, some of the mood music is changing to Warsaw’s advantage. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki — who is more used to getting brickbats from EU officials over his country’s democratic backsliding — can now bask in unexpected praise from Charles Michel, the European Council president.

“I would like to commend you, dear Prime Minister Mateusz, your team, and the Polish people,” Michel said Wednesday when visiting the eastern Polish city of Rzeszów.

But the odor of Poland’s seven years of often brutal confrontations with the EU still lingers.

On Wednesday, the European Commission issued a communication spelling out rules where “breaches of the principles of the rule of law in a Member State affect or seriously risk affecting the sound financial management of the Union budget.” That’s an instrument aimed at backsliding countries like Poland and Hungary, tying their performance on rule of law to access EU cash.

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