EU chief says Polish law must be implemented to unlock funds

EU leaders meet in Brussels

KIRUNA, Sweden (Reuters) - The European Union will assess whether Poland's latest changes to the judiciary can unlock billions worth of EU aid only when the new law is fully implemented, the head of the European Commission said on Friday.

Ursula von der Leyen spoke after the lower chamber of the Polish parliament adopted a new law on the judiciary, which has already won initial backing from the Brussels-based Commission, the EU executive that holds the money.

Splits in Poland's ruling camp, however, mean the final fate of the new bill is not certain as it still needs to pass in the parliament's upper chamber and win the backing of the president.

"The changes have to be implemented," von der Leyen told a news conference in Sweden when asked about Poland. "That then would lead to the disbursement."

"But first of all, the implementation and the legal solutions have to be found by Poland itself."

At stake is 35.4 billion euros ($38.3 bln) earmarked for Poland - which is due to hold a national election this autumn - from the EU's stimulus package to help economies recover from the pandemic slump.

($1 = 0.9241 euros)

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)