Poland: Attempts to Entrench Itself in the Top League of the EU

Poland: Attempts to Entrench Itself in the Top League of the EU

By Alena Hetmanchuk

Starlight half year of Poland started yesterday with its Chairmanship in the European Union. At least this is how Warsaw perceives the following six months, although they are perfectly aware of that after the coming into power of the Lisbon Treaty the Chairmanship of any EU state has devaluated more than Polish Zloty towards USD during world financial crisis.

It happened so that the new EU member-states give much more attention to the half-year leadership in the Council of the European Union, than old ones that have a repeated practice of such Chairmanship. This is not only a nice opportunity to feel the power of a country in the Union-27, but also a chance to prove the old hands of the European Community that the last two EU extension waves are justified.

We should admit that the task is not a simple one. Some EU states like Germany have recently stated that provided there were no last waves of the EU extension, they would have managed to avoid even economic and financial crisis the Union experiences at the moment. And this is contrary to that more urgent becomes the idea that today the real division of the European Union lies not within the line Western – Eastern Europe, but Northern – Southern Europe.

At the background of the situation in Greece and some other states of South Europe Poland has an opportunity to fix the kind of division even more, completely destroying the idea of underdeveloped East Europe.

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But at first, they will have to rehabilitate its reputation after more than dubious Chairmanship of Hungary, which as known was accompanied in the EU states with the comments about authoritarian-like behavior of their government and comparison of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban if not with Putin then with Lukashenko. Even regarding the “Eastern Partnership” Summit, that first should have been held in May in Budapest, in diplomatic back rooms they talk, that it has been postponed till Autumn to be held in Warsaw to “punish” a bit Hungarian authorities for its demonstrated non-conformity with not even best but average samples of European democracy.

Hungarian Presidency, with no doubts, is not only a beneficial background for Polish one. This is also a peculiar hint: for new member-states, presiding in the EU Council, Brussels demands are even higher than for old and experienced EU fighters. Thus, for example, Belgium which performed the same EU function last year had the twelfth such practice, and it chaired the EU in terms of deep domestic political crisis and non-formed government. As experts reasonably note in the states of Central-Eastern Europe, one can only imagine, how severely anyone from the new members of the EU in such a situation would be criticized.

Chairmanship in the EU is also a chance for Poland to demonstrate its devotion to Euro-integration project. And not to, let’s  say, trans-Atlantic one, in which Poles have been repeatedly blamed by the colleagues in “Old Europe”. A pro-European trend has clearly shaped in foreign policy after the full authority was captured by the representatives of “Civil Platform” of Donald Tusk.

The kind of correction can be explained, evidently, with several factors. Partially it could have been of influence that many Poles consider historic mission of the USA towards Warsaw practically accomplished: today Poland is a democratic state, full and not last member of NATO and the European Union, economically stable with desirable level of foreign investments.

Partially the kind of focuses change was affected by dissatisfaction with not ally-like behavior of Washington: Poland remains to be the only Schengen state in the European Union, the citizens of which need visa to go to the United States, and the leading role of Polish commitment during the operation in Iraq gave the country no serious dividends as contracts for domestic companies.

Except for that, no matter how hard Polish politicians tried to conceal the cracks within American-Polish relations regarding recent visit of the US President to Warsaw, many experts acknowledge: Poland remains to be the state of Bush, not Obama. And it is best known to Obama, native Chicago citizen (the second city in the world after Warsaw with the biggest number of Poles), which American Party the Poles prefer.

And finally, almost the key moment, urgent for the full value return of Poland to the EU scene – significant improvement of relations with Germany. During last year more new evidences appear of that how harmoniously this duet can act within various directions. This concerns Belarus, which Sikorski and Westerwelle visited to agree with Lukashenko by means of only availably language for him – the language of cash. This concerns Libya, within the situation around which, Germany and Poland absolutely unexpectedly appeared to have the same line – refused of participation in military operation in this country.

Financial and economic crisis in the EU gave special power to the link with Germany. Polish media on the eve of the Presidency in the European Union cited a former European Commissioner, Italian economist and politician Mario Monti, who probably most clearly explained the way the EU anti-crisis decision-making has been performed within recent years: most of them were developed in Berlin, then agreed with Paris, and then presented to Herman van Rompuy with accompanying task to convince other member-states of the correctness of this step.

But demonstrative attempts of Poland to play equally with Germany and France (from here derives the later idea of Warsaw to rehabilitate Weimar Triangle) also has an opposite side. And exactly – ambiguous reaction in the states of Central-Eastern Europe: here a feeling arose that Poland if doesn’t ignore it than places itself at a lower level. Skeptically the attempts of Warsaw to play in the top league of the EU policy are treated for example by many opinion-makers in the states of the Visegrad group. Hard times undergo the relations of Poland with Lithuania. The deepening of such trend threatens with that it will be harder for Poland to act in future from the line of informal leader of the whole region, the so-called new Europe.

A special nuance of Polish Chairmanship in the European Union – the Parliamentary elections to be held this autumn in the country. Which means, practically in the heat of Polish Chairmanship, considering that two summer months shall coincide with the period of holidays of European bureaucracy. And when it comes for the Parliamentary elections, Polish politicians switch on the following logic: the Chairmanship of Poland in the EU shall last only half a year, and Sejm is elected for four years.

Naturally, Tusk as well as Komorowski shall be interested  in that for the Presidency of Poland in the EU to be transformed into another pre-electoral achievement of the“Civil Platform”. Naturally, their main component – leader of “Right and Justice” Jaroslaw Kaczynski shall try to prove that Tusk and Co has used the Presidency only for their personal PR, and not for the good of ordinary Poles.

Indeed, already today in Warsaw and some other European capitals they say that Polish Chairmanship in the European Union can become a nice “political training area” for Tusk as well as Sikorski. As if in reality the case is about not only a future parliamentary campaign in Poland. And even not about the following Presidency. The better moderators and talented diplomats they recommend themselves in the on-coming half year, the more chances Polish Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister will have to be appointed at this or that position in the European Union.

Although after the Lisbon Treaty key authority appeared to be in the offices of Herman van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton, the experts in the SS capitals suggest that if something crisis-like happens, for example in the states of the “Eastern Partnership”, then Tusk ad Sikorski will have no obstacles to do their best within “profile” direction of Poland.

Of course, the task is complicated. Already now it is evident, that Poland despite all ambitions of the ruling team, shall hardly achieve serious breakthrough in most issues that are included into the priorities of its Chairmanship. The entrance of Croatia into the EU, which symbolically would unblock further process of the European Union extension, shall hardly become real in the period of Warsaw Presidency.

Doubtful is that the “Eastern Partnership” shall turn into a superefficient tool in half a year. Decisive discussion on the EU budget for 2014-2020 shall take place already after the Chairmanship of Poland, although with participation of Polish Eurocommissioner on budget Janusz Lewandowski.

And what can be said about a possible contribution of Warsaw into democracy development within such exotic for Poland direction as North Africa.
It’s understood that the visit of Sikorski to Libya and Lech Valesa in Tunis is a nice bonus considering image, but the case is about definite results. It’s also not yet clear, how shall Poland fight for solidarity of the EU on Greece issue, when it is not even included into Eurozone.

By the way, ordinary Poles, in comparison with their politicians observe the contribution of Poland into the European Union chairmanship quite differently. According to the results of recent poll most Poles consider that Poland during its chairmanship could enrich the EU with family values promotion. It is followed by the example that our western neighbors could demonstrate mobility within labor market for the rest of Europe.

Evidently, Warsaw also realizes the most complicated thing is about high demands. Justly, those expert circles developed ten informal rules of the Chairmanship – peculiar minimal recipe of success. Among them: not to commit oneself; to show the European Union efficiency of current Polish government; to demonstrate economic success of Poland (famous growth of Polish economy in the moment of total reduction in European continent is probably the biggest pride of Tusk government); separate domestic policy from the chairmanship in the EU; not to expect to much; to be able to demonstrate flexibility if international situation changes.

Where does Ukraine stand in the Polish scheme of the EU Presidency? Without exaggeration it takes key positions. At least as during Polish Presidency there should be held a Summit Ukraine – EU, which (yet there are all reasons to think so) can result into announcement symbolic for Polish and Ukrainian about finalization of negotiation process on the issue of the Treaty on the Free Trade Zone and the Treaty on Association in general. It’s not worth probably to remind that for the EU this treaty with Ukraine is a peculiar test (test case) within Eastern direction of the EU policy: If it doesn’t work with Ukraine, it shall be harder to work it out with other post-Soviet partners.

And specifically for Poland it’s a convincing prove of that all its long-term efforts to attract Ukraine to Europe were not in vain.

In Warsaw itself, it seems, they focus more on the Summit of the “Eastern Partnership”. The case is about not only for it to be visited by the key personalities of the EU policy, including Nicolas Sarkozy, who successfully ignored inauguration summit of the Eastern Partnership in Prague. We are talking about definite initiatives that will be able to bring Polish-Swedish idea to life. If the “Eastern Partnership” summit shall become another meeting for meeting, and the Summit Ukraine – EU shall still result into the declaration of finalization of negotiation talks regarding the Treaty on Association, a logical question can arise: the point of talks between Ukraine and the EU is the merit of the “Eastern Partnership” or bilateral relations between Kiev and Brussels, on which Ukrainian capital expressly has staked during recent tears? Evidently, in the period of Polish Presidency, Warsaw shall count on that Ukrainian authorities shall not make public the issue of the value added of the “Eastern Partnership”, and the formula “5+1” (states of the Eastern Partnership + Ukraine), which should have changed current format of the “six”, shall not spread further than informal talks with representatives of the Party of Regions.

Naturally, Ukrainian story of success during Polish Chairmanship would be more convincing, if Warsaw wouldn’t have constantly have to defend itself because of antidemocratic trends in Ukraine. My Polish interlocutors, close to the President’s Administration, state: Komorowski talked to Yanukovych on this subject, in particular, including the issue of electoral justice.

It’s understood that one shouldn’t expect more radical steps from Warsaw: its dependence from Ukraine and Ukrainian choice in favor of Free Trade Zone with the EU during Polish chairmanship makes the leadership of Poland very tolerant towards all deeds of young democracy, as per Janukovych’s consideration.

And this is considering that real ideas of Warsaw on Ukraine are more critical. After the results of the expert poll, held recently by the Institution of World Policy in six states of the region (Russia, Belarus, Georgia, Romania, Moldova and Poland) within the project “Soft Power of Ukraine”, only Polish intellectual elites associate Ukraine expressly negatively. And exactly – with democracy kick-back, corruption and oligarchs.

Meanwhile Ukraine is the only state of the “Eastern Partnership” with which Poland counts to have the “story of success” during its Chairmanship. Neighboring Moldova claims for a similar role. It was repeatedly heard in the Polish capital that in the last turn thanks to the personal interference of the Minister Sikosrki into RM the so-called left-centric coalition failed. Instead the Alliance for European integration was reproduced. Today within Polish diplomatic circles they mysteriously say that Sikoski has already figured out a recipe how to overcome domestic political crisis in RM, called with the impossibility of their Parliament to elect the President of the country. During recent meeting he even managed to discuss his plan with Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat.

Anyway, I don’t know about Moldova, but in Ukraine they do not prone to overestimate the significance of Polish Presidency in the EU. And the reason is not only about the Lisbon Treaty. Non-justified stakes, which Kiev made on the chairmanship of Sweden in the EU, also revealed their influence. But that would be more correct for Ukraine not only not to expect too much, but also not to complicate Polish Chairmanship proceeding to try patience of our partners with criminal cases, which are considered to be the struggle against corruption only by Ukrainian authorities.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from Zerkalo Nedeli



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