Poland longing for success in six months' time

Torstaina, 30. kesäkuuta 2011     0 kommentti(a)
Tiia Lehtonen
tutkija - Euroopan unioni -tutkimusohjelma

Poland will take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union tomorrow, July 1st. As an ambitious, large, relatively new and yet mature member state, Poland strives after joining the club of heavyweight players in the EU. There is a strong pressure for Poland to succeed in presidency and it does have chances to shine. Yet, its overall agenda seems rather extensive, too ambitious and potentially weak. The question remains to what extent Poland will manage to tackle even part of the issues on its wide program.

Poland has selected a great range of varying themes as its priorities. First of all, it intends to advocate the strengthening of the internal market in order to find sources of economic growth. Special attention shall be paid to the regulations of financial sector, development on electronic services, mobility, removal of existent barriers in intra-Union trade and barriers blocking cross-border online transactions, reducing roaming charges, free transfer of expertise and innovation, and conditions for small and medium enterprises. In addition to this, Poland will organize an event to support internal market development (SIMFO Single Market Forum) during its presidency.

There is no doubt that the financial crisis will heavily affect European politics in the foreseeable future. Given that Poland is outside the eurozone, the issues of economic coordination and monetary policy do not fall into the realm of its main expertise or competence. On the other hand, Poland could arguably increase the overall optimism outside the decision-making tables, as its economy is doing relatively well. A proposal for the EU’s budget 2014-2020 has now been published by the Commission and the Polish presidency will thus fall to a period of intensive talks on the adjustment measures. A political agreement will be required in the first European Council in 2012. This is to say that Poland will have to act as a moderator and potential bridge-builder when the national interests are at stake. It intends to hold twelve technical and two ministerial meetings on the financial perspective.

The second priority, the Eastern Partnership, was inherited from Hungary, which decided to postpone its Eastern Partnership Summit originally scheduled for May 2011. The Eastern Partnership, inaugurated in 2009, is designed to strengthen cooperation between the EU and its six post-Soviet neighbouring states. Negotiation of the association agreements especially with Ukraine and Moldova remains among the top objectives for Poland. The implementation of the Partnership includes also intensifying economic cooperation and visa and trade liberalization. An Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum will be held in Poland in November 2011.

Third, Poland has proposed an in-depth debate on legislative and non-legislative solutions to preserve the competitiveness of European energy sector and to strengthen the EU’s external energy policy. At the time of economic crisis, it is challenging for any actor to take measures aiming at environmental protection. Particularly to the Poles, it is of utmost interest to increase independence of Russia as regards the energy. Its goal is to elaborate new mechanisms for solidarity and competitive energy policy.

At the time of the acute Middle East crisis, it can be considered as a rather inauspicious moment to include the issue of deepening defence cooperation as a priority. Given that there has been a wide variety between member states’ stances on the operative actions taken by the EU, it is ever more demanding to kick off any debate on it. Polish actions to upgrade the Union’s efficiency in the area of crisis management include both deepening defence cooperation among member states and ensuring proper partnership with NATO.

The priorities of an individual presidency are always derived from the EU agenda so that eventually no member can sing a solo in a choir. Six months is a short time to master any issue labelled as presidency priority. Intensive consultation and close cooperation with other key actors – e.g. those of the former presidencies, other members of the trio of (Denmark and Cyprus), the Commission and the President of the European Council – will increase Poland’s potential for a successful management of the planned actions. Also the largely pro-European Polish government and civil society can be seen as an advantage. Last but not least, Poland is no doubt the most powerful state in the trio.

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