Another month and Poland will replace Hungary at the helm of the EU Council of Ministers. The new Presidency is yet to clarify its priorities, but the general lines are clear. Poland wants to focus on “European integration as the source of growth”, a “Secure Europe” and a “Europe benefiting from openness”.
It will be a tough time. As Euroskeptics are gaining ground in Finland, Denmark, France and the UK, the European Parliament insists on an increase of the EU's funds for the period of 2014-2020. Further European integration will be difficult to bring about. In an analysis for the Polish foreign ministry, the authors expect financial negotiations "on all fronts", given that the reform packages of Common Agricultural Policy (between 44% and 40% of total budget in 2007-13), Cohesion Policy and other policies will be on the table by the second half of 2011.
With regard to the European internal market, Poland has set high stakes for itself. It wants to "introduce a new model of economic growth, one that would allow the Union to secure appropriate level of economic development for the coming decades and guarantee the well-being of EU citizens". Focusing on the electronic services market and on the establishment of a European patent are two aspects that the Presidency wants to pursue in this regard.
It will be particularly interesting to see the Polish contribution in energy policy. While most European countries are looking to expand renewable energy, Poland still derives around 54% of its energy from coal and wants to start a nuclear energy program. And yet, the government wants to make renewable energy and the development of a European energy infrastructure an important part of its Presidency.
During the second half of 2011, many eyes in Europe will turn to Poland. Can it use the Presidency to be an honest broker and at the same time become one of the five big players in the EU?
The government is somewhat condemned to success: a failure of European solidarity right now could be taken as a go-ahead for other countries to let European integration unravel. To top it, the Council Presidency is expected to be overshadowed by legislative elections in Poland which are set to take place in October 2011.
Not an easy Presidency. But if it is successful, Poland will take a more central place in EU policy-making in future.