Friday, June 3, 2011

Poland awaits a tough Council Presidency

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.


  1. Good one, like it, and I'm looking forward to the first Presidency in the Heart of Europe, to quote Davies :-P
    à propos energy policy: for about a year now, the Poles are in a bit of a frenzy over the newly discovered shale-gas, which could, if contracts over mining technologies with the Americans run as smoothly as hoped for (and reports from Obama's visit last week suggest they're going fine) , guarantee European needs to a considerable degree. Obviously, the Russians are not happy about this , apparently another reason for the US to press on with the finalisation of exploration-contracts.
    About the topic of elections during the Presidency: from the European perspective it may seem like a downside to hold a ballot at precisely this time, pulling attention from the Union and toward domestic issues. But seen from the Polish side of the fence, it couldn't be a better time to have a good old campaign. My prediction is that the Presidency will only boost support for the ruling liberal, pro-EU Civic Platform. The (hopefully positive) media-boohah around the EU's leaders will not allow Kaczynski and other Euroskeptics to capitalize on Euro-bashing, which means that we're most probably in for another 4 years of reasonably well-governed centre-right Poland, without too much nationalist weirdos and hoi polloi in the House.
    Anyways , heads up for the first Presidency by the world's best plummers!

  2. oh yes, heads up and thumbs up for the world's best plumbers and thanks a lot for your comment.

    It's good that you mention shale-gas explorations but relying on yet another fossil fuel doesn't tackle energy security in the long run. I hope that we will see some investment in a common European energy market as well - that is something which can outlive fossil fuels.

    I'm hoping with you that there will be a lot of positive communication around the European leaders in Poland. But I fear that Sarkozy and Merkel will try and take away the limelight from Poland as soon as it comes to economic governance and the financial perspectives of the EU. With the Hungarian Presidency, it seems to me that there has been a rather positive division of labor: the Presidency tackled low politics issues like rural development and water, while the Franco-German tandem conducted discussions about Greece. I would expect Poland, a country that has been waiting to demonstrate its abilities on the European scene, to be less willing than Hungary to accept a low-key profile. If it is forced to do by the big two, that might hurt feelings and provoke some anti-European sentiments.

  3. Hi Andre,

    Just discovered your blog -- looks like we've got some common interests. I just added you to my blogroll at -- could you do the same for me?


  4. Hello Will, certainly.