• Sikorski and Ashton: "We haven’t had any of these jobs so I believe we should have a balance" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Interview

Eurozone is the 'real' EU, Sikorski says

22.01.14 @ 09:26

  1. By Honor Mahony
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BRUSSELS - Poland wants to join the eurozone because it is the political heart of the European Union, its foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, has said, with the country looking to enter the single currency by 2020.

"In every annual speech to parliament I say that, in my judgement as foreign minister, we should join. I am leader of this process because, politically, we want to be inside," Sikorski told a group of journalists in Brussels on Monday (20 January).

"Our judgement is that in the next decade the real European union will be inside the eurozone. And we want to be part of that."

He acknowledged that the political, financial and economic case for joining the single currency will have to be made to the Polish people, whose support for the move has slumped from a high of 80 percent five years ago, at the outset of the economic crisis, to 30 percent today.

Sikorski noted that it could take up to six years to join because "you haven't quite fixed up the eurozone."

An ideal single currency union would see "countries live within their means, have competitive economies [and] low interest rates."

But any political discrimination when it comes to top EU jobs because Warsaw is not yet a part of the 18-member single currency would be wrong, he said.

"If it hadn’t been for the mismanagement of the eurozone, for the breaking of the Stability and Growth Pact, we would be in the eurozone already. So I think it would be a little unfair to punish us for your sins."

"It would be nice if someone from our region [got a post]. And we haven’t had any of these jobs, so I believe we should have a balance."

Sikorski himself is said to be interested in taking over as EU foreign policy chief when the job comes up for grabs later this year.

"I am not a candidate. I am not running," he said when asked about the position. But he sidestepped a question on whether he would take the post if offered and already has some ideas on how it should function.

He noted that the person who takes over from Catherine Ashton should be in charge of a "cluster of commissioners" to make EU foreign policy "more holistic and more effective."

Sikorski, who was a member of the same elite club at Oxford University as British leader David Cameron, also sought to draw a line under the recent British-Polish spat over migrants.

"I hope it’s behind us," he said in reference to the war of words after Cameron singled out Polish people as exploting the UK's welfare system.

He noted that his UK counterpart, William Hague, had shown him London's plans for changing the welfare system "and I find nothing in them to protest about."

But he was more pointed on the UK's wish to the change the EU treaties - a reform which Cameron hopes to use as the basis for a referendum on EU membership in 2017.

"I haven’t yet heard the UK list of proposals of what they are unhappy about and what they would like changed," Sikorski said, adding that he thought Cameron could secure a Yes to membership as it is a "winnable" argument for the "sensible" British public.

"Certainly in Poland, we would miss Britain, we think the EU is better with Britain inside.”

Sikorski himself speaks openly and positively about the EU, saying its current political malaise - marked by concerns about democracy and the rise of anti-EU parties - could be solved by "restarting growth" and good leadership.

The EU should also be conscious of what it is and represents to other people. "Shouldn’t those Ukrainians standing in the cold give us a renewed confidence that what we take for granted is something people actually dream about?" he asked.

But partly, he indicates, the positive spirit derives from memories of Poland's near past.

"Two generations of Poles fought long and hard to free ourselves of Communism and to rejoin the West. And here we are. And we rather like it,” he said.