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24th Jan 2021

Poland backs Franco-German pact, but wants in on talks

  • Dowgielwicz (r) and the Polish ambassador to the EU at a meeting in the EU Council (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Non-eurozone country Poland has signalled it wants to be in the room for upcoming eurozone discussions on deeper economic integration and boosting competitiveness.

On 11 March, the 17 EU states that employ the single currency are to hold a summit of premiers and presidents in the European capital.

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"We want to share ownership of the discussion of member states on how to make the EU more competitive," the Polish junior minister for EU affairs, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, told EUobserver. "Poland has something to offer ... We can share our best practice with the other member states. Already as long ago as 1997 we introduced our own debt brake," he noted.

Warsaw argues that much of what will be discussed has ramifications for the future of all 27 EU countries, including those currently outside the single currency. But the Poles, along with other non-eurozone states, have been excluded, even though other such summits will be open to them in future in what will be known as a '17 plus (those that are interested)' formulation.

Poland, the largest eastern EU country, says that it is not "banging on the door" to be included in the 11 March talks. But on Wednesday, it is to distribute a paper to other member states arguing that EU rules do not permit such exclusion.

"Our reading of the legal basis for this discussion requires a '27 minus' rather than a '17 plus' discussion," one Polish diplomat told this website.

In the Polish paper, seen by EUobserver, Warsaw argues that: "A profound response can only be built with full involvement of the interested parties. We therefore welcome inclusive initiatives that allow every willing member state to participate" and that "inclusiveness has always been a cornerstone of the European integration."

The paper endorses the so-called "community method", meaning that it prefers proposals to come from the European Commission not ad hoc groups of member states, as in the Franco-German case. It says that: "Poland unequivocally supports a strong role of the EU institutions, including legislative role of the commission, in co-ordinating our economic policies. The EU institutions are an effective forum of balancing interests of member states."

"There is a strong emphasis on the traditional method, with the commission's right of intiative [to propose legislation]," said the Polish junior minister.

In the paper, the Poles also signal their full backing for all the demands made by Berlin in the Competitiveness Pact, including amendments to national legislation to enforce budget discipline, corporate tax base convergence, the elimination of the linking of wages to inflation, common retirement ages and, crucially, closer economic integration.

Warsaw says that its constitution already limits public debt to 60 percent of GDP. Poland has also recently introduced a bill that limits discretionary spending to one percent above inflation.

The Franco-German pact ran into opposition from some eurozone countries over its proposal for constitutional amendments, increased retirement ages and the elimination of wage inflation-indexation. Poland however, backs Germany on all these points. "They need support and we are more than happy to give that, but we need to be included," a Polish source said.

Polish diplomats also spoke with EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday evening about his efforts to build a consensus on improving EU competitiveness along the lines of a Franco-German pact, but with the involvement of all member states. Mr Van Rompuy is trying to forge a 'Competitiveness Pact 2.0' by taking soundings from all member states on the issue.

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