17th Aug 2022

Poland to push for 'dark' side to EU birthday text

Poland wants the EU's upcoming 50th birthday declaration to mention the "dark" side of recent European history such as Communism and the Balkan wars, while hinting that changes to the EU voting system could become a Polish red line in future talks on the new EU constitution.

"It shouldn't simply be a self-celebration by the old member states. It should include our part of Europe as a parallel process experienced after WWII," Warsaw's lead negotiator or "sherpa" on the birthday declaration, Marek Cichocki, said in Warsaw on Tuesday (21 February).

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  • Happy birthday EU, but Warsaw does not want the dark side of the last 50 years brushed under the carpet (Photo: Wikipedia)

"It should also make mention of the dark legacy of European policy. During the great successes of extending the European Union in the 1990s, we had parallel to that a serious war in the Balkans," he added, saying the German EU presidency has a "responsibility" to address the tough issues.

The declaration will be drafted in English by an official in the chancellery of German leader Angela Merkel. It will have three parts - on EU history, EU values and the EU's future. It should be written in plain language and be no more than three pages long, the Polish negotiator said.

The "dark" events should go into the history section alongside the "successes" of setting up the single market. The history paragraphs should also state the "historical truth" of the EU's Christian origins, but Christianity should be kept out of the EU values chapter.

Mr Cichocki warned that only values with a "universal character" such as human rights and rule of law should go in. "It should not represent all the values that we find in our national constitutions, because then we will have a very long list," he said.

The sherpa also suggested "openness" as a key value - a term to be understood as openness to future enlargement but also in a broader sense as openness to the influence of other cultures, including Islam, to immigration and other aspects of globalisation.

The EU future section should talk about Europe as a provider of security for member states, both in terms of energy security and in the military sense. "The aspect of security is very appealing," he said, referring to the Pleven Plan of 1950, which called for the creation of an EU defence community. "We should recall these old ideas."

The security proposal reflects the Polish government's closeness to the hawkish world view of US president George W. Bush's Republican party, with Warsaw just a few days away from agreeing to a US plan to build an anti-ballistic missile base in Poland in a project reminiscent of the Cold War.

Mr Cichocki envisaged the birthday declaration as a text that would "provide a reference for many years, as a symbol of basic agreement between member states...We would be very happy if this document plays the same role as the Messina declaration."

The Messina declaration by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in 1955 was a statement of intention to create the European economic community. It paved the way for the signing of the EU's founding treaty, the treaty of Rome, in 1957.

The Messina comparison depicts the EU birthday text as a precursor of a new EU treaty, with the German EU presidency keen to get agreement by June on how to revive the EU constitution after French and Dutch referendums in 2005 derailed the existing constitution document. The new constitution is to be put in place by 2010.

Red lines sketched

Mr Cichocki - who is also Poland's sherpa in the constitution talks - said negotiations on the new treaty will not start in earnest until after French presidential elections in April or May, adding that it is too early to talk about Poland's "red lines."

But he hinted that Warsaw will reject any text that does not change the current proposal for a new EU voting system, which ties member states' votes more strongly to population size giving Germany more power to force through EU projects disliked by Poland.

"There is broad political consensus in Poland that this double majority system in the present constitution is not acceptable," Mr Cichocki said.

It is as yet unclear what alternative voting rules the Polish government might come up with, but speculation is mounting that Warsaw will put forward voting-weights based on the 1949 ideas of British mathematician Lionel Penrose.

The Penrose "square root law" says voting weight should be based not on the simple population size of individual member states, but on the square roots of national populations in a complex piece of game theory that would help Poland resist German pressure.

"Frankly, I don't see how any government could sell this kind of square root model in a popular referendum," Pawel Swieboda, a former high-ranking Polish diplomat who now runs the demosEUROPA think-tank in Warsaw, told EUobserver.

"Perhaps this will just be an interim proposal and the government will end up aiming for something different down the line - such as placing a cap on the maximum voting weight that anybody could have, effectively counting Germany as, say, 70 million people instead of 82 million," he said.

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