17th Aug 2022

Poland compromises on EU birthday declaration

German chancellor Angela Merkel's attempts to revive the EU constitution were given a boost after Poland dropped its opposition to the Berlin Declaration, a statement marking the EU's 50th birthday and intended to relaunch discussions on the EU treaty.

The turnaround came after a bilateral meeting between the chancellor and Polish president Lech Kaczysnki over the weekend.

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  • Lech Kaczysnki (r) - did not want Poland to be alone in its opposition (Photo:

After the event, which saw a partial thaw in frosty relations, Mr Kaczynski said he did not want Poland to be the only country against the declaration, which is to be formally unveiled on 25 March, the anniversary of the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

"I don't see any reason why we should find ourselves in such a situation," he told Polish public television on Saturday evening.

Poland had been holding out for a reference to Christianity in the declaration, something firmly opposed by countries like France.

Polish daily Gazeta Wyborzca quotes the president as saying that "Poland's stance is important for Germany."

"The German presidency wants the declaration to represent a kick-off for the talks on the constitution and maybe even something like its preamble."

For her part, Mrs Merkel told news agency DPA after the meeting that she had noticed "a common will to make progress in the EU."

"As for the constitutional treaty, we have agreed close cooperation in the coming months," she said, with both countries facing major discussions on the voting system in the EU constitution, which Warsaw wants to change.

The chancellor's visit was also marked by a speech at Warsaw University, in which she expressed sorrow for Germany's killing of 6 million Polish citizens during World War II and said her government would never support compensation claims by fringe German groups for land ceded to Poland after 1945. The oration met with warm applause.

It now appears that the chancellor has in principle the support of all 27 member states for the declaration - a three page document that is to sum up where the EU has come from and where it is going.

But the exact wording is still contentious. The Czech Republic is firmly opposed to having any reference to a deadline for getting a new look EU treaty agreed while wording on the social aspect of the EU has to please both the pro-market camp and the camp that feels the EU is more than just its internal market.

An important detail on Sunday when the declaration is unveiled is likely to be whether all 27 EU leaders sign up to the document or whether it is just signed by the EU presidency.

"Whether the presidents of the parliament, the council and the commission or all the heads of state and government sign is for the [German] presidency to decide. What is important is that the declaration is accepted," said EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, according to Austrian Daily Der Standard.

The declaration itself is supposed to inject some optimism and dynamism into the EU which has been going through a prolonged period of introspection since French and Dutch voters rejected the EU constitution in 2005.

This sombre period appears to be reflected by EU citizens. According to a poll conducted in the EU's five biggest countries by the Financial Times, just 25 percent believe life in their country had improved since it joined the EU, while 44 percent feel it has become worse.

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