Thursday

2nd Feb 2023

Poland rejects German package amid EU 'veto' threat

Updated 21:00 Germany and France have put forward a new proposal to try and solve Poland's voting rights gripe, but Warsaw quickly rejected the deal, saying the EU summit seems to be heading for a Polish veto.

Diplomats say the Franco-German package includes keeping existing "Nice treaty" voting weights until 2014, introducing a so-called "Ioannina Compromise" to help smaller EU states delay unfavourable decisions and giving Poland a few more MEPs.

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  • The Polish PM, despite staying in Warsaw, seems to be playing a decisive role in the Brussels EU summit (Photo: PiS)

"If the proposal is accepted by Poland, Germany and France will do all they can to obtain an accord from the other EU member states today," French government spokesman David Martinon said.

The move tries to address Polish fears that under the proposed "double majority" voting system, big and rich EU states will be able to force through day-to-day EU funding and policy decisions that will make it harder for the Polish economy to catch up.

But Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski, speaking on national TV from Warsaw, rejected the offer less than two hours after it was made in Brussels. "We have not gained what we see as the minimum – at least so far, and I am afraid it is not going to change," he said.

"When you would ask me how this [the summit] is going to end, I would bet it will end with a veto, because the stubborness of our partners goes too far."

The Franco-German gambit is the first significant news in a day that has seen mid-ranking diplomats and press at the EU headquarters fishing for information about emerging compromises in closed-doors EU leaders' meetings upstairs.

British PM Tony Blair has also confirmed that London has no objection to France cutting "competition" from an EU values section of the new treaty, as the political step will not change the legal basis for action against "distortions" of the single market.

But the biggest event of the day - the German EU presidency's latest outline of the new EU treaty - is not expected until later on in the evening, with press having to feed on a mixture of hints, rumour and spin in the meantime instead.

Dutch yellow-ish card

Some contacts suggest the Dutch and Czechs are close to nailing their wish-lists, even though Dutch diplomats hotly deny that they have made any deal yet.

"The Dutch have got their yellow card, with a little bit of red in it," one EU official said, explaining that national parliament's objections to new EU laws will in future have to be taken into account by the European Parliament.

A Czech official said that "if Ms Merkel keeps her promise, we will be satisfied," on introducing a new "two-way flexible approach" into the treaty.

The mechanism would theoretically allow powers to be transferred back from the EU to member states as well as vice versa. In the past, all traffic has been toward Brussels.

The UK's two loudest objections - to clip the wings of a new EU foreign minister and to strip the Charter of Fundamental Rights of legal force - could end up being problems of political symbolism rather than substance.

Slovak PM Robert Fico said the EU foreign minister might be called a "high representative" instead - the same title carried by EU top diplomat Javier Solana today - to avoid connotations of the EU becoming a "super-state."

The treaty might also contain fresh language that the EU "representative" will not compete for influence with EU states at UN level and that the charter will not be used to impose EU norms on national lifestyles and working habits.

Edgy atmosphere

The original draft treaty already carries these safeguards in essence, one EU official said, but a forceful restatement could help keep British eurosceptic tabloid press away from Number 10's door.

The atmosphere in Brussels is not entirely cordial - British officials say their objections relate to profound questions, of Brussels "overriding" national foreign policies.

Some Polish officials say they have been made to feel "humiliated" during debates.

"If I was a kid in a class of 27 and the other 26 told me I was a jerk, I would begin to wonder, even if I was the brightest kid in the class," one diplomat from an "old" EU state said on Poland's lone call to reform EU votes.

One of the most disturbing rumours doing the rounds is that security staff have been warned they might need to work until late on Sunday if the summit drags out.

"I'm supposed to drive home and start my summer holidays on Saturday. My wife will leave without me and then divorce me when she gets back," one diplomat joked.

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