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27th Jan 2023

Poland unhappy with EU's new growth plan

  • Mr Tusk is due to debate Europe 2020 with fellow EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU's new 10-year growth strategy risks losing Poland's support, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has told EUobserver on the eve of a summit aiming to discuss the economic plan.

"We have to take care that the strategy does not share the fate of the Lisbon Agenda," Mr Tusk said on Wednesday evening (24 March), referring to the EU's previous plan to become the world's top knowledge-based economy, which fell by the wayside due to lack of member states' support.

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"Europe needs a strategy with which all countries identify. The best guarantee of member states' engagement is to set objectives which ...take into account their diversity and their different points of departure."

The new plan, entitled Europe 2020 and put forward by the European Commission three weeks ago, calls for all 27 EU states to pursue the same three policies: expanding research and development, teaching new skills to combat unemployment and investment in green technology.

The scheme, to be discussed by EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, comes ahead of a looming debate on EU budget priorities for the 2014 to 2020 period, with decisions taken on Europe 2020 likely to be reflected in the budget blueprint.

The scenario could see traditional financial instruments, such as the bloc's Cohesion Fund - which has funneled billions of EU aid to Poland to help it catch up with richer economies in western Europe - overhauled to fit in with new green targets, while basic Polish infrastructure, such as roads, cry out for EU cash.

"The strategy should be realised through tried and tested EU instruments. One of these is the cohesion policy, which is not only a well-functioning delivery mechanism but also helps, in an easily verifiable way, to support economic growth and employment," Mr Tusk said.

"One goal which fulfills both criteria [growth and employment] is appropriate regulations and investments in telecommunications, energy and transport infrastructure. A modern infrastructure should form the basis for future development of the single market."

The Polish leader first put forward his ideas to EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy in a letter on 18 March.

"I have read your valuable comments," Mr Van Rompuy wrote back. "I look forward to meeting you at the 25-26 March European Council, where we will certainly address several of the issues raised in your letter," he added, without promising to take Warsaw's ideas on board.

Italian backing

Polish analysts are fretting that Mr Tusk has left it too late to influence the commission proposal.

But a parallel letter to Mr Van Rompuy from Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi on 22 March indicates that Poland has support from outside its usual allies in the former-Communist east.

"It is important for Italy that large-scale European infrastructure projects are launched, not just to increase growth in the medium and long term, but also to give a tangible signal of cohesion and integration in Europe," the Berlusconi letter says.

"The time available [to consider the commission proposal] was very brief," it adds, noting that other factors, such as "political realism," should be examined before crafting any agreement on detailed measures:

"I think it would be more appropriate to define in March the areas for which these factors must be determined, but the precise indicators and target levels should be decided in June."

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