Monday

18th Feb 2019

Poland tests meaning of EU oath on neutrality

  • Lewandowski (r) and the Polish EU ambassador swap notes in Brussels (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The Polish government has told voters that its man in Brussels, Janusz Lewandowski, will help it get more EU money, testing the meaning of the budget commissioner's oath of neutrality.

The ruling centre-right Civic Platform party sent out the message that Lewandowski is playing for team Poland rather than team European Commission in a short TV clip posted on its website last week.

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Speaking in a wood-panelled room among fellow Civic Platform members, Lewandowski says: "We're talking about billions, even 300 billion zloty [€69 billion]. Thanks to this money we could reduce youth unemployment, even by half."

Fellow party member and foreign minister Radek Sikorski then pops up, adding: "That's what these elections are about. They are about money for Poland and who will get more of it. Why do we think we will do better? Because we have a strong team [gestures to Lewandowski] which can negotiate successfully."

Lewandowski is until 2014 at the centre of the commission's work on the EU's €1 trillion 2014 to 2020 budget.

Working under a steering group of other senior officials, he has less power than Polish voters heading to the urns on 9 October might think. But he is well-placed to feed information to Warsaw as the budget talks unfold.

Lewandowski in May 2010 swore a "solemn undertaking" at the EU court in Luxembourg: "To be completely independent in carrying out my responsibilities, in the general interest of the union, in the performance of my tasks, [and] neither to seek nor to take instructions from any government."

Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen on Tuesday (20 September) said he did not cross the line because his remarks were of a "general" nature.

"The president [Barroso] is aware of the participation of the commissioner in this specific activity and it's our opinion that the commissioner, who intervened in a personal capacity, passed a very general message about the benefits of the general budget to Poland ... This activity, for which the commission punctually gave its agreement, is compatible with the code of conduct," she said.

She indicated that Barroso has not yet seen the TV clip because he is too busy travelling to South America and the US, however.

The Polish government, which is until 2012 also running the EU presidency, has promised the elections will not interfere with its EU work.

The latest poll, by GfK Polonia on 15 September, said the main opposition party, the more right-wing Law and Justice, lags behind but is gaining ground. Civic Platform got 44 percent and Law and Justice got 32 percent, 3 percent more than two weeks ago.

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