19th Mar 2019

Poland sees praise for EU presidency in turbulent times

  • Warsaw did well holding the fort, EU leaders say (Photo: metaphox)

EU politicians praised Poland on Wednesday (14 December) for the way it has handled the six-month rotating presidency during what is considered the biggest crisis in European Union history.

“The Polish presidency was without a doubt one of the very best presidencies we have had,” German MEP Martin Schultz, leader of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, told conservative Prime Minister Donald Tusk in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

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Schultz praised Tusk and his cabinet for the “high level of professionalism” during the six-month period that saw an ever worsening eurozone debt crisis, and, last week, a highly controversial decision to forge ahead with an intergovernmental treaty with only Britain refusing to take part.

“I cannot say that at the end of 2011, Europe is more united than six months ago,” said Tusk.

He refused to blame anybody for the current state of affairs, but did say that “too many politicians want to convince us that the way to exit from the crisis is a departure from communitarian actions.”

“You are discharged from your duties with honour,” said Swedish MEP Olle Schmidt, speaking on behalf of the liberal group in the parliament. “I salute you, Mr Tusk.”

Praise also came from the European Commission, whose president, Jose Manuel Barroso, said: “Poland demonstrated extraordinary capacity [during] probably the most difficult period since the European integration started.”

Yet for all the backslapping, EU leaders also seemed relieved that despite difficulties, the first-ever Polish presidency did not present any major organisational problems.

“Poland has shown that it is not a country that is badly organised,” said Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, and a Polish national.

Much of Warsaw's diplomacy went into ensuring that the 10 non-euro countries, of which Poland is one, were not shut of decisions related to the single currency but which could affect them.

Traditionally, the EU’s rotating presidency presents an opportunity for the holding member state to show its best as it finds itself in the limelight for half a year, presiding over meetings of ministers and, with a bit of luck, closing important dossiers.

No such luck for Poland, however, whose achievements were overshadowed by the eurozone crisis, with the French and German leaders stealing most of the attention.

The Polish presidency oversaw the coming into force of a package of measures for stronger economic governance, the so-called six-pack, and the signing of the accession treaty with Croatia.

It did not, however, manage to see through the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the border-free Schengen area due to the continuing veto by the Netherlands - a position Tusk and Barroso both qualified as “unfair.”

The Polish presidency may yet be most favourably remembered for the passionate speech by Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski delivered in Berlin in November, in which he urged German chancellor Angela Merkel to act in the interest of the whole continent saying that her country had “a special responsibility.”

Environmental groups, however, are likely to remember the Polish presidency for the “shameful” role it played in negotiating the climate deal in Durban, according to Bas Eickhout, Dutch Green MEP, who accuses the presidency of pursuing a national agenda, trying to retain as much carbon emission rights as possible.

“I salute the way you dealt with the euro crisis,” he said, “but I’m afraid you have failed on climate policy.”


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