Monday

1st Mar 2021

Poland to fight for 'square root' law in EU treaty

Poland plans to propose a new voting system in the upcoming EU treaty talks that will be based on square roots of populations instead of simple populations. The so-called "Penrose square root law" would give Warsaw more say against Berlin, with one Polish official already talking about potential Polish vetoes.

The plan was confirmed by Poland's lead negotiators on the new treaty, Marek Cichocki (a historian) and Ewa Osniecka-Tamecka (a senior Polish official), to Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Wednesday (28 March) - three months before the June EU summit hopes to clinch agreement on a "roadmap" for a new text.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"If other countries do not want to discuss our proposal, we will take the last resort," Ms Osniecka-Tamecka said, on the possibility of a Polish veto on constitution talks. The new voting plan would be a "Polish historical rebate" for the fact that "for 50 years Poland for no fault of its own was outside EU integration," Mr Cichocki added.

The current draft constitution has a so-called double majority system, which requires at least 15 out of 27 EU states which represent at least 65 percent of the total EU population to get a decision through. Similar rules exist for establishing "blocking minorities" to stop reforms from going ahead.

Poland's Penrose system requires at least 14 out of 27 EU states which represent at least 62 percent of national votes, which are awarded on the basis of square roots of population. In the draft constitution Germany has 82 population "points" while Poland has 38. In the Penrose scheme, Germany has nine votes and Poland has six.

Lionel Penrose was a British mathematician of the 1940s, whose ideas on game theory keep on bobbing up in EU debate. Ms Osniecka-Tamecka - who runs Poland's EU integration office, UKIE - told Polish press she hopes for French, British, Dutch, Romanian and Czech support. The Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, already backs the idea.

The issue of voting rights is at the heart of the EU's intricate power balance. If draft constitution ideas on extending the range of issues subject to qualified majority voting instead of consensus go forward, voting rights will carry even more importance. Issues such as immigration and budget deficit procedures are set to undergo the shift to qualified majority.

Voting rights are also a hot topic in future enlargement. The existing double majority would have no problem coping with Croatia or Macedonia. But if Turkey - which reopened EU accession talks this week - joins in, say, 2020, when it is forecast to have a population of almost 90 million, it would immediately become the most powerful EU state.

But with Germany last weekend setting a daring timetable of ratifying a new EU treaty by 2009, Poland's suggestion to open the Pandora's Box of voting is unlikely to go down well. German chancellor Angela Merkel's man in the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, has already pleaded with Warsaw to leave voting alone.

Speaking to EUobserver in Warsaw in February, when the Penrose idea was already doing the rounds, the head of Polish think-thank demosEUROPA Pawel Swieboda speculated that Penrose could be a Polish bluff, with the real government position being to keep the existing double majority system but to cap the maximum population weight at, say, 70, so that no country, no matter how populous, could dominate the club.

The latter idea would also address the Turkey challenge.

The Polish expert's advice to Warsaw is that the best way to secure lasting influence in the EU would be to "ratify the constitution as it stands, ratify it now." But his advice clashes with the Kaczynski twins' view of Brussels, who see it as an arena of competing national interests where solidarity is a fable.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

The new European Public Prosecutor's office will become operational in March. It is tasked to carry out criminal fraud investigations of the EU budget. But of the 140 required European delegated prosecutors, only nine have so far set up office.

Portugal's EU presidency marks return of corporate sponsors

Last year's German EU presidency refused corporate sponsorships. But the new Portuguese presidency has decided they are needed and has signed three contracts. One of them is with one of Europe's largest paper companies, The Navigator Company.

News in Brief

  1. China sees rapid decline in press freedom, foreign journalists
  2. UK already vaccinated more than 20m people
  3. Serbia attacks EU 'vaccine passport' idea
  4. Germany tightens controls on French border
  5. Pfizer vaccine possibly less effective in obese people
  6. Iran says it will not attend talks with US on nuclear deal
  7. Police injured in Irish anti-lockdown protests
  8. EU leaders restate defence 'autonomy' plan

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. EU ambassador in hot water over Cuba letter
  2. 'Big Five' tech giants spent €19m lobbying EU in 2020
  3. Women fighting Covid-19 in focus This WEEK
  4. Ethiopia right of reply
  5. Time to choose on Russia: regime first or people first?
  6. Armenia 'coup' shows waning of EU star in South Caucasus
  7. 'Difficult weeks' ahead, as variants spread across EU
  8. EU top court advised to strike down Hungary's asylum policy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us