Saturday

25th Feb 2017

Poland 'not optimistic' after late night talks

Polish president Lech Kaczynski said he is "not an optimist" after late night talks with Germany, France and Lithuania on getting Warsaw to back down on its unpopular plan to change EU voting weights.

The one hour-long meeting after midnight on the first day of the summit saw French leader Nicolas Sarkozy press Poland to accept a legal tool called the "Ioannina compromise" or "emergency brake" instead.

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First designed at an EU meeting in Ioannina, Greece in 1994, the mechanism lets a small set of EU states that does not form an official "blocking minority" force the rest to halt and re-examine their decision.

But the majority can still push through the original decision after a "reasonable time" if no new compromise is reached.

For its part, Poland put forward a package of four items it is ready to swap for its EU voting weights scheme (based on the square roots of populations). Details of the four points remain unclear, but one key proposal is to keep the old Nice treaty voting system in place until 2020.

Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza says the 2020 idea would give Poland more power in shaping the next two EU framework budgets. It also cites a Polish official saying Ioannina could fly "if it was reinforced and made part of a wider package."

The Rzeczpospolita newspaper reports that Poland is using Lithuania as a proxy to get a new energy solidarity clause into the EU treaty, without having to trade energy for voting rights in its own discussions with Berlin.

"We agreed that energy security will not be a trading card in matters relating to institutional change," the paper quotes a source "close to the talks" as saying.

Poland and Germany are to hold another bilateral meeting at 09:00 Brussels time on Friday, but Polish president Lech Kaczynski indicated the atmosphere was not great after the late night discussion.

"The talks so far indicate the situation is very difficult. But Poland is not in the habit of backing down when it is right," he said. "I can't say I am an optimist. My obligation as an EU council member is to keep talking to the end."

"We are ready to accept other solutions [than the square root], potentially under several conditions, but they must be acceptable," he added.

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