Friday

22nd Jan 2021

Germany threatens to call treaty conference over Poland's head

German chancellor Angela Merkel has threatened to call an intergovernmental conference (IGC) without Poland after Warsaw forcefully rejected a Franco-German compromise package on EU voting weights.

"The German chancellor wants to take a decision at the summit without Poland," German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said. "Poland would then have the chance to join the European consensus at the governmental conference in autumn."

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

The move - the latest twist in tough negotiations on the future EU treaty - envisages a majority of the remaining 26 EU states calling the post-summit meeting without Polish approval, in a potential scenario not actually seen in Europe since the mid-1980s.

Some Polish officials have speculated that an open-mandate IGC could be useful for Poland, as it would give it a chance to debate the EU voting weights question in a less taut atmosphere than the current Brussels meeting.

One EU official explained that a majority of EU states could also decide on a mandate that excludes a voting debate, even though Poland would in the end have to sign any new EU treaty for it to become law.

"You could envisage a situation, in which Poland comes to the IGC and tries to talk about voting. Nobody would switch off the mike, but they would be gently reminded that this is not on the agenda, so their intervention would not be taken into account," he said.

But another EU official said the voting issue could still be raised under "any other business" and discussed during the intergovernmental talks.

Politically speaking, an IGC in which Poland was thoroughly gagged on voting would hardly persuade Warsaw to sign up to the final treaty. "Such a conference would be a waste of time," an EU diplomat warned.

The German development has seen French, Austrian and Luxembourgish leaders mobilise to try and get Poland to get on board.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Warsaw, after the PM in a spot on national TV said he felt the EU summit was heading for a Polish "veto" due to Berlin's "stubbornness."

Sweeteners still possible

Meanwhile back in Brussels, Austria's Alfred Gusenbauer and Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker plan to talk to Polish president Lech Kaczynski, bearing a slightly sweeter offer than the original German package.

The original German package includes keeping existing "Nice treaty" voting weights until 2014, introducing a so-called "Ioannina Compromise" to help smaller EU states delay unfavourable decisions and giving Poland a few more MEPs.

Austria and Luxembourg plan to offer Warsaw keeping Nice until 2016. On top of this, Poland has also secured a new treaty clause on energy security, which talks of "a spirit of solidarity" in the event of an energy supply crunch.

Some EU officials suggest the deadlock may not be as profound as it seems.

Deal not out of reach?

"I heard that the Kaczynskis were quite close to accepting the deal, but that pressure from their coalition partners [the nationalistic League of Polish Families and Self-Defence parties] as well as critical [Polish] media coverage made them pull back," the contact said.

Poland's original voting demands - to rebase the whole EU vote population-weighting system or extend Nice until 2020 and get a "reinforced" Ioannina mechanism - go much further than anything on the table for now.

The voting debate is designed to address Polish fears that under the proposed new "double majority" voting system, big and rich EU states will be able to force through day-to-day EU funding and policy decisions that will make it harder for the Polish economy to catch up over the coming years.

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.

Interview

How one man and his dog made a mark on EU history

A local man walked into a pharmacy in Galway, western Ireland, to buy medicine for his dog five years ago and now he is making history in the European Court of Justice.

Exclusive

Frontex spent €94,000 on a dinner in Warsaw

The European Border and Coast Guard Day is held every May. The event includes movies, football and volleyball matches between Frontex and national border guards, shooting competitions and exercises to detect smugglers.

Future of Europe conference: one year on standby

12 months after the European Parliament and the European Commission gave their views on the Conference on the Future of Europe, member states are still fighting over who should chair the event - which has blocked the launch for months.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary buys Russia's Sputnik V vaccine
  2. Netherlands imposes curfew to halt new corona variant
  3. Green NGO fails to stop Europe's biggest gas burner
  4. Swedish minister reminds Europe of Russia's war
  5. Spain: Jesuit order apologises for decades of sexual abuse
  6. NGOs urge Borrell to address Egypt rights 'crisis'
  7. EU conflict-area education aid favours boys
  8. EU told to avoid hydrogen in building renovations

Feature

EU Parliament: Strasbourg, or the climate?

A report of the European Parliament's environmental management unit proposes a treaty change to move the European Parliament's headquarters from Strasbourg to Brussels - in order for the institution to become climate-neutral by 2030.

Opinion

German presidency's broken promises on 'fair tax'

At the start of the German presidency of the EU Council it committed itself to a "fair taxation" agenda. But as we enter the final leg of its six-month term, time is running out to make good on this promise.

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Latest News

  1. EU leaders keep open borders, despite new corona variant risk
  2. EU and Cuba appeal for Biden to open up
  3. Portugal's EU presidency marks return of corporate sponsors
  4. MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute
  5. EU warns UK to be 'very careful' in diplomatic status row
  6. A digital euro - could it happen?
  7. US returns to climate deal and WHO, as EU 'rejoices'
  8. Big tech: From Trump's best friend to censorship machine?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us