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31st Oct 2020

Fate of EU treaty summit remains in Poland's hands

  • The Italy problem may have been solved but the Polish problem remains open for the moment (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

European Union leaders have moved closer to reaching a deal on the bloc's new treaty, with all eyes on whether the most unpredictable player, Poland, will okay a compromise proposal.

"We are getting very, very close, very close indeed to a new treaty", said Portuguese prime minister Jose Socrates, who is hosting a two-day summit in Lisbon, on Thursday (18 October) evening.

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But despite Mr Socrates' optimistic words, the fate of the talks are mainly in the hands of Polish prime minister Jaroslav Kaczynski.

One diplomat told EUobserver that Warsaw has been offered a compromise deal under which a mechanism allowing countries to block an EU decision for up to two years would be written into a protocol to the treaty.

However, the sticking point remains how the so-called Ioannina clause could eventually be changed.

While EU presidency Portugal suggests it could be altered by unanimous decision of all EU governments, Poland is insisting on a tougher route whereby the clause is changed or removed only by an intergovernmental conference with subsequent ratification in all EU capitals.

Warsaw's unpredictability remains high, especially in light of prime minister Kaczynski's statement issued just minutes before he shook his hand with colleagues this evening.

"We don't want anything more than what has already been agreed," Mr Kaczynski said, adding "if things are not settled as it was agreed in Brussels, then we will have to wait for the final political agreement".

Aside from the decision-making issue, sources say that Poland's demand for a permanent general advocate at the European Court of Justice is likely to be accommodated - although the court itself has a final say on the issue.

Meanwhile, another trouble-maker, Italy, is likely to get its way over the number of seats it will have in the EU Parliament after the next European elections in 2009.

Under the latest proposal, Rome would get one extra MEP - raising the number of its deputies to 73. The overall ceiling of MEPs would remain 750, as the speaker of the parliament would no longer be counted as a lawmaker.

According to a diplomat, all EU leaders remain determined to reach an agreement on Thursday evening.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, said before the meeting she expected "difficult consultations".

"This could take a long time today. We are now just a few millimetres from the finish line, but not yet at the finish line", Ms Merkel added.

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