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21st Oct 2018

Poland to showcase its EU credentials in Brussels extravaganza

  • A normal Polish delegation strides through the corridors of the EU Council. Wednesday's team will have over 20 ministers and junior ministers (Photo: consilium.eu)

The Polish government is on Wednesday (9 June) descending en masse on Brussels for a series of showy meetings in the run-up to its 2011 presidency, with sensitive issues, such as EU military co-operation, on the agenda.

The public relations coup - Brussels has never before welcomed such a large member state delegation - was set up by Polish EU affairs minister and former EU commission official Mikolaj Dowgielewicz using his old contacts, and is to dominate the commission's whole day.

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The event will showcase Poland's line-up of EU superstars to Brussels-based media and policy-makers. It may also give a bump to the ruling party's candidate in Poland's snap presidential elections on 20 June.

The delegation includes: Polish centre-right leader Donald Tusk, who last month scooped the Charlemagne prize for services to EU integration and is described by EU officials as a genuine "friend" of commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso; Radek Sikorski, its Oxford-educated, silver-tongued foreign minister, said to be a crack-shot with a hunting rifle; and Jacek Rostowski, its polyglot finance minister spoken of by Polish diplomats in hushed tones as the mastermind of the country's economic growth in the crisis years. Eighteen other ministers and junior ministers will be in tow.

The new face of Poland could not be more different to the Kaczynski-twin era of 2006 and 2007 when the country earned itself a reputation for euroscepticism, russophobia, germanophobia and diplomatic gaucheness.

Wednesday's set of meetings with EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy, Mr Barroso and the 27 commissioners will see Poland sound out the Brussels elite on how to handle its looming EU chairmanship.

Warsaw in the second half of 2011 wants to play a major role in how the EU shapes its €1 trillion 2014 to 2020 budget, puts in place the nuts and bolts of joint economic governance and renovates its ancient farm aid policy.

Mr Sikorski is also bringing new ideas on how to boost the EU's joint military capabilities.

Fondly named the "Chobielin Initiative" after a private meeting between the Polish minister and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, at Mr Sikorski's country manor in Chobielin last year, the scheme will be based on the little-known Article 28 of the Lisbon Treaty which foresees joint work on hard-going defence missions by militarily-advanced EU states.

At stake in 2011 will be Poland's ambition to become a big-league EU player, an interlocutor between the 'old' EU states and the former-Communist EU countries which joined in 2004 and, increasingly, between the EU and Russia, not to mention billions in EU "structural" aid. The Polish mission in Brussels is even moving from its old location to a fancy new building close by to the EU Council and doubling staff.

Au revoir au presidence

But with the EU in mild disarray after the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty, its job will not be an easy one.

The Spanish EU presidency has thoroughly annoyed the office of EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton by competing with her over the past six months on who is the EU spokesman. "[They] will not let this happen again," an EU official said.

Meanwhile, the self-styled "grey mouse" of Lisbon, Mr Van Rompuy, has little-by-little extended his powers over EU financial policy, the sweetest bit of the EU cake that was to have been left to the rotating presidency.

"The EU presidency is a moving target for Poland. The rotating presidency is already weaker than analysts expected before Lisbon came into force. Under Belgium [in 2010] the role of Van Rompuy [a former Belgian prime minister] could get another boost. All this is a clear concern for Poland," Janis Emmanouilidis, an expert at the Brussels-based EPC think-tank, told EUobserver.

"Besides this, the EU is moving so quickly, it is anybody's guess what will be on the agenda in 2011," he added, on the Greek debt crisis and its cornucopia of surprises for EU states.

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