Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

Poland to use 1989 revolution as lesson for Arab countries

Poland is to use lessons learned from its 1989 revolution against Communism to help spread democracy in the Arab world during its upcoming EU presidency.

Warsaw had originally aimed to concentrate on political reform in the EU's post-Soviet neighbours in the east.

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  • Warsaw: Poland's peaceful revolution in 1989 set off a chain of similar events in Iron Curtain countries (Photo: European Commission)

But a new draft programme for its six months at the EU helm adopted by the government on Tuesday (15 March) and seen by EUobserver notes that events in north Africa and the Middle East are forcing it to change priorities.

"Thanks to the rich experience of its own, successful political and economic transformation, Poland can bring a lot to this debate and furnish practical help for the new governments in north African countries," the paper says.

In one example, Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski is re-working plans to create a new EU foundation to help dissidents in countries such as Belarus. An international conference in December on the Sikorski project will now be devoted to "supporting transformational processes" in north Africa instead.

The Polish government is also keen to craft a long-term "complex strategy" for EU relations with the Arab world, containing "mechanisms to support persecuted minorities, including Christians."

With deadly violence in Bahrain on Tuesday opening a new front in the Gulf states, a Polish diplomat noted that the programme is likely to see more changes in the next three months.

"We are only half-way through the Hungarian presidency. We will know the final Polish priorities when the government presents them to the EU Council and the European Parliament in July," he said.

The provisional Polish calendar still leans toward the east rather than the south despite the political preamble.

Poland aims to hold a summit (date to be confirmed) and a foreign-minister-level meeting (in December) with the six post-Soviet countries covered by the EU's Eastern Partnership policy. Six other high-level meetings in Warsaw and Krakow will look to EU-Eastern Partner integration in tourism, phytosanitary standards, statistical reporting, infrastructure, the economy and migration.

On Russia, Poland "hopes" to make some progress on signing a new EU-Russia treaty, but makes no mention of concluding the pact.

On the Balkans, it aims to sign the accession treaty with Croatia and to hold an EU home affairs ministers meeting in Ohrid, Macedonia, in September. Rising ethnic tensions in the country are threatening to undo the Ohrid Agreement peace treaty of 2001.

Poland's other top priorities will be energy security and the EU economy, with little mention of previous plans on EU military integration.

The paper states that: "If Europe is to become competitive on the global scale, it cannot focus only on paying back debts, it must also act decisively on growth."

It predicts that average EU economic growth in 2011 will be 2 percent but that some member states will stay in recession while others get richer. It adds that: "Our societies are ageing and the current model of the welfare state must change."

One pet Polish project will be to help the European Commission set up a "28th" legal regime for online transactions to stand alongside the 27 member states' existing laws in the area.

"A classic example [of existing problems] is the inability of Polish citizens to ... buy products on iTunes. In the opinion of the Polish presidency liquidating barriers in online trade could - by the year 2020 - generate an extra four percent for the EU's GDP."

The first EU summit on the Polish watch is to take place in Brussels on 14 September. The last one will be in the EU capital on 9 December.

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