Thursday

20th Jan 2022

Barroso warns new EU states on dangers of summit failure

EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has called on new member states to play ball at the upcoming summit on a new treaty for the bloc or risk the likely political fallout - less money from the EU coffers.

Speaking on Tuesday afternoon (19 June), Mr Barroso, who has been banging the drum in favour keeping most of the rejected EU constitution but in a different form, said it was in central and eastern European member states' interests to show that the EU had not been weakened since they joined in 2004 and 2007.

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  • Mr Barroso - issuing warnings before the summit (Photo: ec.europa)

"I believe...it would be in their interest for them to show that their membership of the EU is not making the union's life more difficult," said the commission chief.

He indicated that if the summit, which is "of special significance," were to fail "the mechanisms of coherence in the European Union...the mechanisms of solidarity will naturally be weakened," and there will be a "shadow of mistrust" cast on the EU.

The term "mechanisms" was an apparent reference to the cohesion and solidarity funds which sees billions of euros transferred from EU coffers to less well-off regions in the bloc - new member states are by far the greatest beneficiaries of this type of aid.

The thinly-veiled warning comes as Poland has been holding firm on its demand that the voting system contained in the draft EU constitution be changed in any new treaty.

The majority of member states, as well as the commission, believe that opening this issue will lead to a series of other difficult issues being renegotiated in the new treaty's institutional chapter. Most governments are reluctant to once more go through the tough talks that lead to the carefully worked out balance of power in the first round in 2004.

"We are not in favour of reopening the very carefully designed balances on the institutional matters specifically on voting, because we believe this could reopen many other matters," said Mr Barroso.

No Europe à la carte

Speaking of the growing tendency to offer opt-outs from a series of policies to get all member states on board - opting out is strongly favoured by Britain on judicial and police matters - the commission chief said this route must only be used as a last resort.

He said it cannot be used as a means to prevent the majority of member states moving forward. A Europe à la carte, where member states choose what they want would put the "very idea of the union" into danger.

Mr Barroso also asked those member states with "red lines" - notably Britain and Poland - to take a more "constructive" and "intelligent" approach to the discussions.

"This is not intelligent; this is not in your interest," he said of the hardline approach. "It may be useful for some national consumption for some time, but it will not be useful in the medium and the long term."

However, the commission president, who has issued similarly bullish warnings to both Warsaw and London recently, also indicated that he thought some of the public statements before Thursday's meeting were only natural before an important summit and that a deal is still possible.

"I think it will be possible to reach an agreement," he said, before adding that the commission is prepared to sit it out as long as it takes.

"I will bring as many shirts as necessarsary," said Mr Barroso with diplomats wondering if this will turn into a "three-shirt summit" - running into Saturday as negotiations go down to the wire.

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