Monday

23rd Sep 2019

Poland: Elections will not disrupt EU presidency

  • Artwork from Kultura Gniewu's recent publication Pinokio. The company is to be involved in making the Polish EU presidency's graphic novel (Photo: kultura.com.pl)

The Polish junior minister for EU affairs, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, has promised that upcoming elections will not disrupt Poland's EU chairmanship and defended Hungary over its controversial media law.

Speaking to EUobserver ahead of a visit by EU Council head Herman Van Rompuy to Warsaw on Monday (17 January), Mr Dowgielewicz predicted the election will take place in the second half of October - slap-bang in the middle of Poland's EU presidency - but said the vote will be separated from its EU activities by a "Chinese wall".

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"The scenario with elections before the presidency would have been much worse, because spring of this year is crucial for preparing for the presidency and ministers have to be active on the European front instead of campaigning or dealing with the formation of a new government. If we have elections during the presidency, everything will already be in place," he explained.

The latest poll, by GfK Polonia in December, indicated that centre-right Prime Minister Donald Tusk will sail through to a second term on 54 percent, leaving behind the main opposition party, Law and Justice, on 26 percent.

Even if the situation changes drastically, Law and Justice' bull-in-a-china-shop boss, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is unlikely to turn up at any EU summits in 2011.

"The presidency has been set up in such a way as to allow the old government to continue running things until late December, until the last session of the European Parliament, no matter what happens," Mr Dowgielewicz noted.

The Polish government has watched with discomfort as older EU members, such as France and Germany, and their top newspapers have in recent weeks mangled the Hungarian EU presidency over its alleged attack on free press in a new law.

"Sometimes there is a bit of a condescending attitude in some of the member states," Mr Dowgielewicz said. "[Hungarian PM] Mr Orban is somebody who has distinguished himself in being a freedom fighter at the end of the 1980s. He's a very experienced politician and I have absolutely no doubt about his commitment to the European idea."

Keen to learn from the other post-Lisbon-Treaty EU presidencies, Spain and Belgium, the junior minister said Poland's leaders will try to work in "harmony" with top EU officials but will not be "invisible" on the Belgian model.

"Mr Tusk will always be visible because he's the leader of quite a big country. He doesn't have to compete for the spotlight with anyone," Mr Dowgielewicz said. "It's not that we want to be invisible. But we don't want any rivalry or turf wars with the EU institutions."

The Polish presidency is to concentrate on the economy and on defence.

The junior minister revealed that Poland is to take part in talks by euro-using countries on joint economic governance in the run-up to its EU chairmanship even though it is keeping the zloty for now. "I hope that in the second half of the year the sun will come out on the economic side ... that after talks on the stabilisation of the euro, we will be looking at how to make the economy grow faster, to create jobs," he said.

On defence, Poland aims to launch talks on a list of mini-projects such as how to make EU battlegroups more effective and how to build a future European Defence Technological and Industrial Base.

Mr Dowgielewicz said that while the level of ambition may appear modest, it reflects 18 months of consultations with other EU capitals on what is possible at this stage and shows that the euro crisis has not killed the appetite for deeper military co-operation: "Even if you don't see anything shocking or brave [in the Polish plan] ... the very fact we are talking about this despite the other problems we have in the EU is an achievement."

With the last two EU presidencies by new member states marked by controversies over art installations put up in the EU Council's Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, Warsaw is also finalising its plans on the cultural front.

The Czech presidency in 2009 angered Bulgaria by depicting it as a Turkish toilet while Hungary has rattled its EU neighbours by displaying a map with enlarged Hungarian borders from 1848.

Poland for its part is to publish a comic book. The junior minister said it will be a "serious" graphic novel about European culture put forward in the form a "crime story".

Polish news agency PAP earlier reported that the book will be produced by Polish firm Kultura Gniewu, an edgy publisher whose most recent book is an adult version of Pinocchio. The EU comic will be printed in Polish and English and also translated into French, German and Russian in an online version.

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