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19th Feb 2017

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Poland takes part in eurozone meeting amid worry 'if it's safe to join'

  • Rostowski: stabilisation of the euro is a 'vital Polish national interest that we have put up there with Nato membership' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The Polish finance minister was, unusually, allowed to take part in a teleconference of the 17 euro-using countries on Saturday (2 July) about the Greek debt crisis.

Poland, which still uses the zloty but which is legally obliged to one day join the single currency, had lobbied for the novel move in recent weeks in what it hopes will set a precedent for future eurogroup meetings as well.

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In a sign of caution by the exclusive single currency club, an EU diplomatic source noted that Polish finance minister Jacek Rostowski was only allowed to listen to part of the talks, dealing with the so-called "six-pack" of EU laws on joint economic governance, but was kept out of the main bit on releasing €12 billion more in financial aid to Athens.

Speaking to press in Warsaw on Friday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the Polish EU presidency should regularly sit-in on eurozone talks "for informational reasons, in order to be 'online' with events."

With non-euro-using EU economies exposed to potentially devastating consequences if the single currency falls apart, Rostowski himself early on Saturday said that Greece is "an EU-wide issue ... stabilisation of the eurozone is an absolutely vital Polish national interest that we have put up there with Nato membership and EU membership."

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski on Friday stated frankly: "There's a strong interest in having a say [on eurozone problems] ... so that we know that it's safe for us to join, and participating in these discussions would help us to make that judgement."

Poland had before the financial crisis spoken of joining the euro in 2015. But Rostowski on Saturday declined to give any target date for membership.

He also voiced doubt on whether existing EU efforts to avoid future crises, such as the six-pack and new bail-out mechanisms, are up to the job.

Pointing to a fundamental lack of financial solidarity in the union, the minister, who was educated at the elite Westminster School in London, said the EU should look to the ethos of British fee-paying schools, which teach the importance of team play.

"Solidarity is a form of enlightened self-interest ... to coin a phrase, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton [another top British academy], and I think the battle for the euro could benefit from that spirit," he said.

For his part, Polish deputy prime minister Waldemar Pawlak, on Saturday noted that despite Warsaw's avowed pro-EU feeling, some in the Polish government have gone lukewarm on the euro.

"Today we can say along the lines of Mrs Thatcher [a eurosceptic former British leader], from her memoirs, that we will join the euro when it's appropriate," he said.

"We are still dreaming of the euro but we are less romantic about it these days."

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