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9th Dec 2019

Poland and Greece talk tough before Rome summit

  • The EU-27's soul-searching started in Bratislava (Photo: eu2016sk/Flickr)

Poland and Greece have both signalled their dissatisfaction with the draft declaration ahead of Saturday's (25 March) Rome summit - the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the European communities' founding.

In a two-page letter, dated 23 March, Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras argues that European social rights should be protected in all member states, and Greece should not be an exception.

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Tsipras says he will not withhold support for the Rome Declaration, a text to set out the vision for EU's future, which he says "moves in a positive direction".

But he accused Greece's creditors of an "unjustified delay" in concluding the second review of the Greek bailout programme, and urged its EU partners to respect the "right to employment and social protection".

"The fact that EU does not defend its own achievements, its own legacy, its own social model, the fact that EU has surrendered to the IMF explains why Europe is facing an existential crisis today. We want a Europe in the service of human and social needs," he said on Twitter.

Greece and its creditors have been unable to close the review, a prerequisite to the next tranche of the bailout - the main obstacles being the labour market and pension system reforms.

Poland, which has stood alone during the last EU summit earlier this month in opposing the re-election of European Council president Donald Tusk, has threatened not to sign the Rome Declaration.

Poland's prime minister Beata Szydlo said on Thursday that she will continue to stand alone in opposition if her conditions are not met in the document.

"The unity of the European Union, the defence of close cooperation with NATO, strengthening the role of national parliaments and, finally, the principles of the common market, which should not divide but unite. These are the four principles which are a priority for Poland," Szydlo told private broadcaster TVN24.

However, a draft of the declaration, seen by EUobserver, does include these elements.

Exposing faultlines

Both Greece and Poland need to talk tough for political reasons: Athens is still negotiating the closing of the second bailout review, and Warsaw maintains its political campaign at home against Tusk, whom the Polish government now accuses of treason.

But the two countries' discontent highlights some of the main fault-lines within the EU that the Rome celebrations had hoped to overshadow.

The eurocrisis has exposed a divide between the richer northern countries and the poorer southern states, who are in need of financial help. The migration crisis has opened a rift between western and eastern member states, which are reluctant to take in refugees.

During the first meeting of the EU-27 after Brexit in Bratislava last September, aimed at starting a soul-searching mission to reshape the EU after the UK leaves, it was Italy that spoiled the party.

Then Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi refused to hold a joint press conference with French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel because he said progress on the migration crisis or rolling back the policy of austerity was not sufficient.

The aim of the Rome summit within the so-called Bratislava process is to show unity in the face of multiple challenges and to celebrate the EU's foundation.

This time however - as the Italian capital steps up security in the wake of the London terror attacks - Greece and Poland could crash the celebrations.

EU struggles with multi-speed idea

EU leaders meeting in Brussels insisted on staying united after Brexit but are still divided over fears of creating new 'elite clubs' within the bloc.

Analysis

From Bratislava to Rome: Little more than a show of unity

The so-called Bratislava process of reflection for the EU came to an end on Saturday, but there were few tangible results that citizens could take away from the soul-searching. Despite that, unity among the EU-27 has been maintained.

Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

EU 27 leaders in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Rome, in bid to counter rising challenges after Brexit. But new ideas are scarce.

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