24th Oct 2016

Poland vows new era in relations with EU and Russia

  • The style of the new Polish government is set to be very different (Photo: EUobserver)

In an effort to put Poland back on the European stage, the country's new leadership is set to be the first to ratify the EU's Lisbon Treaty, the bloc's new institutional set-up agreed in October.

"I hope that Poland will be the first country to ratify the treaty. This would be a symbolic gesture, signifying Poland's return to the heart of Europe", speaker of the Polish parliament Bronislaw Komorowski said on Thursday (22 November).

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He was speaking to a group of journalists, including EUobserver, on the eve of a parliamentary session, during which prime minister Donald Tusk will outline his cabinet's programme and subsequently face a confidence vote.

But to secure swift treaty ratification, Mr Komorowski said the ruling parties would have to respect one key condition that president Lech Kaczynski had set – exemption from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The citizens' rights document, legally binding by the treaty, is seen in conservative circles as a backdoor to allowing abortions, euthanasia or gay marriages.

"We won't run the risk of the president not ratifying the treaty (..) That would be the worst for Poland and for Europe", Mr Komorowski said, but added that the ruling Civic Platform may reverse the opt-out arrangements, "should an opportunity come along".

New style - old interests

The new Polish leadership has made it clear it wants to draw a clear line between the 16-month era of former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who earned himself the reputation of a trouble-maker on European issues.

"We are a little more trusting. We don't see ourselves as a besieged fortress," foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski said, committing himself to dialogue and transparency.

"In diplomacy, style makes a great difference", he noted.

According to the 44-year old politician, Warsaw is also willing to "open dialogue" with the Kremlin on two thorny issues – the US ambition to place parts of a missile shield in Poland and the frozen talks on an EU-Russia partnership agreement, which are intertwined with a Russian embargo on Polish meat.

But despite the obvious shift in style, the government is still set to "strongly present the Polish perspective" on key issues and to "oppose deals done above its head".

So the country is to continue to oppose the idea of building a pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea, which should connect Russia and Germany, but bypass the traditional transit countries such as the Baltic states and Poland.

It will also defend EU direct aid to farmers, as the payments are seen in Warsaw as part and parcel of the post-communist countries' economic catch-up with the rest of Europe.

The country of almost 40 million people wants to lead Eastern and Central Europe in pursuing policies for poorer parts of the 27-nation bloc.

"It's not a matter of Polish interest, but of securing equal opportunities across the entire continent", Mr Komorowski said.

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