Monday

17th Jun 2019

Spats over who gets to go to EU summit break out in Poland, Finland

  • EU leaders to meet in Brussels on Monday 1 September (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The emergency European summit called to tackle the Georgian crisis and forge a common European position on the issue is itself causing divisions - but over who gets to go to the extraordinary meeting of EU leaders.

The Polish prime minister and president are scrapping over who gets to attend the meeting, while the decision by the Finnish president to go has pushed aside the country's foreign minister, Alexander Stubb, who is also the current chair of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

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Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, although there is no tussle over who gets to attend, President Vaclav Klaus nonetheless has an opposing view to his prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, as to who is responsible for the Georgian conflict.

Conservative Polish president Lech Kaczynski has demanded he be the one to head to Brussels for the summit, rather than the more liberal prime minister, Donald Tusk.

Speaking on Polish radio, the president's aide, Piotr Kownacki, on Thursday (28 August) said: " If the president is in the Polish delegation, it is obvious that he lead it due to his office," according to AFP.

The previous day, the deputy prime minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, had said that if the president attended, it "was not going to help matters," the French news agency also reported.

Moreover, the two leaders have a slightly differing perspective on the crisis. The president has attacked the peace plan between Russia and Georgia negotiated by French President Nicholas Sarkozy for making no mention of Georgia's right to territorial integrity.

Mr Tusk, for his part, has not criticised the plan, although he hopes to see a strong position taken by the EU on Russia's actions.

Messrs Tusk and Kaczynski are to meet on Friday to attempt to resolve the disagreement.

Over in Finland, President Tarja Halonen has announced she is to attend the summit, meaning that foreign minister Alexander Stubb would have to wait outside while the president and prime minister talk with other EU leaders.

The bumping of the foreign minister this time is causing a bit of a headache for the delegation, as Mr Stubb is also the current chairperson of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with which the EU has been closely working on the Georgian crisis. The foreign minister and former MEP also played a key role in the negotiation of the Sarkozy peace plan as chair of the OSCE.

President Halonen's chief of staff said on Wednesday that the "starting point" is that the OSCE chairperson will attend and that Finland would have a third seat in the meeting, instead of the normal two, the Helsingin Sanomat reported.

However, Brussels officials have all said that a third seat is "impossible", according to the Finnish daily.

Mr Stubb may yet be invited to attend separately in his capacity as OSCE chair, but in which case, he would only be able to participate for the length of his presentation.

Elsewhere, although Czech President Vaclav Klaus has been invited, he will not be heading to the summit, with prime minister Mirek Topolánek attending instead, alongside the foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg.

The Czech leaders have diametrically opposed views on the conflict, with President Klaus of the opinion that Georgia is responsible for starting the war, while the prime minister blames Russia.

Mr Schwarzenberg said that such differences are nothing unusual in the government of a democratic state. The main thing, he said, is that it is the government that determines foreign policy, reports the Prague Post.

EU leaders task Tusk to find commission chief by June

With national leaders and the European Parliament divided over who to put forward for the commission presidency, the EU Council president will now start negotiations with all sides - hoping to come up with an answer by next month.

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