Poland’s 2011 Presidency of the Council of the European Union enabled the country to influence the EU and its actions. Despite the adverse circumstances, we are proud that the Polish leadership has successfully moved the EU’s operations forward. Reaffirming our status as a reliable Member State, Poland has dramatically transformed from a country that used to only take from the EU to one that now substantially contributes to the EU, and at the same time, inspires other Member States to act. Thanks to our activities, commentators think of Poland as a modern and growth-oriented country with effective and decisive leadership.
During our Presidency, we maintained faith in the EU, advocating the principle of ‘more Europe, not less’. We secured EU cohesion in the face of proposals to undermine the very idea of the European project and sought solutions to accommodate the interests of the entire institution. Thanks to Polish efforts, the European Parliament adopted the so called ‘six-pack’, which is a set of regulations enhancing the eurozone’s economic structure, which laid the foundations for the Fiscal Pact, (a new treaty which aims to enforce budget discipline within the bloc.) Poland also drafted the ‘European Consensus on Growth’, a document recommending how to stabilise and accelerate economic growth within Europe. In 2012 we acceded to the Fiscal Pact, an act which was in Poland’s best interest. In the near future we plan to fulfil all criteria and be ready to adopt the euro. It is in our economic and political interest to adhere to the tightly-knit group of countries that use this single currency.
During our Presidency, Poland acted on behalf of the entire EU, while also looking after our national interests, exemplified during the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework negotiations. Under our stewardship, the EU signed the Accession Treaty with Croatia and furthered similar negotiations with Iceland. We successfully managed an EU offer to our Eastern neighbours, agreeing on the text of the Association Agreement with Ukraine and initiated similar negotiations with Georgia and Moldova. The Presidency was a time of European influence and also an opportunity to really get a feel for the EU, not as newcomers or debutants, but as its co-hosts.
Now, after the Fiscal Pact has been adopted and measures to reinvigorate the European economy are agreed upon, we once again would like to focus our minds on Europe’s future. What form should it adopt? What will be the role of Member States? How will European institutions act? What about the role of EU citizens? These are only several of the questions we need to find answers to in the coming debate.
In a recently adopted document entitled ‘Polish Foreign Policy Priorities 2012-2016’, Poland’s vision of a united Europe is described in three basic words: competitiveness, solidarity and openness. The pursuit of deeper economic and political integration continues to be a priority. We believe that European bodies should also be strengthened so that they can effectively carry out their own tasks. The EU should become a political union, but this vision shouldn’t restrict or eliminate economic interests or the identity of individual Member States. Poland believes the following elements are required: an efficient and effective single market (including a single digital market and a single energy market) and an effectively operating labour market without limitations on the free movement of workers, creating a European research space and an ambitious EU budget with an adequate share for the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agriculture Policy.
Poland’s vision of the EU involves deeper integration and the creation of a stable political union. Member States will remain independent and sovereign, including their right to define levels of decision-making and their right to exit the EU. This scenario allows identity, culture, religion, principal tax rates and a way of life that remains in the hands of nation states.
To strengthen both the Community method and democracy, we are in favour of combining the post of President of the European Council with that of the European Commission. Under this proposal, the new President would be elected either by the European Parliament or through general European elections and some members of the European Parliament could be elected from a pan-European list of candidates.
Poland is steadfastly committed to deepening integration wherever it serves both Poland and Europe: tightening the EU’s external border control, completing the Single Market, especially in services and energy, and establishing a single digital market. In order to achieve these goals, the EU needs less directives and ‘red tape’.
Deeper integration should not mean a two-speed Europe. Closer co-operation and decision-making between the eurozone members should not lead to a decline in the decision-making process among the Member States or the eventual dismantling of the EU. Poland says ‘no’ to the institutionalisation of ‘a new core and a new periphery’ in Europe.
Further integration with the view of a permanent political union is in Poland’s interest; only this form of integration is able to reinforce the Union’s institutions. Such a political union provides the opportunity to strengthen democracy at EU level and to promote Europe to the rank of a globally accepted superpower. A working political union also needs an ambitious budget. Today, only one-tenth of the EU’s budget comes from its own sources. This share should also increase by way of introduction of the financial transaction tax at an appropriate time.
Political union means overcoming past burdens and former inhibitions, putting forward solutions and co-shaping the EU; this is Poland’s vision of Europe. We are aware that our say in European matters will grow as the country’s economic standing improves. We cannot accept the ‘wait and see’ approach that is currently prevailing in the EU, mainly due to its own economic situation. We have to overcome this ‘stagnation of thoughts’ and present a new European vision to our citizens.
Until recently, Poland was a ‘new member state,’ but today the country is a reliable component of deepening integration. If the EU is to become a strong international agent and an efficient structure for both its citizens and the entire European continent, it must continue to integrate and expand.