On 1 July 2011 Poland took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. A member of the EU since 2004, we are pleased to have acquired an in-depth understanding of the organisation and are grateful for the generous support from our partners in preparation for the six months ahead. We would like to thank Hungary for its fine work and advice during the first half of 2011, as well as Denmark and Cyprus for their close cooperation in our Presidency Trio.
2011 marks 22 years since Poland’s first free election ended the reign of Communism. Today, Europe is peaceful and united – this story of success and solidarity is unique to Europe. However, the future presents some complex challenges that Europe must successfully face in order to continue its significant global role.
As Poland assumes this leadership role, we cannot ignore the fact that public debt within the EU is on the rise, unemployment is stubbornly high and new jobs are not being created. We face difficult strategic questions regarding long-term energy supplies, migration and border control, fierce economic and political competition from other parts of the world, not to mention instability across North Africa and the Middle East.
Poland is well equipped to take on board the challenges of the months ahead. This is where the country’s lessons of the past come into play: Poland embodies the boldness and prowess necessary to make transformative and far-reaching decisions.
The Polish approach over the next six months is focusing on three areas: growth, security and openness.
We aim for a growing Europe.
We must remember that Europe’s political ambitions will fail unless we put our own economic house in order. A Europe struggling with its own financial credibility is unable to grow or provide security.
Despite not being a member of the Eurozone, Poland is aware that joining the euro is in its best interest and we have joined the Euro Plus Pact to reassert this commitment.
As Poland moves towards Eurozone membership, it brings with it one of the EU’s best performances in recent years of sustained economic growth and sound financial investment. The country has a constitutional rule of 60 per cent debt to GDP which the government cannot breach and additional expenditure rules are in development as a consequence of the financial crisis. This prudent fiscal framework, together with a flexible economy and EU fund investments, assists Poland’s growth despite the difficult circumstances the global crisis has brought upon us.
Consequently, throughout the Presidency we will play an active role in assisting our European partners to intruduce a modern regulation framework which the EU must establish to allow steady growth. However, the foundation of future European success is about Europe’s people working together to create value. The Presidency supports Commission proposals for reforming the Internal Market – the Single Market Act.
Poland will also focus on several areas where Europe’s own rules – and cautious inflexible attitudes – are holding people back. For decades, Europe was divided by the Berlin Wall. Although it has been demolished for over two decades, other legal and regulatory ‘walls’ are suffocating progress. Eliminating these constraints would allow for many new ideas, jobs, opportunities and levels of efficiency.
Europe must invest in the future. This Presidency sees the first major moves to define the EU’s next budget framework for 2014-20. National treasuries are under a great deal of pressure, but Europe cannot afford to step back from what the EU represents. The new budget must underpin further EU integration and the implementation of the EU’s strategic goals, including those singled out by the Europe 2020 strategy.
The Presidency is confident that sensitive budget negotiation can make a fair and reasonable start in the coming months. We will set the scene for a final budget deal next year, so Poland’s ambition is to work hard and constructively clarify issues at stake and achieve an in-depth understanding on what the Commission proposal signifies to every Member state.
We aim for a secure Europe.
Security is primarily dependent on maintaining confidence – in our policies, institutions, communities and ourselves.
A reasonable and orderly migration process will help Europe; pressures on Europe’s borders provoked by historical events create serious new problems for many member states, subsequently challenging the free movement of citizens. Keeping this in mind, the Polish Presidency will look to assist Frontex – the Warsaw-based EU agency tasked with the management of EU border security – in dealing with unexpected crises.
Security at the most basic human level comes down to food. A secure Europe means being able to cope with shocks to global food supplies. Security also comes from biodiversity: balancing economic development with essential environmental protections. The Common Agricultural Policy has served Europe well, however, it requires reform. The Presidency will combine market-based reforms with continuing support, keeping in mind less developed rural areas.
A secure Europe articulates a credible and united voice in international affairs. The Lisbon Treaty provides for new ways of deploying different types of power, policy making and collective impact. The Presidency means to develop these options, fostering external actions by the EU, including possible civilian and military operations and supporting the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton, as she builds up the EU’s collective external policy networks. Poland will also act to advance European external energy policy which will increase the overall energy security of the EU.
We aim for an open Europe.
A growing and secure Europe is a generous Europe, extending its success to other countries. Our Presidency aims to advance Croatia’s accession as a Member State by
looking to sign the Adhesion Treaty, and make significant progress regarding Turkey and Iceland. Serbia has made an important step towards EU membership by arresting General Mladic. We aim to work together assisting all the countries of the Western Balkans move through their accession programmes in a positive and mutual reinforced spirit, paying special attention to the unity and stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There is much progress that needs to be made in Eastern Europe. Opening borders to allow free movement of people and trade is the most constructive way forward. In the case of Ukraine and Moldova, Poland will push to conclude the Association Agreements, for visa liberalisation and new free trade areas.
All these policies and initiatives will come to a head in September in Warsaw at the Eastern Partnership Summit, an event that will bring together EU and Eastern European nations. The event marks a vital new step in the integration of our continent and shows that Europe is not only focused on internal politics but also views relationships with its neighbours as being equally important.
The Presidency will also work to set up a new framework of cooperation between the EU and Russia. Poland, of all countries in Europe, is aware of the significance of a good and friendly relationship with its largest neighbour.
To the South, as dramatic events continue to unfold in North Africa and the wider Arabic region, people are demanding accountable governments and an end to clumsy oppression. History tells us that it is one thing to end a destructive system, but quite another to a build a new, strong and sustainable one. The changes in this region will take years – possibly decades – and these countries will need to foster their own path. The EU will support them with democratic solutions, in the best spirit of European solidarity and mutual respect.
Our Presidency aims to get the right policy mix. The EU draws on Poland’s hard won experience and those of other countries that have successfully cleared the rubble of oppression. In light of this, a high level conference is scheduled for December 2011 to share and discuss best practices based on our transformation and assist the facilitation of change and democratisation in the South.
The Polish Presidency is prepared to expect the unexpected in the months ahead. Poland is ready for big change, and it is in this spirit that Poland takes on its Presidency of the Council of the EU – in the spirit of solidarity, optimism and learning lessons from the past to work together for our common future