Poland isolated again as it threatens to block EU declaration

By bne IntelliNews March 23, 2017

Poland will not sign the Rome Declaration if its demands for moulding the EU’s future are not reflected in the document, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo threatened on March 23.

The statement could potentially derail the European Union's hopes to adopt the blueprint for the bloc going forwards at this week special summit celebrating its 60th anniversary. Poland is in a deep funk with Brussels after it was humiliated in its efforts earlier this month to block the re-election of Donald Tusk as president of the European Council. However, Warsaw was quickly informed by neighbouring Slovakia that it stands alone.

Szydlo told broadcaster TVN24 that Poland wants to make sure that the declaration – which is intended to set the tone for the discussion on reforming the crises-ridden EU – makes no mention of a “multi-speed Europe”.

Warsaw and some of its neighbours, have reacted angrily to suggestions that some states that want to move towards deeper integration within the EU could go ahead of others - such as Poland - that hope to head the other way. Warsaw fears any such movement would leave it behind.

Szydlo also said Poland wants the declaration to refer to the unity of the EU, close cooperation with Nato, preserving the norms of the common market, and the strengthening of the role national parliaments. The last point will be particularly contentious. Warsaw is in a bitter stand off with Brussels over the rule of law in Poland, insisting that its actions over the judicial system are none of the EU's business.

However, the EU has already toned down its rhetoric over greater integration, as it seeks to avoid making the anniversary summit another occasion of feuding. Still, six founding member including Germany or France remain keen on coming closer together.

“We will act together, at different paces and intensity where necessary, while moving in the same direction, as we have done in the past, in line with the treaties and keeping the door open to those who want to join later,” the draft text of the declaration now says. The document insists that the EU is “undivided and indivisible.”

Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS), has long touted with scepticism about the EU exerting too much power over member states. The party also pledged to obstruct EU policy initiatives and lower trust in the bloc after the Tusk fiasco.

However, Szydlo quickly received a fresh reminder of just how isolated Poland is in its resistance to EU initiatives. Even the Central European country's Visegrad Four partners - the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia - failed to offer any support over Tusk, and the Slovak prime minister said on March 23 that it fully expects Warsaw to toe the line in Rome.

“We're in talks with Poland, and it seems that Warsaw will lend its support to the inking of the Rome Declaration,” Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico told local MPs. "I believe that Poland will stand where it's always stood: on the side of the EU. It's assumed that all of us will sign the Rome Declaration."

Slovakia holds no reservations because the declaration integrates many of the items from an earlier document already approved by the Visegrad Four, Fico said, according to TASR.

"The V4 can't replace the EU, but for us it represents an extremely important format via which we've already managed to push through a number of issues," the Slovak PM added.

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