Poland targets foreign, energy posts in new European Commission

By bne IntelliNews May 30, 2014

Jan Cienski in Warsaw -

 

Poland’s governing Civic Platform party barely eked out a win over its right-wing rivals from the Law and Justice party in the May 25 vote for the European Parliament, but who rules decides, and now the government is pondering which senior Brussels job to push for.

The most interesting move has been prime minister Donald Tusk's open call for Radoslaw Sikorski, the foreign minister, to get the EU's top diplomatic post currently held by the UK's Catherine Ashton. “Poland has gained such a serious influence on the EU's foreign policy, that the so-called high representative is within reach of our interests,” Tusk said this week. “A natural candidate is Radoslaw Sikorski.”

That marks the first time Tusk has joined the battle on Sikorski's behalf. The foreign minister has been quietly lobbying for the job on his own, but he had been seen as a long-shot both because of his prickly independence and because of his past scepticism about Russia. However, that wariness towards the Kremlin is now something of an asset in light of Russia's intervention in Ukraine and Sikorski does have a chance at the post.

Poland had an important slot in the outgoing Commission, where Janusz Lewandowski served as budget commissioner. Getting a lucrative budget was a Polish priority, and in the end the government managed to squeeze €106bn in structural and agricultural funds flowing to Poland from 2014-2020.

Poland would like a job commensurate with its status as one of the EU's “Big Six” countries in the new Commission. As well as pushing for Sikorski, Tusk mentioned that Poland would like to get either the energy or the competition portfolio. the likeliest candidates would be Lewandowski, former prime minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, now one of Tusk's closest advisers, or former finance minister Jacek Rostowski, who failed to win a seat in the European Parliament.

The energy portfolio would interest Poland because Warsaw has been battling efforts to restrict exploration for shale gas as well as continuing to rely on coal for the bulk of its power generation. The problem is that both stances make it unlikely that fellow EU countries will agree to seeing a Pole in that post.

The competition portfolio would allow Poland a look-in at the Commission's ongoing efforts to defang Gazprom's influence over the EU's energy market.

Jan Cienski is a Senior Fellow at DemosEuropa, a Warsaw-based public policy think-tank

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