Poland Talks Tough Against ‘Multi-Speed’ EU Ahead of Rome Summit

Updated on
  • Premier won’t sign Rome declaration if Poland’s goals not met
  • Comments come as EU sees ‘systemic threat’ to rule-of-law

Poland will refuse to sign a declaration at the European Union’s anniversary summit in Rome on Saturday unless the document meets its goals, a stance that is set to further distance the bloc’s largest eastern member from its allies.

EU heads of state are seeking to iron out differences on the symbolic declaration before the summit to avoid last-minute wrangling in Rome, where the bloc will celebrate its 60th anniversary as it faces threats from Brexit, the migration crisis and moribund economic growth. Poland is sticking to its tough stance after it refused to sign off on the concluding statement at the last EU summit two weeks ago, where it was the only country not to back former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for a second term as the head of the European Council.

Beata Szydlo

Photographer: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

The Rome document must include statements on unity rather than a multi-speed Europe, stress that defense issues will be decided in cooperation with NATO, highlight the reinforcement of the roles of national parliaments and emphasize that the EU’s social agenda can’t weigh on common market and competition rules, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said.

“If these four priorities aren’t included, we won’t accept it,” Szydlo told TVN24 television Thursday. “It may not be signed at all if there’s no consensus among us.”

Hungary and the Czech Republic, who like Poland are not part of the euro currency area, have expressed concerned that a shift to a multi-speed EU would sideline their views within the trading bloc. Euro member Slovakia has no objections to the summit draft, Premier Robert Fico said Thursday. Poland is alone in threatening to reject the Rome declaration.

“When the president travels to Rome tomorrow he is confident that the trip comes within the context of an overarching agreement.” Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for the European Commission, told reporters in Brussels, referring to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

‘Systemic Threat’

The anniversary gathering comes after Poland was outvoted 27 to 1 to re-elect Tusk, highlighting the government’s difficulties in finding compromise and showing just how far it has left Europe’s mainstream. Since taking power in 2015, Law & Justice and its boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski has accused Brussels of not understanding the needs of citizens and has complained that it unfairly accuses his government of failing to uphold the democratic standards that allowed Poland to join the club in 2004.

The EU’s executive is worried about the “systemic threat” to rule of law in Poland after the ruling party elected judges to the Constitutional Tribunal in violation of laws and the government refused to publish the panel’s rulings it doesn’t agree with, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in Brussels on Wednesday.

Since loosing the vote on Tusk, Kaczynski and Szydlo have repeatedly said that a multi-speed Europe would imply breaking up the bloc. The focal point of the deliberations are around the euro area, which Kaczynski has rejected joining for the foreseeable future, arguing that it would make the country of 38 million people a “peripheral nation for good.”

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said his government was against a multi-speed concept and he expected the declaration to be more general in nature and will adhere to existing agreements about security, prosperity and competitiveness, the CTK news agency reported this week.

— With assistance by Maciej Martewicz, and Jones Hayden

(Adds comments from EU Commission, Slovak Premier from 5th paragraph.)
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