The Brief, powered by Eni: Troublemaker Poland needs patience

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At least three EU countries are troublemakers (not to mention the one ‘walking dead’ member state). Hungary receives a lot of attention but the most severe case is Poland.

This country is the only one officially under the “rule of law” mechanism. It is one of the “big six” and has the potential to cause the EU much bigger headaches than Hungary.

Many issues divide the EU core from the Visegrad group. But Slovakia played it safe, discretely agreeing to refugee relocation, even at a modest scale. So Visegrad basically collapsed. By the way, the EU should say thank you to Bratislava.

Viktor Orban’s Hungary has always found ways to deal with the EU. Conversely, Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Poland has never thought of compromise but is always ready for escalation. Apart from the refugee crisis, Poland disagrees on posted workers, transatlantic relations, Russia policy, EU energy policy, and I could mention a few other issues.

Saying “Poland” to designate the regime of Kaczynski is wrong. There are two Polands, and like any other country, Poland is capable of the worst and the best. The Polish presidency of the Council of the EU in 2011, in the midst of the eurozone crisis, was a shining light (the prime minister at the time was Donald Tusk).  Poland has done so much for the reunification of Europe.

There are also two USAs. And obviously Donald Trump’s America needs patience. There are two Turkeys. And the EU is showing patience with Turkey. Although it has more instruments to pressure Turkey with, a candidate country, compared to Poland. The EU is patient, even lenient, with Ankara, and extremely harsh with Warsaw.

On 29 May the Commission’s chief spokesman used extremely tough language against the Polish foreign minister. In contrast, he was very diplomatic with Turkey, despite the baggage that comes with the relationship. This is unfair. Why is the EU capable of wisdom in one case and hysteria in the other?

In the absence of new EU treaties, the best way to deal with rogue governments is to ignore them until someone else takes charge. Poland is entitled to be present at all EU formats. But the majority of EU leaders can show, including with body language, that they don’t want to speak to the Polish prime minister. Cameras and social media will do the rest.

Everyone in the world sees the EU as an empire, but this is not the way the EU perceives itself. It should. An empire is patient by definition. When a Chinese scholar was recently asked about the learnings form the French revolution of 1789, he said, “Well, it’s too early to say.”

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Germany has expressed concern over Hungary’s crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs, a move many see as an attack on billionaire George Soros.

Poland’s prime minister sparked a storm of criticism yesterday for exploiting an Auschwitz remembrance service to score points against the EU’s refugee relocation policy.

Loss of trade access after Brexit will hit UK goods importers and exporters, upset global value chains and lead to cuts in job-creating foreign direct investment, experts told EURACTIV.

London appears to be softening its tone: Brexit Secretary David Davis has said he will offer to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. Pro-EU Liberal Democrat Party leader Tim Farron has stood down, saying he could not juggle his Christian faith with political leadership.

The Commission today announced €143m in aid for Nigeria’s crisis-stricken Borno state. An Islamist insurgency and one of the world’s worst refugee crises have left the region teetering on the edge of collapse.

The mayor of Sabratha has warned that Libya’s descent into lawlessness has made it a smuggler’s paradise.

Romania’s government is in limbo after Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu lost the support of his own left-wing party yesterday. Catholic Ireland elected its first gay prime minister yesterday. 38-year-old Leo Varadkar, the son of Indian immigrants, is the country’s youngest ever leader.

The NGO Corporate Europe Observatory has said that 46% of EFSA experts are embroiled in conflicts of interest that undermine the agency’s independence. The EU’s food safety regulator vehemently denies the accusation. MEPs narrowly backed a ban on pesticide use in conservation areas.

Cheese is at the centre of a row between EU and Canadian trade negotiators. Parts of the CETA free trade deal provisionally comes into force on 1 July, but EU officials say their Canadian counterparts’ approach to cheese imports shows they are not living up to the spirit of the deal.


Luxembourg hosts tonight’s Eurogroup meeting about Greece (or Germany?), followed by tomorrow’s ECOFIN Council.

Views are the author’s.

Samuel White contributed to this Brief.

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