Poland continues opposition ahead of Treaty Summit


EU foreign ministers did not reach a ‘breakthrough’ at their meeting on 17 June, with Poland threatening to block new Treaty negotiations over Council voting rules, ahead of the EU Summit, which is to put the Union on the road to institutional reforms.

Foreign ministers discussed the outstanding issues on institutional reform at a meeting on 17 June 2007. However, a breakthrough was not in sight with the Polish veto threat left hanging. Poland, supported by the Czech Republic, is holding on to its proposed change to the Council voting system.

Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga told reporters that the proposed double-majority voting system would reduce Poland’s influence, and said: “We cannot accept that.”

Following a meeting with Polish President Lech Kaczynski on 16 June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that “fundamentally, the positions have not changed”. She added: “We still have some serious problems to solve before the Summit.”

Another sticking point is the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which the UK and the Netherlands do not want to see included in the text. A UK government spokesperson said: “We will not accept anything in a new Treaty, which requires us to change our existing labour and social legislation.”

Meanwhile, an FT online poll showed that the strong majority of voters in the five major member states, Germany, France, the UK, Spain and Italy want to be consulted in a referendum on a new EU Treaty. However, the same survey showed that support for further enlargement of the Union is waning. In France and Germany, a majority of respondents was opposed to Turkey joining the EU.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "There is a general willingness on the part of everyone to find and to reach a compromise." He added: "Of course, we still have no guarantee that the success of the European Council that we are working on so intensively will happen."

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said: "We want to strengthen the role of national parliaments." He added: "We have to take into account the wish of the Dutch voters, who said 'No' to the EU Constitution."

Referring to the Polish threat to reopen the issue of voting rights, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik told reporters: "This is the core of the new Treaty. If you take out one element, the whole thing comes to a standstill."

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said: "I'm certain that we will find a solution this week."

At this week's EU Summit, EU leaders are seeking to find consent on a timeline and agree on key elements of a new Treaty, aimed to solve the EU's institutional crisis following the rejection of the EU Constitution by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to push for a broad mandate to convene an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to agree on a new Treaty text as soon as possible.

But Poland wants to reopen negotiations concerning the voting system. It seeks to introduce a so-called square-root system, which would give smaller countries more votes in proportion to their population. However, most member states want to adopt the double-majority voting system proposed by the draft Constitution, which foresees a distribution of votes that better reflects countries' populations.

  • 21-22 June: European Summit in Brussels on institutional reform.
  • Before the end of 2007: The Summit is expected to give a mandate for an IGC, which could take place under the Portuguese Presidency.
  • By 2009: EU leaders aim to have institutional reforms in place ahead of the European Parliament elections.


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