The powerful head of Poland’s ruling party yesterday (8 February) warned that any moves toward a two-speed European Union would lead to the bloc falling apart.
Jarosław Kaczyński told Polish media that a so-called two-speed Europe would lead to the “breakdown, and in fact the liquidation, of the European Union in its current sense”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that European leaders may commit to a union of “different speeds” when they make a major declaration on its future at a summit in Rome next month.
The EU has long been riven by debate about whether all countries must commit to full integration including the single currency, or whether some can go at different paces.
Kaczyński, who is regarded as Poland’s real powerbroker despite holding no formal governmental post, made the comment a day after talks with Merkel in Warsaw focused on the EU’s future post-Brexit.
“I don’t think the chancellor is a supporter of this type of concept (two-speed Europe), because if it were to be implemented, then Angela Merkel’s long political career, her global political career, would end very badly, because the breakdown of the EU is certainly an event nobody could be happy about,” Kaczyński said Wednesday.
He has long opposed Germany’s federalist model of closer European political integration, arguing instead for reforms that would decentralise the bloc by granting greater powers to member states.
The future EU “must be one and it must also be different, it must be better,” Kaczyński said.
The EU’s 27 leaders minus Britain are due to make a declaration at the summit in Rome in March marking the 60th anniversary of the EU, in which they will set out a post-Brexit roadmap.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, a group of the EU’s founding members, issued a statement last month backing a two-speed EU.
Germany and Poland on Tuesday vowed to cooperate in the interest of European unity, as the EU faces a string of challenges this year including Brexit and several high-stakes national elections where populist parties with anti-EU agendas could make inroads.
Poles are overwhelmingly pro-EU, with surveys consistently showing that around 80% favour membership, seen by the public as a source of economic growth thanks to generous subsidies from Brussels.
France and Germany have called for greater fiscal and social harmonisation in the eurozone, saying other EU countries like Britain or Poland should be allowed to settle for a less integrated Union based on the single market.
Those ideas were fleshed out in a paper on eurozone governance, by the Presidents of the European Commission, the Council, the Eurogroup, the European Parliament and the European Central Bank.
The report, presented in June 2015, concluded that "for the euro area to gradually evolve towards a genuine Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), it will need to shift from a system of rules and guidelines for national economic policy-making to a system of further sovereignty sharing within common institutions, most of which already exist and can progressively fulfil this task".
The report foresees three stages in deepening integration:
- Stage 1 (1 July 2015 - 30 June 2017): A "deepening-by-doing" stage, where small steps are taken towards fiscal convergence, using "existing instruments" and treaties.
- Stage 2 (30 June 2017 - 2025): A "more binding" completion stage, with "a set of commonly agreed benchmarks for convergence that could be given a legal nature, as well as a euro area treasury".
- Stage 3 (By 2025 at the latest): A final stage, where the vision would be complete.
But the process has stalled amid reluctance from some member states and diverging views between Germany and France.