Poland pushes for ‘solidarity’ in EU budget review

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On his first visit to Brussels, Polish President Bronis?aw Komorowski stressed his continued backing for European assistance to poorer regions and farmers ahead of EU budget talks later this year.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso replied that the Commission supported the solidarity approach but all member states would need to agree as well.

Speaking to the press yesterday (1 September), Komorowski said his country would be consistent in calling for further EU integration. Poland will assume the rotating EU presidency after Hungary, in the second half of 2011.

Unlike his eurosceptic predecessor Lech Kaczy?ski, who died in a tragic plane crash (EURACTIV 10/04/10), Komorowski is seen as a strong supporter of EU integration, but like most Polish leaders, he appears no less interested in giving prominence to his country within the Union.

"A new political moment seems to be opening now […] Poland is interested in strengthening solidarity in the European Union," Komorowski said, using an emblematic word which has a powerful meaning in his country's – and Europe's – recent history.

In the early 1980s, the Solidarno?? trade union was instrumental in speeding up the collapse of the communist regime, not only in Poland but across Eastern Europe as a whole.

"We are open to both participating to all decisions that will be an expression of the solidarity, and at the same time we expect cohesion funds to be maintained," Komorowski said in reference to EU regional policy funding. "It's so important to make solidarity real at different phases of European integration, for different countries," he added, speaking through a translator.

"Poland is ready to be engaged in certain projects that are perhaps not an obligation for us, for example those things related to membership of the eurozone," the Polish president said.

Komorowski's message could be seen as a sign that Poland is ready to participate in the Greek bailout plan, which was rejected by eurozone member Slovakia (EURACTIV 18/08/10). In return, Warsaw would expect redistributive policies in favour of poorer regions to continue to represent a significant share of the next EU budget, he said. The Polish president also referred to direct payments to farmers, which he said should use the same rules as up to now.

"We want to participate in such projects, because this is an expression of European solidarity," Komorowski insisted.

In response, Barroso said he had been "fighting all his life" for EU regional funds. Indeed, his country Portugal has been one of the great beneficiaries of cohesion policy since it joined in 1986. "But what is important now is the support of all member states of the EU," he added.

Komorowski continued on a 'solidarity' note, referring to relations with countries outside the Union. With Barroso, he mentioned the Eastern Partnership. Later, with European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, he said Warsaw would fight for greater EU integration with Moldova.

Speaking alongside Buzek, Komorowski also advocated the revival of the Weimar triangle, a loose group involving Poland, Germany and France, which had been active before Poland's EU accession in 2004.

After Brussels, Komorowski is due to visit Paris and Berlin.

Cohesion policy for the 2007-2013 period accounts for approximately a third of the total EU budget. A full list of EU regions, and which forms of funding they are eligible for, is available here.

The goal of European regional policy is to reduce the gap between the development levels of the various regions via so-called economic and social cohesion.

An overhaul of the current policy has been mooted for several years, culminating in a 2007 agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament to focus cohesion policy on 'convergence, competitiveness and employment, and territorial co-operation'. 

More recently, the future of EU regional and cohesion policy has been an increasingly hot topic of discussion since an independent report ordered by the European Commission in May 2009 recommended further reform, claiming that current evidence shows the policy's impact to be "unsatisfactory"(EURACTIV 07/05/09).

A strong reason for which the Polish authorities put forward the candidacy of Janusz Lewandowski for budget and financial programming commissioner was his indisputable knowledge of the functioning of the European Union, particularly European budgetary policy (EURACTIV 08/01/10), as well as the country's interest in that field.

  • 8-11 Sept.: Barroso and Komorowski to meet again at Economic Forum in Krynica, Poland.

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