It is first necessary to qualify the importance of the rotating presidencies. The European Union is a ship, and it is difficult to change its course in just a few months. Even the most mediocre presidencies, notably that of the Czech Republic, did not lead to any major disasters. The role more than anything is to preside over meetings of the Council of Ministers, to define some priorities, often carried out by other urgencies.
The European Council is presided in permanently by the transparent Herman van Rompuy. Nonetheless, according to different countries and according to different configurations of positions, a presidency can become a real source of momentum.
A favorable configuration
The configuration for Poland is particularly favorable. This is the first presidency of the largest of the new member states. The president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, is Polish. Discussions concerning new financial perspectives for 2014-2019/2021 intensify, and justly, the Budget Commissioner, Janusz Lewnadowski, is also Polish! In addition, the government has entered a major phase of understanding with Germany, a key partner.
Polish authorities insist that they have a lot of “optimism” that they will try to instill. In this sense, we must understand that increasing the European Union budget will be actively pursued and that the use of the community method will be privileged, including all institutions. Consistent with their habits, the Polish will give a shower of symbols to defend their positions, in particular the history of the trade union “Solidarity”.
What is at stake behind these set priorities
The first of these priorities will be to strengthen European integration. “If Europe wants to be competitive at a global level, it cannot be content with only the reform public finances and the reduction of the budget deficit.” The future financial perspectives will thus be at the heart of these discussions. Of course this prioritizing is not a coincidence. Poland is a leading recipient of European aide... But it comes at a time where all of the states do not seem to see any solutions for the EU and want to reduce the budget. Federalists can rejoice.
In the framework of the re-launch of the Single Market, Poland intends to make the support to small and medium sized companies a priority. The major groups present in Poland are actually often of foreign origin (Carrefour, France Télécom, Hochief, a Chinese group for highway construction, etc).
The second priority is concerning energy security. Like many of its neighbors, Poland wants to become less dependent on supplies from Russia. Behind this priority lies the priority of exploiting shale gas in large quantities from underground. Due to the considerable risks for the environment connected to the new techniques of extraction, France has for the time suspended all operations of this kind.
The Polish government, on the contrary, made it a national priority, inviting specialized American companies. They should also encourage the development of nuclear power, another controversial topic at the European level.
In terms of violence, the government established cooperation with “liberated” Arab nations at the same level as the traditional Eastern Partnership. While the Czech Republic and Hungary have focused on their region, Poland seems pragmatic and ambitious at the international level. They have also taken advantage of recent understandings with Russia, promoted by the dramatic crash of Smolensk.
In short, there are many good ideas, of common sense and of the issue of secure energy. In a somewhat paradoxical way, Poland, often defending its own interests, is in reality defending the general European interest that has almost been forgotten. Now let us hope that this does not all just stay on paper.