01/07/2011 Jerzy Buzek : "I wish the Polish Presidency every success"
On July 1st, Poland is the 4th "new member state" to take over the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Its priorities include, among others : economic governance, strengthening of the European defense and negotiating of the post-2013 budget. According to the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, Polish presidency is expected to be successful.
On July 1st, Poland will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. As it is held by a large and ambitious member state, may the polish Presidency be more visible than the previous ones?
Jerzy Buzek : The visibility and indeed the achievements of a country holding a presidency are not necessarily related to it size. All for one and one for all is what the European Community is all about. If the presidency can achieve a fair share of what is on its agenda, then it will to be to benefit of the whole Union.
The leadership of the European Parliament, the Conference of Presidents, gave its clear backing to the presidency priorities when they met with the Polish government in Warsaw on 17 June. The next six months will be crucial for the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty is now in place, and it is time for the Union to step up its pace. I hope Poland will provide an impulse for this change.
Poland has a good starting point for its presidency. Support for EU integration is very high, more than 70 percent, and it is the only EU country that did not suffer recession as a result of the global financial crisis. Poland seems determined to try to change the mood in the EU, which is now quite gloomy, partly as a result of the crisis in Greece.
What will be role of the Polish Presidency and its relationship with other main European presidents, that of the Commission, the Parliament and the European Council? Especially, how will it cooperate with the European Parliament?
J.B. : The role of the Polish Presidency will be that of an honest broker in the negotiations, mediating and preparing the ground for compromises. Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the country in the Presidency no longer presides over the summits, which is chaired by the permanent President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.
When it comes to matters of foreign affairs and security policy, the last word is to be had by the High Representative of Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Councils. The relationship with the President of the European Commission, José-Manuel Barroso, remains unchanged. The Polish presidency would still have a major say in crucial areas such as agriculture, transport, competitiveness, energy and many others.
As for the European Parliament and its President - myself - we have had a splendid entente with the Hungarian Presidency, and since I already have an excellent working relationship with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the rest of the Polish government, I have every reason to expect the ‘bonne entente’ to continue during the Polish Presidency.
Under Lisbon Treaty, The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union co-decide on 90% of all European law, so we are destined to cooperate. Our cooperation will be key to a prosperous future.
Polish priorities have been set in May and include a lot of issues, such as economic governance, strengthening of the European defense, energy, neighborhood policy (especially towards the East), negotiating of the post-2013 budget… among those priorities, where do you think Warsaw could be most successful? On neighborhood policy especially, is Poland to play a key role?
J.B. : When the verdict on the Polish Presidency is delivered at the end of the year, it will largely depend on two things. Firstly, on a technical level, the smooth planning and running of meetings and negotiations, and flawless coordination and logistics will be key. Poland is to organise some 25 informal meetings of ministers and a summit of the Eastern Partnership, so this will be no small feat.
Secondly, there will be the number of concluded negotiations. For instance, deals that may be concluded include the six-pack on economic governance, the accession treaty with Croatia and possibly an association agreement with Ukraine.
It is of course very important that the negotiations on the EU budget 2014-2020 be put on the right track, but it is not likely that they will be concluded during this presidency.
Energy is an area close to my heart, which is why I have proposed the creation of European Energy Community. A common European Energy policy would strengthen the position of the EU towards major producers, consumers and transit states of energy. I hope the Polish Presidency will work hard to make headway in this domain.
As for neighbourhood policy, The Southern and Eastern Neighbourhood-policies are not in competition, but should be seen as complimentary. The EU rightly focuses on the Southern Neighbourhood following the Arab Spring. Poland has important experience to contribute as regards transition to democracy and free market economy, of political, economical and institutional reform. Following the fall of communism in 1989, Poland received support from the outside. The EU should also stand ready to provide such support to the emerging Arab democracies if they ask us.
But Poland will also ensure that the EU does not lose sight of its Eastern neighbours, and wants the process to sign association- and free trade agreements with among others Ukraine and Moldova to continue, as well as negotiations on visa liberalization.
On top of this, Poland will of course also need to show its ability to respond to unpredictable situations when such arise. In essence, I believe all the preconditions for a successful Presidency are there, and wish the Polish Presidency every success.
Just before taking over its EU Presidency, Poland has created column inches by refusing to tighten European Union carbon emission targets or being told to stop shale gas extraction. Though an important Environment Summit takes place in Durban at the end of the year, will Polish presidency lack involvement on environmental issues?
J.B. : Poland is a country of over 38 million people with an economy that essentially depends on coal. I can understand the fear in Poland that a too sharp and quick rise in energy prices might cause inflation, hurt its industry, hamper foreign investment and encourage some companies to relocate abroad.
But I believe Poland should treat this process as an opportunity and not a threat. Poland needs to modernise its energy production and move towards cleaner sources of energy, and ultimately stands everything to gain from it. And Poland does not stand alone in this. The European Union avails significant funds to help with this transformation, which at any rate is inevitable in the long-run.
As for the Environment Summit in Durban, I am confident that the Polish Presidency will come well prepared and do its utmost to achieve the best possible progress to the benefit of the whole EU.