Advisor: Polish Presidency wants new 'European contract'

By Barbara Bodalska

Poland wants to draw up a new 'contract' for the EU that would highlight the benefits of EU membership and redefine the joint responsibilities of member states, says Paweł Świeboda in an exclusive interview with EurActiv Poland.

Paweł Świeboda is president of demosEUROPA, a Warsaw-based think-tank on European affairs, and heads the board of advisers to the Polish government for the country's presidency of the EU.

He served as EU adviser to the president of Poland for 1996-2001 and was director of the Polish Foreign Ministry's department of the European Union for 2001-2006.

You managed a board of advisers to the minister for European affairs during the preparation of the first Polish Presidency.

The group has already finished its work as its programme for the presidency has been accepted and [has been alive] since 1 July. Still, the group is not going to stop its activity as it will act as a consultant on various decisions or participate in shaping a few important documents on which the presidency has been working, such as the main document on the sources of growth […], which is to be proposed in October.

The Polish Presidency has already been inaugurated. Aren't we facing a bit of exaggeration when it comes to expectations of the presidency?

The Polish Presidency will be assessed on the basis of what it will do and how it will do it. One has to be aware that excessive trust [in the Polish Presidency] will not last forever, especially when taking into consideration our assertiveness and confidence in some fields such as energy or climate, for example.

I was referring to the expectations of the European media that Poland with its Euro-enthusiasm, optimism and good economic performance will rescue the EU from the crisis it is facing.

One has to be aware that such an idea will not happen on its own. It all depends on the idea behind it. Poland is proposing a classical European solution: a uniform market and a stable, pro-investment budget. These are very important aspects as the achievements of the EU, defended by Poland, are very frequently subject to criticism in the public debate. […]

The question that arises is whether there is something else we should take into consideration […] For me it is the debate on the new European contract which is to redefine the notions of benefit and responsibility.

Does a 'new contract' mean a new treaty of the European Union?

It is a political contract, understood in its conventional sense, rather than a new treaty. Member states need to have a better understanding of the benefits they gain from the European project as well as of joint responsibility, which is a novelty. The process of European integration will be accompanied by mutual control, a phenomenon which has never been observed to work on such a scale in the past […]

The 'trust but verify' rule stands for self-discipline – a new characteristic of the Union. It is the new logic that emerges from the whole process so in my opinion Poland should propose and promote such a way of thinking in the course of its presidency […]

What I mean here is a political document which could possibly be considered at the EU summit following the Eastern Partnership summit [in September]. Poland could put forward an idea of discussing the new European Contract among the 27 EU member states on the same day in Warsaw. Such an undertaking would be symbolic and of great political importance.

I believe the Polish Presidency to be influential enough to organise such a meeting. I also think this would be a perfect opportunity because of the fact that, anyway, everybody will come to Warsaw to meet Eastern European political leaders. A two- or three-hour discussion on the new European contract and new sources of growth in the Royal Castle would make a lot of sense […]

Thanks to a dynamic European discussion which is giving the subject of imbalances [within the EU] more and more attention, perfect circumstances have been created for Poland to take on the presidency. The fact that even Wolfgang Schäuble says that Germany should invest in solar power in Greece, for example, as there is a need for Germany to search for investments in the South, signals a turning point and a better understanding of intentions and needs on both sides.

Poland has its work to do as well, especially if the Greek crisis does not end soon. It should be aware of the fact that the crisis will not end during the Polish Presidency but, nevertheless, it should convey the message to the Southern countries, and to Greece as well, that it is possible to overcome difficulties, of what Poland knows from its own experience.