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New Focuses and Priorities

By Arthur Dunn

On Hungarian-Polish Chairmanship in the European Union in 2011

A common point of numerous comments on the current situation in the united Europe was the statement that the European Union at the moment goes through a troublesome period. Many people even speak about the fading of the European project that was ruined by the ill-considered intention to political union in prejudice of economic integration. European Mass Media stopped commenting the situation in the EU positively. No doubts, there are enough problems. And the problems are really complicated, and the solutions suggested are not convincing. In this respect just held EU Summit was demonstrative, as the key issue was the establishment of permanently operating anti-crisis fund of Euro zone, which should substitute the current temporary mechanism of 750 billion EURO, consisting for one third of IMF assets. The decision on the establishment of the kind of mechanism for three-year term was adopted this May to overcome the acute phase of Euro crisis. Then the mechanism was developed on the basis of single European program of Greece aid in the amount of 120 billion EURO. The first country of Euro zone, for the support of which this mechanism was implemented, was Ireland, but today many people think that Spain and Portugal will need the same aid in 2011.

For the establishment of the new mechanism they had to develop a supplementary protocol for the basic agreement of the EU-Lisbon treaty as the states pf Euro zone can’t give direct financial aid to each other on the ground of the existing agreements. Germany with the assistance of France demanded during the Summit to legalize the new situation, as otherwise its Constitutional Court is able to block any assistance, similar to the one that was on temporary and exceptional basis granted Greece last spring. From the other hand, Germany and France suggested to introduce changes, touching upon the mechanism of penalty for the states, allowing serious violations of fundamental principles of financial-economic policy of Euro zone (the deprivation of the right to vote within highest bodies of the EU) . All these incited an acute dispute among the EU members. The Commission Chairman J.M. Barosso called the kind of demand completely unacceptable, having underlined that this measure will never gain the consensus of 27 states of the Union.

Another important issue of the Summit agenda is also a financial one – the budget of the European Union for 2011. According to European Mass Media, discussions in connection with the budget on Summit in Brussels were pretty acute. The budget amount will be 126,5  billion EURO, which is 2,9% more in comparison with 2010 budget. The growth of the EU budget is incited by the increase of expenses, stipulated in Lisbon agreement, which in particular anticipates the extension of the EU operating institutes and the establishment of new bodies, like the EU foreign policy department. Primarily the European Commission and the European Parliament suggested to increase the budget for 6.1%, however they received a firm refusal from national governments, which within current situation have to reduce their own states expenses.

Many financial analysts, commentators and investors at the moment are skeptic about the possibilities of the European Union to stop the red crisis dissemination within the whole region. The problems of individual states are still unsolved, especially the situation in Spain, Portugal and Italy is of concern, as well as in Belgium, where political crisis is going on for several months.  As many experts think, 2011 can be a pretty complicated for the whole European Union. Probably it would be that complicated for the prospect Chairmen-states – Hungary and Poland.

From January 1st to June 30th of 2011 Hungary will the chair the EU institutions. It’s a significant event for the country only recently joined the Union. According to one Hungarian observer, this “will be a peculiar baptism by fire: we can comprehend the complicated system of decision-making and management only when we will practice the mission of the Chairman, at least once”. Current Chairmanship even with its limitation remains to be not only a simple moderating within the frameworks of permanently operating advising formats, but also it anticipates serious political work, solution of a number of urgent political, diplomatic, professional and communicative issues. And for Hungary as well as for Poland, the Chairmanship has also a representative, image importance.

The privilege of the Chairmanship is that it is able to shape its own hierarchy of current tasks, focus on individual directions, present a list of steps and measures on the Union development and problem solution.

Budapest doesn’t hide that the oncoming six months should make Hungary more significant inside and outside the EU. This is also a chance to change public opinion in the country positively towards the issues of European integration. It’s not a secret that the opinion has soundly turned to be skeptic.

Another important case for the Chairing states in 2011 is the coming in force of Lisbon Treaty. It anticipates the introduction of new institutional system of the EU, new practice of the union management.

The EU agenda today looks pretty complicated in this respect, Hungarian experts think that the main mean of Hungarian Chairmanship will be the development and promotion of compromise suggestions on the most acute issues, and strategic goals and state Hungarian priorities will be backstaged.

Except for that, many elements of Hungarian Chairmanship are the heritage of previous Chairs (Spain and Belgium). It’s known that for the assurance of continuity of the EU agenda, starting from January 1st 2010, Lisbon Treaty institutionalized the Three, which was earlier formalized and was a kind of a voluntary option. Hungary has actively worked in new institutionalized European Three. Now the Three shall define the 18-months program of the Chairmanship, that should fit the general EU agenda.

The development of such program includes financial planning, designing of legal suggestions referring to definite political spheres, and also planning of various events, mainly political meetings and conferences on various levels. Schedule for definite subjects discussion is being also developed. A peculiar reserve for adequate reply on the current event is being established.

Now the program consists pf two parts, strategic content, which briefly states main political objectives of the Three and the operative part, which develops the elements of the strategic concept in details.

The program of Spain-Belgium-Hungary Chairmanship in the EU has been already available at www.eutrio.eu for three years.

As key objectives it includes the following elements:
- introduction of Lisbon strategy;
- overcoming of economic crisis and rehabilitation of stable economic growth;
- assurance of a high level of employment and growth of compatibility;
- assurance of more efficient control over financial markets;
- extension of social agenda and its focusing on youth;
- struggle against gender discrimination and poverty;
- overcoming of the problems within the issues of energy and climate change;
- the EU strengthening as the area of freedom, security and justice (so-called Stockholm program);
- development of unique European policy in the sphere of migration and sheltering;
- the establishment of the network of efficient foreign political representative offices of the EU;
- promotion of policy aimed the at human rights and main freedoms protection.

This is a matrix for three Chairmen. The parties can shape their national focuses and priorities within these frames. The site of Hungarian Chairmanship (www.eu2011.hu.),  which should officially and publicly open the focuses of Budapest, is promised to be available just in few days (preliminary from December 20th, but on December 22nd it was still unavailable).

Although it’s already perfectly known that the priorities of Hungarian Chairmanship are the following moments.

1. Activity, aimed at granting more value to the idea of human rights and citizen, but as all experts think, including also national-cultural rights of Hungarian minorities in neighboring states.

2. Hungary also intends to incite the development of the law, which would prosecute the crimes, performed by totalitarian regimes.

3. Hungary as well as Poland, hopes that during the period of its Chairmanship Croatia will join the European Union and the talks on Serbia membership begin.

4. Both Chair-states of 2011 focus greatly on the “Eastern Partnership” program and vote for the increase of the budgets issued by the EU for definite projects within its frameworks.

Except for the difficulties of the union level, able to influence negatively on the mission of Budapest during oncoming six months, many experts call also social-economic ill-being of the chairing state itself, which can unexpectedly reveal during the spring election campaign into Hungarian Parliament.

Taking into consideration new rules of the work of the Three, Poland that will come after Hungary in six months already joins its work actively.

One of the last agreements on the lines of two Chairmen was performed within the frameworks of a recent meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers. Polish Minister R. Sikorski under the invitation of Hungarian Minister J. Martoni, visited Budapest on December 14th – 15th of current year, where he with his colleague discussed the issues of Chairmanship and the so-called “acute EU agenda” (the EU budget, economic management, energy security and regional policy).

“Eastern Partnership” is one of common focuses of Hungary as well as Poland. Hungary has planned a number of events within this direction, and the main one among them is the second Summit of the program to be held in Budapest in May 2011. For Poland this program is also important in the prospect of promotion of its regional role.

It’s well-known that Poland traditionally intends to play the role of a regional leader and always treats with jealousy this historic mission. And if 90-s of the previous century the kind of intentions called definite confusion among Polish politicians and the intention to position themselves publicly as upholders of new European values and interests, then now as many commentators underline, there is no such confusion. Almost all its foreign policy line is developed by modern Polish diplomacy in respect with its long-standing political tradition. The oncoming Chairmanship in the EU in this respect is interpreted by some experts as another chance to fix it.

Poland has had long discussion referring to potential possibilities and urgent content components of the oncoming Chairmanship, the outlines of which are developed and announced generally. Polish political tradition has one peculiarity, in accordance with which, foreign policy subject always become an important element and sometimes acute-polemical element of internal policy. Polish “Prometheusism” as many Polish philosophers writ, goes deep to the routes of Polish mentality including the level of everyday consciousness.

And European policy of the country is not an exception. It’s well known how persistent and sometimes tenacious was the line of Warsaw on many general European issues. Brussels knows perfectly that they have to consider Poland and be especially delicate.

Except for that, the six months period from July 2011 to January 1st 1012 will coincide with a very important election campaign – elections to Sejm and Senate, planned for autumn. Politicians and experts think that Parliamentary elections during the Chairmanship in the EU are pretty capable to influence negatively on the execution by Warsaw of its European mission.

Senate Marshall B. Borysewicz writes that they would better avoid the kind of situation. He notes that “Hungary will also appear to be in the same situation as it will hold elections in spring 2011”. If Poland and Hungary will exchange with the order of Chairmanship the both states will be able to avoid complications with the holding of parliamentary elections within a definite period”. Borysewicz points that “Polish Chairmanship in the EU should be well prepared and will demand strict work of the whole state apparatus, and this is only possible under the conditions of stable political life in the country”. But the elections don’t promises to be calm.

Let’s note that except for institutionalization of the EU Three, from the moment of the position introduction of the Supreme Representative of the EU on Foreign Policy and Security, the state, accomplishing the functions of the Chairman, has less options to influence general foreign policy. It’s more governed by Brussels at the moment, rather than a state ruling the European Union. And for Poland it’s another circumstance to be considered.

Considering the new rules, about 80% of jobs that will be done by the state during the Chairmanship, it receives from its predecessors. But according to the statements of Polish authorities, Poland will not refuse of activity and bears “several ambitious ideas within foreign policy”.

Polish politicians consider that the country can influence the EU extension policy, although it depends on many conditions.  At the moment the talks on the EU membership are held by Croatia, Turkey and Iceland. Croatia is already close to finish and it’s possible that during the Polish Chairmanship it signs the treaty on joining. For Poland that would be a great gif full of symbolic sense – the state recently joined the EU introduces to the family a new independent state. But on this way there are enough well-known problems.

First of all, a part of the EU states has claims on the interaction of Zagreb with international tribunal on former Yugoslavia. Croatia has open issues on boarders with the neighboring Slovenia, despite the sound progress within negotiations on this subject.

The issue of Turkey at all seems absolutely not current. Some EU states, for example France, directly and clearly stated repeatedly that despite the beginning of talks, they don’t see a place for Ankara in the Union. Poland persistently supports the intention of Turkey to join the EU. But everything is too evident within this issue.

Negotiations with Iceland are not that complicated. They already managed to discuss a half of sections and 31 issues of talks agenda, but for the last year enthusiasm of ordinary Icelanders and political establishment on the issue of the EU joining vividly reduced, and it seems that no one is going to speed up the process. Here everything, most likely, will depend on the efficiency of anti-crisis measures inside the Eurozone.

Except Croatia, several states of West Balkans count to “open the way into Europe” during the Chairmanship of Poland. The talks with Macedonia can be launched. Albany expects a reply on its application. Montenegro has already received the one. The EU joining application of Serbia also expects consideration. The situation with Bosnia and Herzegovina is complicated, as the EU doubts about the rate of reforms and strengthening of democratic procedures, referring mainly to electoral process.

Another Polish focus is a new EU policy towards Russia. Poland intends to incite the establishment of a long-term strategy of the European Union towards Moscow. Judging my Mass Media articles, Polish diplomats admit, that this process will be complicated, and the document itself can appear much later, but it’s really needed. It would allow the EU to lead joint and unanimous foreign policy towards Eastern neighbor. The point is that the developed and adopted strategy should restrain some states from the attempts to form relations with Russia on bilateral ground, which often violates the interests of other EU members as Poland thinks. For Poland this subject is formulated as a peculiar general European test, checking which components prevail in the EU – uniting or dissociative.

By this Warsaw announced that during its Chairmanship it will support the intention of Russia to introduce visa-free regime with the EU. Also it’s possible that in the second half of 2011 a treaty on small cross-boarder movement between Kaliningrad region and North-East part of Poland.

Warsaw considers that the formation of the EU policy towards Moscow can’t be limited with the new project “Partnership for Modernization”.

Poland thinks that it should be performed together with a new Treaty on Partnership and Cooperation. And Russia holds talks over the last one. Partnership for modernization has exceptionally technical character, and agreements oblige partners to accomplish democratic transformations.

Another special focus is Ukraine. Here, as stated, Poland will do its utmost for “Kiev always to be on the EU agenda”. In a definite plan Poland will support liberalization of visa regime for Ukrainian people.

As for Moldova, Warsaw intends to assist Moldova within negotiation on association treaty. This autumn for this they held Polish-Moldavian Forum on European Integration, which was subjected for this task promotion.

As for all Eastern EU neighbors and post-Soviet states of Caucasus, naturally Poland gives special importance to “Eastern Partnership”.

”The next year of the Chairmanship of Hungary and Poland in the EU will become a year of “Eastern Partnership” as both states consider this project as a priority”, - noted Sikorski recently. “Poland strives to enhance “Eastern Partnership” and extend further prospects of cooperation with the EU states, covered by the program”, - follows the authorized representative of Minister A. Czechowski.  “Much depends on what Hungarians will do in the first half of 2011”. By their Chairmanship in May Budapest will hold the second Summit of the “Eastern Partnership”. There they will adopt the most significant decisions on the project development. This is a long-term plan that anticipates gradual move towards the objectives. At the moment the EU has not atmosphere favorable for the integration opening, for example for Ukraine. We should be satisfied with small steps. But the efficiency of the project depends not only from European Party, but also from the states participating”.

The initiative of the “Eastern Partnership” Summit remains for Hungary and Poland will enjoy only the Session of the Forum of Civil Society of the “Eastern Partnership” to be held in the end of the next year.

But Poland intends to enhance the program on all four subject platforms. An in particular, by the establishment of  a so-called “Circle of Friends” from the non-members of the EU, that would be able to finance projects. The following states have already announced their wish to participate: the USA, Japan, Norway, Canada. Warsaw hopes that this would allow to solve the problem of increasing of a non-return financial aid and crediting of states of the“Eastern Partnership” for the amount about 4,5 billion EURO. From its part Belarus and Ukraine suggested also to invite Russia and Kazakhstan, however, the attention of Poland to these states is less at the moment.

Poland uses all opportunities to promote the idea of the “Eastern Partnership”, arranging various round talks, conferences and joining the events organized by other states. In the beginning of November Lublin welcomed a big Conference under the name “Eastern Partnership- Strategy for 2011 and Following Years”.

Another conference devoted to the Chairmanship of Poland in the EU was held November 26th in Saint-Petersburg – “Chairmanship of Poland in the EU and Prospects of the EU Eastern Policy”. During the conference discussions some peculiar theses were sounded. Firstly, Poland is getting ready to the Chairmanship in the EU also by real intensification of its relations with Russia. Secondly, Warsaw will do its utmost for the EU not to lose its attractiveness for the Eastern Partnership states.  But in course of the conference the statements of “moderate pessimism” prevailed.

The deputy Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of Sweden Parliament U. Alin noted that the EU already loses its attractiveness for the states involved into the program. According to him, for example, the EU failed to satisfy the expectations of Ukraine.

Deputy General Director of Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Research of Razumkov, V, Chalyj thinks that the Partnership is too weak item, to compete with the influence of Russia within Post-Soviet area. The deputy of Lithuanian Sejm E. Vareikis noted that Moldavia within the frameworks of the program is granted a miserable amount of 8 EURO per person: “one can’t buy love for such money”. Moreover Director of European Academic Institute by Moscow State Institute of International Relations M. Entin considers that one shouldn’t rely greatly on the Chairmanship of Poland talking about the future of the EU and Russia relations. He reminded that great expectations were during the period of Germany, France and Spain Chairmanship. However despite bilateral relations of Russia with these states, that headed the EU by order, the decision in the Union are and will be adopted in cooperation.

The European Union budget for 2014-20-ss and energy policy also stands among priorities of Poland. The list of all main directions of European policy during Polish administrative mission has been already approved by Polish Government. Although, as reported, this list is not final and changes can be introduced before the beginning of Polish Chairmanship.

Poland in all issues wants to be demanded and it’s getting ready for the EU Chairmanship seriously, trying as well as Hungary to enhance its in-Union power.  The site http://prezydencjaue.gov.pl/ has operated for a pretty long time. Information posted there states that Poland started working over the issues of the oncoming Chairmanship already in 2007. But only this fact doesn’t yet guarantee a  success. Today it’s hard to predict the way of the EU development in 2011 and which chances that will give to the chairing states to achieve their objectives.
 
 
24.12.2010