Poland rejects idea of EU elite group

By Jan Cienski in Warsaw

Poland has rejected the idea of an informal G6 of the European Union’s largest members, suggested by Italy to address its worries about Franco-German dominance of the EU, in a sign of its unwillingness to jeopardise Warsaw’s close ties with Berlin.

Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, told the Financial Times: “I would be wary of any formal division of countries into categories. We have enough such distinctions already and they make life difficult. Those members that would not participate would feel excluded and resentful.”

The G6 suggestion was made last week by Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister. The move followed the Deauville summit where Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, hammered out a compromise on amending the EU’s Lisbon treaty to establish rules and sanctions to prevent another eurozone financial crisis.

Although Poland – the sixth-largest EU state, with 38m people – would be the only central European beneficiary of a G6 scheme, Warsaw has aligned itself with what it sees as the fiscally conservative countries of northern Europe, led by Germany, rather than the more profligate nations of the south. Mr Sikorski described Poland’s relations with Germany, its former foe, as “the best in history”.

“We have an interest in the eurozone working and it clearly has failed. We believe in enforcing rules that would truly discipline countries,” he said.

However, Poland’s support for reopening the Lisbon treaty comes at a price. Warsaw wants Germany to support the demand of Poland and eight other countries for the EU's accounting rules to treat favourably countries that have reformed their pension systems, something that would reduce Poland's budget deficit and steeply rising public debt.

“We insist that there should be positive stimuli for those who behave responsibly, for example put-aside reserve funds for future pension obligations – which is why we link the issues,” said Mr Sikorski.

Polish-German warmth extends beyond EU issues. Germany is Poland’s largest trading partner and, as the foreign minister pointed out, Poland is a larger trading partner for Germany than Russia. The countries’ foreign ministers are also working on a Polish-Swedish idea to forge closer ties between EU’s eastern bloc and post-Soviet republics.