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Speech by His Excellency Dr Stanisław Komorowski

His Excellency Dr Stanisław Komorowski

Ambassador of Poland

On: Poland in the enlarged European Union

16 December 2002

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all let me thank you very much for the opportunity to present the Polish vision of Europe and the Polish place in the enlarged European Union, in this very special moment in the history of Europe. By the decisions taken by the European Council last Friday, we will finally close a bitter chapter of a division of this continent. The EU enlargement, along with the NATO enlargement create a vision which could most probably have shocked “the Fathers of united Europe”, the vision that would have definitely crossed the frontiers of their imagination. Not only would they have seen the EU and NATO with united Germany and such countries as Poland, Hungary or Slovakia but also some former Soviet republics! Even for such a visionary geniuses as Jean Monnet or Robert Schumann this picture could have seemed a bit too close to science-fiction. But fortunately – it is a reality!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me share with you my feelings and present a brief assessment of the Copenhagen summit.

During the process of negotiations Poland was often described as “a bad guy” – the trouble-maker and the toughest negotiator. But one has to be aware that the Polish nature consists of dignity, big emotions and persistence in achieving our goals. If I may I would like to say about the Poles what Tony Blair said in Blackpool this year about Labour: “We are at our best when at our boldest”.

The Copenhagen summit is a success. Despite the bargaining and differences between negotiators. It is a success because the Europeans proved to understand what the destiny of Europe is and this destiny can be reached only by applying the principle of solidarity. They understood that the EU enlargement is not just another “enlargement” but rather building of  the future of reunified continent for the new century. This is why the words of the Danish Prime Minister A.F. Rasmussen referring to the birth of new Europe are so adequate. A long way to the European Union means for Poland not only completing the process “from Copengahen to Copenhagen” but also “from Solidarność to Solidarity”. The date of 13 December will cease to have only negative connotation for the Poles. As you are aware, on the 13 December 1981 Marshall Law was introduced in Poland by the communist regime and it was a painful thorn put into the heart of Polish democratic aspirations  and a need for freedom. But since the last EU summit, 13 December will also have a positive meaning, since it will refer to a new beginning for my country as a future part of the “European construction”.

Referring to details of the outcome of the negotiations I should say first of all that my government did a good job, since Poland has acquired more concessions than originally proposed by the Danish presidency and going further – much more than proposed by the European Council in Brussels. Everybody is aware of the fact that the last minutes of negotiations were focused on “money issue” in consistency with a French proverb saying: “L‘argent c‘est rien, mais le manque de l‘argent c‘est tout”. However, tough Polish negotiating position was not necessarily – as described by some British media (The Times) – a result of Poland‘s complaints in spite of a generous offer by the EU to receive 19 bln euro out of 40 bln euro of overall package. Such general statements are very much misleading and they distort public reception because they don‘t even try to explain the details which are not that obvious. Let us play mathematics a little bit.

When you consider that the sum of 19 bln euro is granted to Poland for the period of first 3 years after accession and you exclude from this sum our contribution to the EU budget (membership fee, 2,5 bln euro per year, (1,7 bln euro in 2004)), it gives you about 12 bln euro in 3 years, so 4 bln euro per year, which in result means 25 euro per year per head of a statistical citizen of the present EU.  Let me ask you then: Can you afford it? And it is not additional money which is to be paid by the EU but this is less than money promised by the European Council in Berlin in 1999. Moreover these funds were designed then for only 6 new member states and the Union is to be enlarged by 10 countries. And what is the result of tough last Friday negotiations, is that additional 1 bln euro that Poland has acquired for budgetary compensations is just a reshuffle of part of structural funds originally predicted for that period. The only real increase of the budgetary commitments for Poland is extra 100 mln euro for strengthening Polish Eastern border which at the same time will be external border of the EU, so it was also in the EU interest to give us assistance in this field. Increased level of direct payments for farmers doesn‘t  overburden EU budget either because a significant part of them will be paid in expense of funds provisionally proposed for rural development or directly from the budget of new member states.  Let me repeat once more, we were fighting for the money on which the EU leaders decided in 1999. We haven‘t acquired any additional funds going beyond financial perspective from Berlin!

Let me just add one important thing in this context. Fighting for better outcome of the negotiations, Poland was doing so also on behalf of other candidate countries, especially on behalf of “the Visegrad Four”. Last months before the end of the negotiations were characterised by very close contacts among our countries. Our co-operation was a very constructive one and it resulted with a common approach towards several negotiating issues.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I mentioned before, a new chapter in the history of Poland has been opened. But before it happened we went through a very long and painful period. In this context, I think, it would be quite useful to quote the greatest Briton of all times, according to a survey recently conducted in the UK, Sir Winston Churchill who once said: “There are few virtues that the Poles do not possess – and there are few mistakes they have ever avoided”. He said so in 1945 and we are now in the end of 2002. The natural question comes to our minds: “is it still so?”. Allow me then to be a bit provocative and contest the greatest Briton of all times, but only as regards the second part of his sentence. Let me  try to prove that the Poles of 2002 are a nation that knows very well how to avoid major mistakes. 

We proved it already in 1989 when Poland started the fundamental transition of every sphere of life: political, economic, social one.  Even though our transition has been squeezed into only a little more than a decade, we have won.  We have transformed a command economy with only a small private sector into a fully functioning market economy, which has attracted foreign direct investment from all the leading industrialized countries.  We have joined the OECD and NATO and in May 2004 we will become a member of the EU.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sure that the success of the Copenhagen summit would certainly make the job of convincing the Polish voters to vote in the referendum easier. But it is just one part of a problem. The other one is public awareness. If we are to win using a tool of referendum, we have to be aware of the fact that there are 2 enemies of the victory: ignorance and populism. Ignorance is an omnipresent phenomenon in Europe, both in the candidate countries and the Member States. That is why the Polish government attaches great importance to the program of promotion of the EU among ordinary citizens. We spread the information all over the country and do our best to prepare our citizens for the referendum. But we should bear in mind that the lack of knowledge of the society might be easily used by Eurosceptics or populists, especially in a situation when the final outcome of the accession negotiations is still doubtful for some. I want to say by this that the advantages related to the EU membership must be evident for the Poles; they must feel they will be treated as equal partners not as poor cousins from the East.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Talking about knowing and understanding Europe we should have in mind understanding of enlargement, because this process does not only signify the opportunity to join the elite club for those Europeans who did not enjoy in the past sovereignty and were not allowed to take opportunity to participate in shaping a new Europe ─ Europe free from hatred, open to co-operation, prosperous and peaceful. The enlargement means that all these goals are realistic and that in pursuing them the Europeans finally can help themselves all over the continent, also in these countries that do not apply for EU membership. Our continent will be completely changed by the present enlargement and this change will be a positive one because it will enhance stability and security in the wider Europe – East and South of the continent.  It will also widen the single market and open access to wider range of goods and services, facilitate creating more jobs and enhance co-operation among the present and new member states as well as between the European Union and its new Eastern neighbours. I would like to quote Commissioner G.Verheugen who said that “Enlargement is not a problem, it is a solution”.

This is the message we have to spread all over Europe. Let us not allow Euro sceptics to influence unaware people by saying that the enlargement means the paralyse of the EU institutions, increase of criminality or uncontrolled flow of labour from the East. As we can see, the British Government is pragmatic enough to be able to assess the situation, since it decided that on the day of the EU accession the British labour market will be fully opened for the new member states. And we all know that such a decision is dictated both by the wider context of opening and integration but also by the needs of the British labour market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You will be asking yourselves what sort of member will Poland be, just as we are  asking ourselves what sort of European Union we will be entering?

For Poland the main challenge will be to catch up with the EU-15 in terms of GDP per capita as quickly as possible.   We have no illusions that this will take us many years but we have an interest in having policies which are going to help us achieve this.  What Poland cannot afford is to join a Union which is shutting its mind to the reforms necessary to keep it competitive and innovative in an increasingly complex global environment. Poland can have no interest in a protectionist, subsidy-dependant culture. I do not believe that Poland will be a very difficult partner in the Union.  We will have particular national interests just like the United Kingdom and other member states.  One of them will be our interest in making sure that the Union has good relations and a fruitful partnership with the European countries to the east of Poland, Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus.  Poland has traditional markets for many products in these countries and so we are keen to see trade liberalization in the region prosper.   Russia is clearly interested in partnership as the Union is the main market for its raw material exports.

But it is of our particular interest also because we have a common border with all three countries.  These borders will become the external frontiers of the Union after our accession.   We do not want these borders to become the source of major divisions in Europe between the new enlarged Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States.  We would prefer them to be areas of cooperation between the countries concerned.   If they are not, then these regions could be condemned to slow decline. In my opinion the EU as a global power should consider its nearest neighbourhood as its main area of responsibility. That should be so due to 4 reasons. Firstly, the scope of political stability of the European neighbourhood will increasingly influence the EU. Each subsequent political crisis in the neighbouring countries will be the source of dangers, which will be increasingly more difficult to control. Secondly, the energy-related dependence of the EU on its immediate neighbourhood will increase, which will potentially bring about serious outcome for the condition of the European economy. Thirdly, the demographic structure of the EU societies has been changing. Those societies will shortly need a supplement to their labour force through a controlled external immigration. Fourthly, the European Union will more directly than today face the question concerning geographic boundaries of the scope of integration process. For over thirty years Turkey has been knocking at the doors of the United Europe and such countries as Ukraine have expressed their aspirations thereto. The European Union cannot afford to ignore those aspirations, because they stem from the common values shared by the European states. And it doesn’t matter if they are Muslim or Christian ones. What is important is that they are a part of humanistic identity and values which create invaluable European heritage. This is why the decision on revision of the progress of Turkey in fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria in the end of 2004 and a possible decision on the opening of the accession negotiations has such a crucial importance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Talking about the future, we hope that The Convention, which is currently discussing the future EU‘s shape, will propose changes and solutions significant for the whole of the continent. There are many trends to the discussions but two appear to me to be of major importance.   How can the Union continue to operate effectively with 25 members and how can it relate better to its citizens, now getting close to half a billion?

On the first point, efficiency can only be protected if there is more majority voting in the Union.   I can see several areas where this could be permitted without really encroaching on any vital interests of the member states.   But there are areas where either vital national interests exist or where it might be counter-productive to use qualified majority voting. We are strongly against further harmonization in the taxation area and we would not want Union laws to spread to questions of morality or social behaviour, which are specific and important to our different societies (eutanasia, abortion).   However I think that even in sensitive areas like external relations, one can see policy areas where more majority voting would serve to increase efficiency and promote the European Union in the eyes of our world partners (border control).

There are two basic sides to the European Union on the day after enlargement that should interest us today. One is the institutional aspect which is directly linked with efficiency. It means making sure that the Union flourishes in its new shape and avoids backlogs. The other aspect has to do with the substance of EU policies. In other words what Europe should be for. Let me address these issues in turn. The European Union after enlargement will be a Union ready to launch another intensive Intergovernmental Conference. We are glad to be invited to discuss reform at one table because it also concerns us. We are grateful that the UK has always supported this idea.

The Convention will have produced a framework of the new Constitutional Treaty leaving a number of key options to be selected by the governments. In my government‘s point of view the new Constitutional Treaty should be a flexible one. It has to be a single treaty – a single, readable text rather than a collection of treaties and amendments which we have today. Apart from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Treaty should contain constitutional provisions on the general principles on which the Union is founded. But the other part of the Treaty, covering policy areas, needs to be open to a simplified amendment procedure, not requiring the lengthy IGC negotiations and ratification process. The Council would be authorised to introduce changes to keep with the time. Democratic scrutiny of this process would have to be enhanced both nationally as well as through the European Parliament.

Efficiency has to be a basic ingredient of the decision-making system. Let me recall to you at this time that we have witnessed in the recent months the return of the old argument between supporters of the intergovernmental and the community method respectively. Some ideas have been presented. One has been to give European politics a political face and establish the post of a president of the Council of the European Union elected by the governments. He or she would be in charge of getting member-states to agree on more things and much faster than before. The objective only to be welcomed. The method of reaching the objective is however far from uncontroversial. There is one problem built into the ideas I mentioned. Whether we speak of having a President of the Council or an economic government led by the Commission, these are concepts that will not be easily transplanted from the national onto the European platform. National leaders are unlikely to delegate their power to a single person, if not because it is difficult to find somebody who would be ideal for all intents and purposes. Democratic mandate of such a person would not be a clear one. National leaders can pride themselves on the legitimacy gained in national elections but that legitimacy is not extendable. The mandate gained nationally cannot be delegated further. This is genuinely like squaring the circle.

My own view is that we should build on the experience of the existing system, making corrections in it as we go along. It is quite clear to me, for example, that the current rotating presidency system is not sustainable in the Union of 25 or more countries. And I am saying this representing a future new member state for which it would be an enormous prestige and honour to run EU affairs for half a year. Pragmatism, however, has to prevail. The rotating presidency has been of great value to the national morale. But it has had its drawbacks, not allowing for the sufficient continuity of policy and adequate representation of the European Union in the world.

The European Union is not standstill and neither is the method of decision-making. There are two incentives for this process of adjustment. One comes from the complexity of managing European affairs. New policy areas, new member states – all this means the need for an up-dated method. The second impulse comes from the strong need to enhance the democratic dimension of the Union. This issue requires deeper reflection. I am personally convinced that democratic legitimacy should be ensured by the Council and the European Parliament. The Commission should be subject to closer scrutiny and checks and balances but not necessarily exposed to the political fray.

I started my speech with the quotation by the winner of the survey on the greatest Briton of all times. Even though a similar survey has not been conducted in Poland, I should guess who the winner would be. Without hesitation, I would say that the greatest Pole of all times would be His Holiness John Paul II. And in the context of the EU enlargement his words are of fundamental significance not just for the Poles but for the whole continent of Europe. Let me quote him to attract your attention to one of the most important elements of the European construction which is our common European heritage. John Paul II said:

from the very beginning, the Holy See with its own means has promoted the process of European unification and has never doubted that the belief in a common spiritual and cultural identity of the peoples of Europe must be the basis for the political and institutional reunification of the European Union. Europe would not be what it is without the rich heritage of its peoples which, like the human genes, has forged and continues to shape the personality of the continent. To overlook or to abandon this heritage would be to risk its real identity or even to lose it”.

I hope that completing this unprecedented and historical unification of our continent, we will always treat these words with the highest attention and will try to apply these European virtues reconstructing the European house for the sake of development, stability and peace.

Thank you very much for your attention.”