Poland ready to compromise on EU constitution

26-03-2004

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have revived the drive to agree on a constitution. They've set themselves a mid-June deadline to broker a deal. The deal breaker for the EU constitution is voting rights. Spain and Poland were fighting to hold on to a voting system that gave both countries 27 votes each in the future enlarged European Council of Ministers - only two less than the most populous states, including Germany which has a population double their size. But following a visit to Warsaw last week by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, there are signs of compromise.

Leszek Miller and Gerhard Schroeder, photo: CTKLeszek Miller and Gerhard Schroeder, photo: CTK Now that Spain has signalled its intention of abandoning the "cause" of the Nice Treaty agreements, Poland has started to consider softening its stand on the voting rights issue. Following months of hard-line drive, Prime Minister Miller declared Poland open for dialogue:

"We have obliged the Polish and German foreign ministers to cooperate with the Irish presidency on searching for a formula of joint compromise not only desirable, but also possible. Of course, this should be a solution guaranteeing Poland's importance in the new voting system."

A point emphasized by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

"Poland's size and its rank in the Union Council must be duly represented. We see the possibility of attaining compromise without rejecting the double majority principle (so important for Germany) still during the Irish presidency."

So, has the Chancellor's Warsaw visit been a step forward on the way to long awaited compromise on the European Constitution? Cornelius Ochman from the Berthelsman Foundation:

"Of course, I think without the chance for a compromise Chancellor Schroeder wouldn't come to Warsaw. From my point of view we can expect a compromise and the Polish position, really strong Polish position is currently taken into consideration."

What about bilateral relations - could they suffer as a result of the contentious points in EU affairs? Political analyst, Robert Kostro:

"I don't think that there is really danger for the Polish German cooperation. There might be, of course, some cooler climate. I think that there are too many ties, too many interests that binds the two countries together."

The latest developments in Spain have transformed EU alignments and some experts say Poland could risk isolation without Spanish backing on the voting rights issue. Cornelius Ochman, again.

"First of all terrorists attack in Madrid changed the landscape of the European security, That's the first point. The second point, the designated Prime Minister of Spain, Mr. Zapatero changed the Spanish position. So there is a risk of isolation. It's the one side of the coin. On the other side the German and French position regarding the European constitution changed. So, I think we have a really good compromise from both sides. From the German and Polish side I think that it could be a good example, a breakthrough in European topic and in German Polish relations."

Chancellor Schroeder spent barely a few hours in the Polish capital, but they proved extremely beneficial for reactivating constructive dialogue on the European Constitution.

26-03-2004

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