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The Polish presidency of the European Union

Submitted by on 02 May 2011 – 13:22

Jerzy Buzek MEP, President of the European Parliament

Poland is just about to assume the Presidency of the European Union: it is both a historic opportunity and a formidable challenge. Europe needs new life breathed into it, giving it fresh impetus for further integration. Openness and entrepreneurship – two great Polish strengths – need to become effective tools in combating stagnation in the EU.  That is why Europe is counting on Poland.

The Polish Presidency will have to achieve its aims in difficult global conditions. The EU and world economies are still struggling in the wake of the economic crisis. We have to take firm action to solve these problems, even when that means taking unpopular decisions. The main priority is the multiannual budget, which must be based on solidarity and has to reflect our shared ambitions. It must bring sustainable growth, new jobs and sufficient funding for the cohesion policy. Important negotiations on the structure of the budget will begin during the Polish Presidency.

The European Union will not be able to find a lasting solution to the crisis without strengthening its intellectual capital and its internal market. Herein lies the Union’s greatest asset, its boundless potential. Poland should aim to step up the free exchange of services and bring down barriers to trade.

Economic development is only possible if there is political stability. ‘A secure Europe’ is one of the Polish Presidency’s mottos, and it will therefore be vital to bolster the Common Security and Defence Policy. The current operation in Libya shows just how important it is that the policy should work properly. Guaranteeing energy security is another crucial task. I often emphasise that whilst Europeans do not have to understand geopolitics, they have the right to expect to be able to heat their homes in the middle of winter. That is why I favour the creation of a European Energy Community, which will help strike a balance between combating climate change and providing energy security.  I am sure Poland will consistently support this initiative.

Openness could be another of the Polish Presidency’s hallmarks. The negotiations for Croatia’s accession to the EU might possibly be concluded during the second half of 2011, and with this in mind it is worth noting Poland’s ‘Moldova in Europe’ initiative.  Moldova has a genuine chance of becoming a member of the European Community.

It is the desire for closer cooperation with the European Union that binds the countries of the Eastern Partnership – one of Polish diplomacy’s greatest achievements in recent years.  Poland itself was east of the EU until only a very short time ago, and it has put everything into building a democratic state and a free-market economy. Poland is now the natural advocate for Eastern Europe within the EU and for the EU within Eastern Europe. With some justification, the Polish Presidency is expected to help the Partnership gain the momentum it needs. The EU is hoping that an association agreement can be signed with Ukraine. The Eastern Partnership Summit in Poland this autumn will be supremely important.

We should remember that the Presidency of the Council of the European Union is primarily about the art of reconciling contradictory positions, being able to resist the temptation to put national interests before EU interests, and the ability to react quickly and effectively to events taking place from one day to the next, as will always be the case. Planning is essential, but it cannot replace the ability to react in real time to changing situations.

Poland will not be standing alone during its Presidency: within the ‘trio’, it will be deciding on the work programme alongside Denmark and Cyprus, the two countries who will be assuming the Council Presidency after Poland. Furthermore, under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union are actually co-legislators on an equal footing. In drawing up around 80% of all EU legislation, we are deciding on Europe’s future together. This means that effective engagement with the various EU institutions will also be important if the Polish Presidency is to be a success.

A successful Polish Presidency actually means success for us all – each of the other 26 EU Member States. That is the beauty and magic of Europe today. It is also a question of responsibility, which now rests on Polish shoulders.