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UACES in Cambridge 2011: 1st impressions from the Polish Presidency

I must say that the Polish EU Council presidency has not been in the focus of my attention for the first two months of its term, which may be due to the sort-of-summer break politics takes in Brussels. Or because their online communication is not that catching. Or because I wasn’t following as closely being focused on my research and my preparations for the UACES conference.

Now being at the UACES conference in Cambridge, I could just listen to the Polish secretary of state for Europe, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz. I must say that he doesn’t seem to be a figure that catches the audience with a speech [half-sentence erased; error due to mix-up].

Maybe the lack of enthusiasm in his speech was because what he presented as the priorities of the Polish presidency was not that impressive either. Almost all the priorities of the Polish are in the realm of quasi-EU foreign minister Cathy Ashton, and although Dowgielewicz denied (upon a question from the audience) that there are any conflicts with her, one can smell that there must be conflicts behind the scenes.

What is kind of shocking is the vision the Polish seem to have for the EU, one I would call the “Military and Civil Security and External Intervention Union”. Their focus on security and defence policy, a move that drives the EU away from an internally motivated “peace narrative” to an externally focused “power narrative” (Dowgielewicz), and the Polishs’ drive towards the creation of a “European Endowment for Democracy“, a kind of democracy intervention fund that can ignore the “sometimes cumbersome decision-making of the EU” (Dowgielewicz) while being linked closely enough to the EU structures to make it look like an EU fund, are a strange view regarding priorities for the European Union right now.

It looks like the Polish want to find external issues to hide the Union’s internal problems, a common method politics uses to divert attention from its inability to deal with internal politics.

In that sense, the Polish Presidency would show that EU politics are getting more and more similar to classical national politics. The question is whether this vision is shared by the rest of the Union. The fact that the European Endowment for Democracy is to be created outside the EU system and the fact that CSDP have failed to advance so far (due to British opposition) and the prospect that the Danish as the next presidency will most likely not follow up on the priorities make it look as if Poland is wasting important time and energy that are more distraction than of actual added value for the EU.

Nevertheless, an interesting start into the conference here in Cambridge. And I’m glad to have bumped into someone from the previous Council presidency, who is now back in the UK working for the Commission, after the opening session. This EU-thing is a village.



4 Responses to UACES in Cambridge 2011: 1st impressions from the Polish Presidency

  1. avatar Craig Willy says:

    I don’t think Dowgielewicz wants to “hide” the EU’s internal problems so much as he is not interested by them. For the Poles, the EU is interesting in terms of
    A) Economic modernization: access to the EU market, emigration to wealthier countries, CAP/structural funds. On all these issues they’re basically happy.
    B) Russia: Poland’s foreign policy can basically be summed up with fear of Russia and Russia-related tyranny. They’re still deathly afraid of them, publicly when it comes to the hysterical right-wing opposition, and privately when it comes to the Polish elite in general (see WikiLeak’s Warsaw cables). Here, the EU is of great interest as a means of democratizing/influencing the post-communist leftovers. And really, if one looks at developments in Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine, it’s quite clear the EU has been pretty successful in snagging a lot of countries from Moscow’s sphere of influence..

  2. avatar Craig Willy says:

    …and one could add Polish disenchantment with the United States and NATO for their foreign policy. The Poles, with incredible naïveté, were under the impression they had some sort of “special relationship” with the U.S. on account of their reflexive support for the Afghan/Iraq Wars. As it turned out, they got nothing in return, whether in terms of missile defense in Poland, the NATO Secretary-General job, or a return of NATO to national security instead of “expeditionary” wars. Instead, despite European countributions, U.S. continues to chide the EU for lack of defense spending and Poland in particular for not joining the Libyan War. The Poles have decided to refocus on their fundamental and real interests as opposed to far-away crusades.

  3. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    I’m aware of these issues, but the way they are prioritising these and related issues for the current semester is totally off-role of what a presidency should do right now but appears more a distraction than of actual added value for the Union but also for Poland as it is clear they don’t get these things done.

  4. avatar Aymeric L says:

    Or maybe Poland just doesn’t have the internal problems you are referring to. The economic crisis has globally spared them, with almost 4% growth in 2010, and I’ve never heard Poland having sovereign debt issues.

    It’s also possible that a EU council presidency doesn’t mean much anymore on internal issues now we have a President of the European Council who is to become the president of the Eurozone government.

    And I don’t really think that they can’t achieve much on foreign affairs although we have a HRVP specifically dedicated to that now. See for instance the letter on the permanent headquarter Poland co-signed in the framework of the Weimer Triangle, with Spain and Italy joining yesterday in Sopot.

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