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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.

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