Speech by the Polish ambassador at LIBG meeting on Poland

22 Jul 2011

Speech by HE the Polish Ambassador, Barbara Tuge-Erecinska, at the LIBG, meeting on Ambitions for the Polish EU Presidency, held at the Polish Embassy in conjunction with the Liberal Democrat Friends of Poland 25/7/11.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you here this evening at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland. As you well know, on 1 July 2011 Poland took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. As a member of the EU since 2004, we are pleased to have acquired an in-depth understanding of the organisation and are grateful for the generous support from our partners in preparation for the six months of the Presidency.

2011 marks 22 years since Poland's elections in 1989, ending the reign of Communism. Today, Europe is peaceful and united - this story of success and solidarity is a story unique to Europe. However, the future presents some complex challenges which Europe must successfully face in order to continue with its significant global role.

As Poland assumes this leadership role, we cannot ignore the fact that within the EU public debt is on the rise, unemployment is stubbornly high and new jobs are not being created quickly enough. We face difficult strategic questions regarding long-term energy supplies, migration and border control, fierce economic and political competition from other parts of the world, not to mention instability across North Africa and the Middle East.

Poland is well equipped to take on board the challenges of the months ahead. This is where the country's lessons of the past come into play: Poland embodies the boldness and prowess necessary to make transformative and far-reaching decisions.

The Polish approach over the next six months focuses on three areas: growth, security and openness.

We must remember that Europe's political ambitions will fail unless we put our own house in economic order based on sustainable growth, innovations and new technologies. A Europe struggling with its own financial credibility or economic instability is unable to grow or provide security.

Despite not being a member of the Eurozone, Poland is aware that joining the euro would be in its best interest and we have joined the Euro Plus Pact to reassert this commitment, showing our solidarity and awareness of joint responsibility for the EU economy with other Member States. Consequently, throughout the Presidency we will play an active role in assisting our European partners to introduce a modern regulation framework which the EU must establish to allow steady growth. However, the foundation of future European success and welfare is about Europe's people working together to create value. To achieve this goal, the Presidency supports Commission proposals for reforming the Internal Market - the Single Market Act.

Poland will also focus on several areas where Europe's own rules - and cautious inflexible attitudes - are holding people back. For decades, Europe was divided by the Berlin Wall. Although it has been demolished for over two decades, other legal and regulatory 'walls' are suffocating progress. Eliminating these constraints would allow for many new ideas, jobs, opportunities, levels of efficiency, also making e-commerce more dynamic.

Europe must also invest in the future. This Presidency sees the first major moves to define the EU's next budget framework for 2014-20. National treasuries are under a great deal of pressure, but Europe cannot afford to step back from what the EU represents. The new budget must underpin further EU integration and the implementation of the EU's strategic goals, including those singled out by the Europe 2020 strategy.

The Presidency is confident that sensitive budget negotiation can make a fair and reasonable start in the coming months. We will set the scene for a final budget deal next year, so Poland's ambition is to work hard and constructively clarify issues at stake and achieve an in-depth understanding on what the Commission proposal signifies to every Member state.

Without a doubt, security is primarily dependent on maintaining confidence - in our policies, institutions, communities and ourselves. A reasonable and orderly migration processes will help Europe; pressures on Europe's borders provoked by historical events create serious new problems for many member states, subsequently challenging the free movement of citizens. Keeping this in mind, the Polish Presidency will look to assist FRONTEX Agency and member states in dealing with unexpected crises.

Security at the most basic human level comes down to food. A secure Europe means being able to cope with shocks to global food supplies. Security also comes from biodiversity: balancing economic development with essential environmental protections. The Common Agricultural Policy has served Europe well, however, it requires reform. The Presidency will combine market-based reforms with continuing support, keeping in mind less developed rural areas.

A secure Europe articulates a credible and united voice in international affairs. The Lisbon Treaty provides for new ways of deploying different types of power, policy making and collective impact. The Presidency means to develop these options, fostering external actions by the EU, including possible civilian and military operations, and supporting the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton, as she builds up the EU's collective external policy networks. Poland will also act for advancing European external energy policy what will increase an overall energy security of the EU.

A growing and secure Europe is a generous Europe, extending its success to other countries. Our Presidency aims to advance Croatia's accession as a Member State by looking to sign the Adhesion Treaty, as well as make progress in negotiations with Iceland and Turkey. Serbia has made an important step towards EU membership by arresting General Mladic, but there is much left to be done. We aim to work together assisting all the countries of the Western Balkans to move through their accession programmes in a positive and mutual reinforced spirit, paying special attention to the unity and stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There is much progress that needs to be made in Eastern Europe. In relations with countries covered by the Eastern Partnership, the EU will aim to advance negotiations with Ukraine on a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) in the framework of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (with the hope the negotiations can be concluded by the end of 2011) and to initiate similar DCFTA negotiations with Moldova and Georgia, make progress in the process of visa liberalisation and deepen sectoral cooperation (esp. in the fields of energy, regional development, agriculture, education and science).

All these policies and initiatives will come to a head in September in Warsaw at the Eastern Partnership Summit, an event that will bring together EU and Eastern European leaders. The event marks a vital new step in the integration of our continent and shows that Europe is not only focused on internal politics but also views relationships with its neighbours as equally important. 

To the South, as dramatic events continue to unfold in North Africa and the wider Arabic region, people are demanding accountable governments and an end to clumsy oppression. History tells us that it is one thing to end a destructive system, but quite another to a build a new, strong and sustainable one. The changes in this region will take years and these countries will need to foster their own path. The EU will support them with the democratic solutions, in the best spirit of European co-operation and mutual respect.

Our Presidency aims to get the right policy mix. The EU draws on Poland's hard won experience and those of other countries that have successfully cleared the rubble of oppression. In light of this, a high level conference is scheduled for December 2011 to share and discuss best practices based on our transformation and assist the facilitation of change and democratisation in the Southern Neighbourhood.

Poland is fully prepared to implement the programme of our Presidency. Poland is ready to lead the European Union through significant changes in the spirit of solidarity, optimism and learning lessons from the past to work together for our common future. We look very much forward to co-operating with the Her Majesty's Government throughout our Presidency. I am convinced that this co-operation will be beneficial to all our partners and friends, strengthening the links that bind us in this European house. The UK coalition government has a deep understanding for and shares plenty or our Presidency's priorities, e.g. in advancing economic growth, Single Market, EU enlargement process or support for our neighbourhood.

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