In Poland, Danuta Hübner is as well known for her hard work as her political ambitions. She’s known for eating little and working nonstop. Starting May 1, she’ll be Warsaw's representative on the European Commission.
Educated as an economist, Danuta Hübner says her favorite hobby is to analyze administrative structures and to create effective machines out of lame bureaucracies. It’s a preference that she was able to indulge on a grand scale as head of the office of president in Poland and as the country’s Minister for European Affairs.
But the 55-year-old still doesn’t know exactly what she’ll be doing when she becomes one of the 10 new EU commissioners on May 1.
"I’m an economist," she told Deutsche Welle. "I bring some experience with me to the Commission. And I hope it will be used," she added, laconically.
Responsibility for Europe
Though Hübner was once a communist, she resigned from the Communist Party in 1987. Today she is the only politically independent minister in the cabinet of Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller. To her conservative critics in Poland, she’s considered too friendly toward the European Union. It’s a charge that brings laughter to the economics professor, who studied in Madrid, worked as a researcher in Berkeley, California, and has also represented Poland at the United Nations in Geneva.
"Of course I come to the Commission with my knowledge of Poland and with my history in my suitcase," she said. "I don’t think it’s difficult for any one of us to feel a responsibility for all of Europe just because we’re Polish, German, Dutch, Bulgarian or any other European nationality."
Working for Europe
Attempting to describe Hübner, the Polish newsweekly Polityka recently wrote: "She eats little, she sleeps little, travels a lot and works even more." But that’s not the aura she exudes when she’s in the limelight. Instead, she’s seen as being rather still, which has led her political opponents in Poland to dismiss her as part of "Technocratdom." Until she was tapped as a commissioner, Hübner respresented the interests of Poland at the EU as the country’s minister for European affairs. Now, as a commissioner, she will be required to push for European interests that will, at times, come up against opposition from Poland.
Will it be difficult for her to change her views? "That’s, of course, going to be the next natural step," she said, explaining her next challenge. "After being responsible for Poland in Europe at home, now I’m going to be responsible for a Europe of 25 (nations)."
A constitution for Europe
As a future EU commissioner, Hübner also knows well that the Warsaw government will seek to use her to influence Union-level decisions in Brussels. "Fortunately, we Poles know that a strong Europe, a competitive Union, is also in Poland’s best interest. I have that’s also something Polish politicians will also come to realize."
The initial failure of negotiations on the draft of Europe’s first constitution is also something the EU proponent is having difficulty accepting, especially since her country contributed to their derailing. During the European convention, she says, she fought for the draft text and was shocked when the Polish government’s opposition of the qualified majority voting helped lead to the impassé.
Speaking on the constitution’s future, she said, diplomatically: "I still believe it’s going to come quickly – as quickly as possible. The Irish (EU) presidency and most, if not all member states, are working in this direction. The new members are, too. That’s why there’s hope."