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Europe

Three Nation Summit Raises Hopes of Compromise

Parliamentarians from Germany, France and Poland will meet Wednesday in an attempt to find a compromise in the EU voting rights dispute. The meeting will begin efforts to restore damaged relations between the countries.

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Reaching out: German, French and Polish officials will meet to resolve their European differences.

Relations between certain European Member states have been less than cordial of late in the wake of Spain and Poland’s refusal to relinquish some of the voting powers they had acquired in the 2000 Nice Treaty at the failed EU summit in December. However, in an attempt to come to a compromise on the issue, parliamentarians from Germany, Poland and France will meet on Wednesday to try and break the damaging deadlock.

EU observers have high hopes for a resolution from the three-nation summit, which is built on the so-called Weimarer Triangle alliance initially set up in 1991 to ease Poland into the EU. Poland has recently made positive noises that it is willing to compromise on the issue of majority voting which many say could be a significant step in the right direction for the tripartite alliance.

But there are many issues that need to be addressed before relations between three of Europe’s largest and most important nations can be restored to a level that can stabilize the EU in the run-up to accession in May.

Reassessment of German-Polish relations

Gerhard Schöder und Leszek Miller mit Flaggen

The talks will attempt to bridge the current divide.

What is clear from the recent dispute is that German-Polish relations need to be redefined. Despite past achievements such as Poland’s accession to the EU and NATO membership which were achieved with a cooperative German-Polish effort, the danger now appears to be that both sides are neglecting bilateral issues or dealing with them superficially. Common interests and possible co-operation seem to have dried up, according to Piotr Buras, a Polish journalist and expert on German affairs.

“At the moment it doesn’t look like we can create a platform of joint interests, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have common interests," he said. "From a Polish point of view -- and a controversial one at that -- it’s pretty clear that our European policies can only work hand in hand with Germany and France.”

No small task ahead

However, there will be no quick fix. The conflicts regarding EU financial policies, the Polish support for the war in Iraq and the bloc’s eastern expansion have shown the scope of the problems being faced by the parliamentarians meeting on Wednesday.

Add to that Polish fears of a growing German-Franco dominance within the EU and you have all the ingredients for further problems rather than solutions, says Roza Thun, director of the Polish Schumann Foundation, the U.S.-based charitable trust, in an interview with Deutsche Welle.

Divided on two-speed Europe, Iraq

Chirac bei Schröder

Gerhard's closeness with Jacques gives Poland the fear.

“The close Franco-German alliance is worrying for Poles for a number of reasons. First off, it’s the weakness towards Russia. There are enough historical examples of tripartite alliances and agreements made without our knowledge. And then there’s the criticism regarding our Iraq position. The Americans give us a feeling of security, something we don’t get from Europe.”

In the context of what has gone before, the row over voting rights is just the tip of an increasingly chilly iceberg. The problems between the nations started before the Iraq war when the German government reacted rather tactlessly to Poland’s concerns -- inherently historical -- about a new Franco-German-Russian alliance. France at one point even suggested that Poland’s EU entry should be deferred after Warsaw gave its backing to the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Accusations of excessive nationalism

That dispute was followed by the fiasco of the EU summit in December with Poland subjected to accusations of excessive nationalism. Something that Janusz Reiter, director of the Warsaw Institute for International Relations, says is incomprehensible to most Poles.

Demonstration gegen EU Beitritt in Polen

Some Poles are against an EU driven by Germany and France.

“I think it’s wrong to view Polish policies as an expression of narrow-minded nationalism given that a strong nationalist wind is prevalent within the EU especially among the leading nations," he said. "It’s hard to understand why there should be one set of rules for France and Germany and another for Poland.”

While Wednesday’s meeting may well be a step in the right direction in restoring confidence between Germany, France and Poland, the list of grievances means there is some very hard bargaining to be done and more than a few bridges to be built before normal relations are resumed.

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