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Warsaw Blocks Berlin

DW staff / AFP (ncy)
June 16, 2007

Polish President Lech Kaczynski held talks on Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to address his country's deep reservations about a new institutional treaty for the EU.

Merkel faces a challenge in talks with KaczynskiImage: AP
Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, was seeking to persuade Poland to drop its threat to block attempts to lift the 27-nation bloc out of its deadlock.

Germany, the EU's most populous country and an economic powerhouse, is determined to use a summit starting in Brussels on Thursday to put the bloc on the road to a new treaty to replace the draft constitution that was rejected two years ago by voters in France and the Netherlands.

But Poland, which with 38 million inhabitants was the biggest of 10 new EU entrants in 2004, has threatened to veto the talks on a new text because it believes it will lose clout under the proposed new voting system.

Warsaw wants the number of votes a country has in decisions affecting the entire EU to be based on the square root of the country's population and argues that the double majority method that Germany favors would give large countries too much influence in important votes.

Warsaw: Germany should step back

The conservative, populist Kaczynski twins, Lech and Jaroslaw, who hold the positions of Polish president and prime minister respectively, have made opposition to the treaty a central feature of their policies.
Gästehaus Schloss Meseberg
What goes on behind these doors will remain a secret until the EU summitImage: AP

Warsaw signaled on Friday that it was not prepared to cave into pressure from its EU counterparts -- Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and French President Nicolas Sarkozy both visited Warsaw towards the end of the week.

"There are only breakthroughs in negotiations at the end of the negotiations," Marek Cichocki, the Polish official in charge of preparing for the summit, told AFP. "We can still find a good compromise."

He called on Germany to "take a step backwards," saying that such a move would be a sign "that they take us seriously in political terms in Europe and want a real partnership."

A member of Merkel's team said there would be no public announcement of the outcome of Saturday's discussions which were being held at a castle in Meseberg outside Berlin.

"The results will be known next week in Brussels," the official said.

Czech troubles, too

After hearing Poland's concerns, Merkel will see Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek in Meseberg on Sunday before continuing her breathless pre-summit round of negotiations by meeting Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg.

Merkel, who has said she is determined to retain the "substance" of the original treaty, also faces an uneasy time with the Czechs, whose President Vaclav Klaus has complained that "only cosmetic changes have been made" to the original text.

Plea from Brussels
Jose Manuel Barroso EU Pressekonferenz in Brüssel
EU Commission President Jose Manuel BarrosoImage: AP

EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso warned Poland against blocking the implementation of reforms for an EU that has almost doubled in size in the space of three years and cannot function with its current decision-making system.

Warsaw's position was "unhelpful," Barroso told Saturday's edition of German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

"Please don't put Europe in jeopardy. We need a new treaty that will give wings back to our policies," Barroso said.
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