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Poland Does it Again

DW staff with wire reports (sp)June 29, 2007

Days after a bruising Brussels summit, Poland has riled EU partners once again by saying Friday it wanted to reopen debate on an EU treaty deal to ensure it gets its concessions on voting rights.

Poland's ties with both the EU and Germany are fraught with tensionImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a news conference on Friday that the issue of voting rights in the new EU treaty was not yet fully settled for Poland.

Poland had initially bitterly opposed the new voting system under the new treaty arguing that it favored bigger countries, in particular Germany.

Warsaw's tough stance on the issue nearly torpedoed a recent key Brussels summit which managed to reach agreement on a future treaty after marathon talks and much negotiating and compromising. The treaty is designed to reform the 27-member bloc's institutions.

"Totally unacceptable"

Unsurprisingly, Kaczynski's latest comments have raised hackles among EU partners who have been celebrating the outcome of the tortuous treaty negotiations as a success.

The German president of the European parliament, Hans Gert Pottering, called the new Polish demand "totally unacceptable."

Polen Lech Kaczynski und Jaroslaw Kaczynski
Jaroslaw (left) und Lech Kaczynski have stirred things up in the EUImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The European Commission said it opposed the Polish plan. Its president Jose Manuel Barroso urged all governments to respect the deal clinched in Brussels last week.

The new treaty will simplify the way the EU makes decisions as it expands and create the posts of foreign policy supremo and a longer-term president.

Under the terms of the compromise reached last week, the double majority voting system opposed by the Poles will not be introduced until 2017. It would then include a provision for states to be able to delay EU decisions if they are just short of enough votes to block them.

Warsaw says it had agreed to a delay of two years in such cases, but EU officials say the deal was for decisions to be postponed only until the next EU summit.

"We have to finally resolve this issue at the Inter-Governmental Conference," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said when asked if he planned to fight for Poland's interpretation of the deal. He later said that it was a question of committing to paper what had already been agreed on voting rights.

"A misunderstanding"

Jose Socrates, the Portuguese prime minister whose country takes over the EU presidency from Germany on Sunday, called Kaczynski's comments "a misunderstanding."

Referendum über Abtreibung in Portugal
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates takes over the EU presidency next monthImage: AP

"The mandate is very clear and precise on what has to be done. I am sure this is only a misunderstanding," he said.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski's comments sparked outrage among politicians in Brussels.

"I just can't believe it," Martin Schulz, head of the Social Democrat group in the EU parliament told Spiegel Online. "You can't question what was agreed upon after such a dramatic summit," he said.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski's latest comments are likely to further antagonize EU neighbors and reinforce Warsaw's image as an unpredictable partner.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw's twin brother, horrified EU leaders recently when he spoke of the horrors of Nazi Germany's occupation of Poland during World War Two to bolster Poland's demands at the Brussels summit.

Poland's relations with Germany, in particular, have cooled considerably since its tough negotiating stance in Brussels.