News Foreign policy Ministry Travel to Poland
18 October 2012
The interview, devoted entirely to European issues, was published on 18 October in Gazeta Wyborcza, and in El Pais (Spain), La Stampa (Italy) and Le Monde (France). It will soon be published by The Guardian (Great Britain) and Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Germany).
Minister Sikorski notes in the interview that when we discuss the EU we tend to disregard its foundations and the biggest gains from its existence, which the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has recalled in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU. “For me the EU brings to mind peace and stability. (...) Today, we squabble about money, but let us not forget that without the EU, reconciliation between France and Germany would not have been possible. It was the European Union, too, that helped in the final reconciliation between Poland and Germany.”
Minister Sikorski also said that the EU needs to be more effective in its foreign policy. “We announce strategies, and later some countries pursue their own policies with some partners. But wherever we act together, we all benefit. Just look at trade, where we relinquished our sovereignty, or competitiveness or the common market, where the European Commission has strong powers,” said the Minister. The problem is that politicians in Brussels take decisions thinking about Europe, but then return to their respective countries and talk to their citizens only about their national interests. Minister Sikorski offers a suggestion on how to deal with anti-EU rhetoric. “We should extend the meaning of the notion of ‘solidarity’. People in the West associate it with transferring money to the less affluent. I would prefer to say that everyone benefits from solidarity: the EU as a whole and its respective members, the richer and the poorer; on many issues we have a community of interests. We need to convince citizens that this great idea is really true.
Minister Sikorski once again advocates giving more powers to the European Parliament to decide about the composition of the European Commission, to create all-European lists of candidates to the European Parliament or direct elections of the EU President. “Interest in elections [to the European Parliament] would be greater if they were more personalised. If all-European lists of candidates were introduced. If the EU President was elected in general elections. If the European Parliament had more to say about the composition of the European Commission.”
Such mechanisms as direct elections of the European Commission President – as suggested by the Future of Europe Group – should help select European leaders with charisma who are a cut above the average. “If the Europeans want real leaders, we need a mechanism that would help us select candidates o f large format . But if we stick to the UN method where everybody has to agree to everything, we’ll end up with UN-like leaders.”
Asked whether the European Union will evolve into another United States, the Minister said: “The Union will be unique. I wouldn’t use the word ‘federalism,’ because many people associate it with an irreversible transfer of sovereignty to the Community level, which hardly anyone wants. I prefer to talk about an irreversible political union established on terms that we need first to agree on.”
According to Minister Sikorski, Poland is still willing to join the eurozone and the current government is doing its best to meet the formal criteria for adopting the euro. “We will ratify the Fiscal Compact by the end of the year, and we have been implementing the expenditure rule, meaning that we will satisfy economic criteria by the end of this Sejm’s term. The next government will be able to judge rationally whether the eurozone has arranged its affairs so that Poland can safely adopt the new currency to our mutual benefit.
Radosław Sikorski declares that Poland, like most EU Member States, supports the European Commission budget proposal. The Minister also addressed British reservations to this proposal. “Poland is one of the biggest payers that chip in for the British rebate [exemption from part of the UK’s EU contribution negotiated by Margaret Thatcher; the rebate is financed by other Member States]. And the UK says it will veto Commission proposals concerning the new budget, although they have already been cut. But a generous budget and the Cohesion Fund that fund infrastructure investments are nonetheless effective tools for stimulating economic growth. And they benefit everyone, since motorways or Internet networks paid for by the EU are built by companies from many EU Member States.”
The journalists also ask about the role of Germany in Europe, advancing the provocative argument about “the growing fear of the German power and diktat.” “In my view, it is not so much that, but rather Germany’s unwillingness to give its credit card,” says Minister Sikorski. “The German power would be more acceptable if it were followed by unconditional money transfers. On the other hand, there’s a limit to the pressure on countries which have delayed necessary reforms for decades. Berlin’s emphasis on austerity and reforms is understandable, but too much of it will stifle economic growth and prevent those countries from reducing their debt burden. Very serious mistakes have been made here. For example, the first aid packages for Greece forced the Greeks to make very deep cuts in exchange for very high-interest loans. But these loans should have been preferential. Europe will pay dearly for correcting these mistakes,” says the chief of Polish diplomacy.
Links to interviews in newspapers:See more