After the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the role of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union has been perceptibly reduced. Nevertheless, the six-month Presidency has a number of tasks to complete, which predominantly include moderating the sectoral council meetings, aimed at achieving consensus among the 27 Member States. Working out a compromise between the Presidency of the EU Council and the remaining Community institutions will certainly prove a challenge for Poland, which assumes EU Presidency as of 1 July 2011. Although the Presidency no longer formally represents the European Union in relations with third countries, it can still influence many of its internal and external policies, albeit on a lesser scale. As was aptly observed by Minister Mikołaj Dowgielewicz, the official in charge of the Polish Presidency, its role is not reduced to attending cocktail parties. Running the Presidency in an effective and efficient manner will be a major challenge for Poland. To meet this challenge, the Polish administration has been making extensive preparations for over two years. Whether the Polish Presidency is ultimately successful, or not, depends on many factors that are beyond its control. Poland will have to navigate all the obstacles that a presidency faces in the new post-Lisbon architecture and will have to reconcile the conflicting interests of the Member States in a crisis-ridden Union.
A host of challenges
As has been seen on many occasions, the global situation has thwarted the plans of many a Presidency. The political crisis in North Africa or the economic crisis in the EU are issues which will need to be addressed by Poland with urgency and insight and not necessarily because Poland had any such plans when it started its preparations for the Presidency.
The dynamic situation both within and outside the Union is not the only difficult task. One of the main challenges facing the Polish Presidency will be operating in the post-Lisbon system, which is still in the making. It will be the task of Warsaw to work out some of the rules not as yet agreed that will govern collaboration between the various EU institutions. Such an approach, however, will necessitate actions, which obey the spirit of the Lisbon Treaty, in close liaison with other EU institutions.
In addition, Poland’s Presidency – its first ever – will be under constant and critical scrutiny by the Western European countries. Every debut is watched more closely, and errors are more frequently pointed out, especially in view of the fact that previous presidencies held by countries from the 2004 enlargement round have not been highly praised. Slovenia, as a small country, delegated many of its duties to Brussels officials and did not have any major successes to its name. Although they showed organisational dexterity and pushed through some necessary reforms, the Czechs were remembered (and negatively so) chiefly for their internal government crisis. The Hungarian Presidency has been overshadowed by the Media Act and a new Constitution. Against this background, Poland should really go out of its way not to let any error on its part put it into the camp of Presidencies (perhaps unfairly) summarised as the “failed half-years of novices”.
Another challenge facing Poland is that it remains outside the eurozone. Even if Poland joins the Euro-Plus Pact, this is bound to narrow its room for manoeuvre and will affect certain economic decisions, the making and coordinating of which are among the key challenges now facing the European Union.
Last but not least, a parliamentary election will be held during Poland’s Presidency and this is bound to draw politicians away from the matters discussed and decided in Brussels.
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Table of Contents
A host of challenges
The preparations foster hopes and raise the bar
Advantages and disadvantages of the upcoming election
An increased interest in Europe?
Priorities in response to the challenges of the day
Looking east or south?
Cooperation with EU institutions – working out a viable model?
Neither boost expectations nor downplay the role – walking the tight rope
Dr Jacek Kucharczyk is a sociologist and policy analyst. He is president of the Executive Board at the Institute of Public Affairs, board member of the European Partnership for Democracy (EDP) in Brussels as well as one of the founders of Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS), an association of think-tanks from Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In the 1980s he was active in the underground student and publishing movement. He is author and editor of numerous policy briefs, articles, reports and books on democratic governance, foreign policy, EU integration and transatlantic relations. His book-length publications (in English) include: “Bridges Across the Atlantic” (2005), “Learning from the experience of West European think-tanks” (2007), ”Democracy’s New Champions. European Democracy Assistance after EU Enlargement” (2008), “Democracy in Poland 1989-2009. Challenges for the Future” (2010) and “Towards a European Demos? Polish Elections to European Parliament in Comparative Perspective” (2010). Dr Kucharczyk frequently comments on current domestic and European affairs and political developments for Polish and international media.
Dr Agnieszka Łada, a political scientist, is Head of the European Programme and analyst in the Institute of Public Affairs; member of the Group of Civil Advisers of the Head of the Council for Foreign Affairs in the Polish Parliament; Member of Team Europe – a group of experts at the Representation of the European Commission in Poland; Member of the Council of the Polish-German Youth Exchange; member of the Board of Directors of the Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS); member of the Copernicus Group – a group of experts on Polish-German Relations and IPA’s Representative in the European Policy Institutes Network and Active Citizenship Group at the European Commission. Dr. Łada specialises in the following issues: EU-Institutions (European Parliament and EU-Council Presidency), Polish-German relations and Germany, Polish foreign policy, Eastern Partnership, European civil society and the perception of Poles abroad and of other nations in Poland.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.