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France and Germany Woo Poland

Germany and France, authors of a new competitiveness for the Eurozone, are trying to smooth matters with Poland.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 2/8/2011, 11:11 AM / Last Update: 2/8/2011, 12:11 PM

European People's Party

 

If you would ask someone to identify the Weimar Triangle, an optimtic guess would be that one out of 1 million could provide the correct answer: namely, that it is a trilateral association linking Poland, France and the Federal Republic of Germany. It originated in 1991 with a view towards facilitating Poland's transition to democracy, but since the presidency of Lech Kaczynski it had been put on ice. That was when German television called him the "new Polish potato". Kaczynski died in a plane crash and the triangle has taken on a new life.

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the leaders of Germany and France, have an interest in cozying up to Poland. In July, Poland will assume the rotating presidency of the European Union.

France and Germany have recently come up with a program to improve competitiveness within the euro zone. Amongst the proposals are the abolishment of wage linkages to the cost of living, tax harmonization and pushing up the retirement age to 67.

The Franco German proposal has already encountered pushback from numerous sources. Ireland, that has traditionally lured industry with a lower corporate tax, views this tool as one of the few remaining arrows in its policy quiver that may help it emerge from the economic crisis.

Financially solvent countries, such as Austria, that have an early retirement age, see no reason for changing things. Countries such as the United Kingdom suspect that although the competitiveness pact is intended for the euro zone, it will eventually migrate to European Union countries outside the currency bloc and further encroach on national sovereignty.

The European Commission is wary about who is going to control the competitiveness mechanism.  Angela Merkel has already spoken about putting it under government control rather than entrusting it to the Commission. Finally, the proposal stirs up fears about a 2 speed Europe that has occasionally been broached by France and Germany.

It is therefore important to secure Polish support, as Poland is currently outside the euro zone and has in the past chafed at attempts by France and Germany to dictate matters to other members of the European Union and particularly to the newer East European members. France and Germany are trying to convince Poland that they are not trying to upstage the Polish presidency. "Euro-zone countries can meet separately to discuss matters relating to the euro, which only the euro group can discuss,” Ms. Merkel said.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned his guests that Poland would not acquiesce to a 2 speed Europe. Sarkozy and Merkel also informed the Poles that the European Union budget would not be increased by more than inflation and the victim could be the cohesion fund via which the European Union transfers funds to less affluent members. Previously it did so for the Mediterranean countries and recently it has been doing so for Eastern Europe. France, Germany and the United Kingdom are agreed that at a time when they must enforce budget cuts domestically it is impossible to sell budget increases for the European Union.

On the issue of relations with Russia, there was a meeting of minds.

During the Kaczynski era Polish foreign policy reflected the traditional hostility and suspicion towards Russia and to a lesser extent towards Germany. The current Polish leadership of Prime Minister Tusk and President Bronislaw, Komorowski has tried to patch up relations with Russia, a trend that is welcomed by France and Germany given their energy and business relations with Russia. In return, France and Germany hinted that the new climate fostered by Poland would allow them to support European Union partnership agreements in six post-Soviet states - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, in the knowledge that this would no longer upset the Russians.