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23 Mar 2017

Poland and Greece threaten EU’s Summit celebration

Poland and Greece are the two countries that object to the draft declaration of the Summit for the 60-year anniversary of the European Union. The Summit will take place in Rome, on Friday, and Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, wants to show unity in a time that the United Kingdom, one of the biggest countries of the bloc, is ready to start negotiations for exiting.

Juncker’s effort seems to be obstructed by Poland and Greece, which for several reasons each of them, have warned that they are not going to sign off the declaration of the Summit. Beata Szydlo, the Polish prime minister, said that her country may not accept the Rome declaration, if the document doesn’t touch upon issues that Warsaw considers crucial.

“The unity of the EU, defense of a tight NATO cooperation, strengthening the role of national governments and the rules of the common market which cannot divide but unite-these are the four principles that have to be included in the declaration” Szydlo said on an interview for private broadcaster TVN. Poland is afraid that if it agrees, with the Commission’s will to shape its member countries’ welfare policies, this might mean that in the future more powers will have to be given to Brussels. The Polish government, among others, thinks that the harmonisation of social policy will push up labour costs at home.

This is not the only issue that has brought clouds in the relationship between the EU and the Baltic country. The Polish government is also threatening because of the reelection of Donald Tusk in the position of the president of the European Council. Poland was against Tusk being reelected and even tried to have its own candidate, which no other EU country supported. Tusk is accused in Poland for making an illegal deal with Vladimir Putin to cover up evidence of the Polish presidential airplane crash in Smolensk, in 2010.

Greece has its own reason for not wanting to sign off the declaration that lays out a vision for the Union’s future. The grim economic situation that the country has been living for the last 8 years is becoming even more difficult every time the government must negotiate with the lenders for a new tranche. The EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which are the main lenders, ask from the Greek government to reform labour laws and cut salaries and pensions.

Vangelis Kalpadakis, a spokesman for prime minister Alexis Tsipras, commented that cannot accept a text that mentions the EU’s principles and the solidarity between the members, when Greece is asked to succumb to the IMF’s irrational demands. Greek officials have suggested for a new paragraph to be added to the draft declaration which will highlight the importance of the EU’s established labour and social welfare rights.

Steffen Seibert, an Angela Merkel’s spokesman, was asked to comment on the Greek objections on the draft declaration. Seibert said that he can’t answer on the “intentions” of the Greek government, and continued: “Germany believes that the Greek economic aid issues and the celebration for the 60-year Union should be separated. We are optimistic that on Friday we will have a declaration that will be accepted by everyone.”