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Billions for Poland on hold

Poland will attempt to patch up frayed relations within the EU at a summit in Warsaw.

The proposals contained in the seven-year budget would have given Poland over EUR 61 billion to devote to development of its poorest regions, and would have made it the biggest beneficiary of the Union. As European Minister Jaroslaw Pietras admits: "We will have to wait for the budget for 2007-13. It will be very difficult to get a better proposition than the Luxembourgian one."

Thus, Prime Minister Belka made a last ditch attempt to work out a compromise and salvage the budget, by declaring Poland's willingness to give up some funds it was to receive.

Although it found no understanding on the British side, which eventually rejected all propositions, Poland is determined to help the European big-guns bury the hatchet. A meeting hosted by Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and the British European Minister, Douglas Alexander, is scheduled for June 27 in Warsaw.

The meeting, which was planned before the summit, will now certainly deal with burning issues such as the budget and the EU's constitutional crisis, as well as the prospects of the bloc's further enlargement.

Although President Aleksander Kwasniewski stressed the importance of the meeting, he admitted: "I don't think we can expect a breakthrough." The President said that there is too much tension and frustration in the European capitals resulting from EU's problems and a lack of common vision about what should be done. The heated debate over the budget is likely to continue when Britain - viewed by many as the villain responsible for the budget failure for its reluctance to give up its rebate - takes over the EU presidency on July 1 and will face the seemingly impossible task of reconciling the quarreling sides.

However, analysts claim that the battle in Brussels goes far beyond the unwillingness to compromise on the rebate and agricultural subsidies. The face-off between Britain and the French-German coalition is mainly about the future vision of the EU. Britain leads the free-market economic liberals against the French and German proponents of social and rural protection. As the German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder underlined, this is a choice between "a really political Union as the Constitution foresees" and a big free-trade zone. "Do we want to go back from the European Union to the European Economic Community?" the Chancellor asked.

Polish MEP Janusz Lewandowski said Poland is ready to compromise on the CAP. "All we want is equal treatment for farmers," he said.

(WBJ 27.vi.05)

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