Poland says European integration "best guarantor" of peace and prosperity

Photo: European Commission

The European Union is celebrating its half century. It was fifty years ago that the treaty of Rome was signed by six countries who wanted to break down some trade barriers. Fifty years later the EU has 27 member states, free trade, a passport free zone, a common currency, and is talking about its own army. 50th birthday Celebrations in Berlin include the signing of the Berlin declaration which reflects upon the EU's achievements and hopes to point the way out of a crisis over the constitutional treaty. But it's not just in Berlin and Rome that the EU birthday is being marked. In Poland, which joined the EU only three years ago, the anniversary is a cause for reflection on the historical experience of a nation which for decades was not able to participate in the process of European integration.

Photo: European Commission
In a resolution to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the Polish Parliament describes European integration as the best guarantor of the continent's peace, security and prosperity. It also says that it was only after the victory of Solidarity and the collapse of communism that Poles could contribute to the integration process. Many Polish analysts stress that the anniversary should be marked not only by praising past achievements, but also by recalling the dark chapters of Europe's recent history, notably communism. The so-called historic memory of Europe, they say, should include the plight of the countries which remained for many years under the Soviet domination. Jacek Kucharczyk of the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw.

"This is very important because the division into old and new members is still persisting. It's partly based obviously on different levels of economic development but also on the assumption that the countries that were there from the start have a greater wisdom and should have more to say about European future. That's a wrong position. We should insist that we are all equal partners now in the European Union and that our historical experience should be equally taken into consideration."

According to Jacek Kucharczyk, this has also important present-day implications:

"The EU should understand that Polish misgivings about the directions that Russia is taking now are not a product of Polish 'Russophobia' but legitimate concerns stemming from our historical experience."

Poland has certain reservations about the wording of the Berlin Declaration. It has long insisted for instance on references to Christianity to be included in the document. But according to Konrad Schuller, the Warsaw correspondent of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Poland has gained a number of points in the Declaration.

"It has gained a reference to the openness of the European project, a reference to the principle of European solidarity which can mean economic solidarity but also solidarity in the sense of security. It has gained a reference to the contribution of Eastern European states to the reunification of the continent which is important because Poland has always been fearing that it might be treated as a sort of lesser cousin in the European Union. Now there's an open reference to Poland's and other countries' contribution. This upgrades the status of the new members."

During the recent Polish German summit, president Lech Kaczynski agreed that the existing text of the constitutional treaty can serve as a basis for future debate. This is a significant change of his previous position which boiled down to: the treaty should be written from scratch. Most observers of the Polish scene claim however that Poland will spare no effort in opposing the voting system proposed in the current draft, a system that would dilute the influence of small and medium-sized countries such as Poland in the European Union.