Poland, during the half-year Presidency in the Council of the European Union, will face difficulties with convincing other EU members to the Eastern Partnership. Tense situation in North Africa and debt crisis of some European states became the reason for the lack of atmosphere for forcing the ideas of strengthening the Eastern vector of the Union foreign policy through.
Poland is the biggest advocate of bringing the Eastern Partnership countries together with the European Union. Placing the EaP as one of the priorities of the Polish Presidency in the Council of the European Union was meant to stress the political and economic meaning of the Eastern neighbourhood countries. A few months before the Polish Presidency, it was said that Warsaw would put special emphasis on the energy safety and relations with the East.
Meanwhile, international events within the last few months created not too favourable climate for the “policy of openness” to the Eastern partners. Revolutions in North Africa clearly indicated how important, and so underestimated in Poland, the Southern Partnership of the EU is. Subsequent falling governments and civil war in Libya proved that the attention and money given so far to the Union for the Mediterranean were insufficient. From the perspective of France, Portugal, Spain, Italy or even the Union, concentrating on the Eastern Partnership countries would be irresponsible.
As a result of the inflow of immigrants from the South, one of the foundations of the European Union – freedom of movement for workers – was undermined. Denmark made a decision of introducing control on its borders with Germany and Sweden. The discussion on launching all-European migration policy has begun in Brussels. The key issue now is the defence of freedom of movement for workers within the Schengen Area at the cost of strengthening the external borders of the Union. It was indicated in the words of the Prime Minister Tusk [pl] during the inauguration of the Polish Presidency. Thus, one can speculate that within the next half-year Poland will not press for visa liberalisation. The last but not least reason for the unfavourable climate for opening the Union to the East is the debt crisis in Greece. The problems in the Eurozone and unsettled situation in the financial markets cause the increase of populist movements’ popularity in some countries of the EU (Dutch Party for Freedom or True Finns party). A well-known, especially in Poland, comment of Eurodeputy Barry Madlener proves that isolation tendencies and nationalistic rhetoric are moving from the national context to the Union political debate.
Implementation of what life brings
For the European Union, it is crucial to solve the problems connected with debt crisis in Greece. This is why the Polish Presidency will need to partly modify its principles and strategies. Donald Tusk is aware of it. After the session of the Polish government and the European Commission, the Prime Minister admitted [pl] that although the Polish priorities will be the pivot of the presidency, ‘what had been planned will have to give priority to the issues brought by life.’ All these factors make the Eastern Partnership recede into the background. The situation is so tense that even the Ukrainian press is writing about the Polish Presidency’s future proceeding with its back turned on the East.
Poland may face serious problems instilling in the EU a thought that attention should be still directed to the Eastern dimension of foreign policy. The task of the Polish government is to show the politicians in the West and East that the Eastern Partnership is of fundamental meaning. Since in the Union’s interest lies stable and democratic North Africa, then in the interest of all 27 member countries, not only Poland, are the democratic and developing countries of the Eastern Partnership.