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Poland’s EU-Council Presidency under Evaluation: Navigating Europe through Stormy Waters

Navigating Europe through Stormy Waters
Poland’s EU-Council
Presidency under Evaluation
Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski | Thomas Mehlhausen
Monika Sus [eds.]
BUT_Karolewski_0305-0.indd 3 28.08.13 09:32
Table of Contents
Lists of Abbreviations 7
Chapter 1: Introduction
How to analyse the rotating EU Council Presidency after the Lisbon
Treaty? 9
Thomas Mehlhausen and Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
Overview of the general performance of the Polish Council Presidency 27
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
Institutional aspects of the Polish Council Presidency 43
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
The Eastern Partnership as a top priority of the Polish EU Presidency 67
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang
Chapter 5: Between honest broker and self-centred president
Energy and climate Policy during the Polish EU Council Presidency 85
Ernest Wyciszkiewicz
Chapter 6: Common Foreign and Security Policy
A back seat brokerage over issues of national interest 99
Monika Sus
Chapter 7: Turning “yesterday’s business” into a key political priority
Polish Presidency and the EU Single Market 117
Paweł Tokarski
Chapter 8: Bringing impetus to the EU enlargement process
The role of the Polish Presidency 131
Janusz Józef Węc
Chapter 9: Testing the limits of being an honest broker
The Polish EU Presidency and the negotiation of the Multiannual
Financial Framework 2014–2020 147
Mario Kölling
Chapter 10: Mission satisfactorily accomplished The Polish EU
Council Presidency as an efficient service provider with moderate
results 163
Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski, Thomas Mehlhausen, Monika Sus
Notes on Contributors 177
Table of Contents
Lists of Abbreviations
ACER Agency for Cooperation of Energy Regulator
AFET Committee on Foreign Affairs
CAP Common Agricultural Policy
CDSP Common Defence and Security Policy
CFSP Common Foreign and Security Policy
CFSP Common Foreign and Security Policy
COCON Working Party of Consular Affairs
COCOP Working Party on the Application of Specific Measures to
Combat Terrorism
COJUR Working Party on Public International Law
COMAR Working Party on the Law of the Sea
COMPET Competitiveness Council
COREPER Committee of Permanent Representatives
COTER Working Party on Terrorism
CWG Council Working Groups
DCFTA Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement
EC European Commission
ECOFIN Economic and Financial Affairs Council
ECON Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee
ECR European Conservatives and Reformers
EEAS European External Action Service
EED European Endowment for Democracy
EDF European Development Fund
EFSF European Financial Stability Facility
ENP European Neighbourhood Policy
ENPARD European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture & Rural
ENVY Enviromental Council
EP European Parliament
EPP European People’s Party
EPSCO Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
ESM European Stability Mechanism
EU European Union
EYCS Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council
FAC Foreign Affairs Council
GAC Council for General Affairs
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GNI Gross National Income
HR High Representative
IMCO Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee
ITER International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
JHA Justice and Home Affairs Council
MENA Middle East and North Africa
MFF Multiannual Financial Framework
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NGO Non-governmental Organization
NSI Noth-South Interconnections
PCA Partnership and Cooperation Agreement
PiS Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość)
PM Prime Minister
PO Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska)
PSL Polish People’s Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe)
RELEX Working Party of Foreign Relations Counsellors
S&D Group of Socialists and Democrats
SIMFO Single Market Forum
SLD Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej)
SMA Single Market Act
TTE Transport, Telecomunication and Energy Council
TEU Treaty on European Union
Lists of Abbreviations
Chapter 1: Introduction
How to analyse the rotating EU Council Presidency after the
Lisbon Treaty?
Thomas Mehlhausen and Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
When Poland took over the baton from the Hungarian Council Presidency
it faced numerous uncertainties. Given that it was only the fourth Presidency
to operate under the recently enforced Lisbon Treaty there was little knowl-
edge available as to how far the new institutional design restrains the in-
cumbency’s scope of action. Moreover, Poland held a Presidency for the
very first time and it could not draw on any administrative experience. To
make the challenge even harder, the Euro crisis threatened to overshadow
the entire term and it was an open question as to whether Poland as a non-
Euro member would be able to leave any mark on its term. It is against this
turbulent background that this book intends to evaluate the performance of
the Polish Council Presidency.
The aim of this edited volume is yet broader. We study the Polish term as
a crucial case to learn about the new profile of the rotating EU Council
Presidency after the Lisbon Treaty. The point of departure is the limited
systematic research on the rotating EU Council Presidency after the Lisbon
Treaty. The bulk of the literature on the topic of the EU Council Presidency
is rather descriptive in nature. One strand consists of single-case studies of
individual Presidencies assessing their general performance (e.g. O Nuallain
1985; Ludlow 1998; Maurer 2000; Herolf 2010) while the other explores its
formal functioning and legal status (e.g. Edwards and Wallace 1977; Wal-
lace 1985; Bassompierre 1988). The latter contributions often advise against
overestimating the impact of the Presidency on the outcome of the EU pol-
icies. However, in recent years a growing body of literature challenges this
view (Elgstrøm 2003a; Kollman 2003; Tallberg 2006; Naurin and Wallace
2008; Thomson, 2008; Bunse 2009). This volume builds on the existing
literature by pointing to the various functions attributed to the Presidency
and linking it to the theoretical debate on the Presidency’s impact on EU
Taken together, we contribute to the current debate on the rotating EU
Council Presidencies by incorporating and refining the conventional theo-
retical insights and applying it to the Polish term. By covering virtually all
relevant policy fields, this in-depth analysis of the arguably most ambitious
Presidency since the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty hopefully provides
for a balanced and differentiated evaluation of the profile of the reformed
EU Council Presidency.
In this introductory chapter we set out with an overview of the major
institutional changes of the Lisbon Treaty pertaining to the rotating EU
Council Presidency. We then introduce the three-tier theoretical framework
that spans the common frame for the empirical studies of the major policy
fields during the Polish term. Finally, we sketch a succinct summary of the
following chapters.
The rotating EU Council Presidency in its new design
Even though the rotating Council Presidency still grants the country at the
helm additional access to EU governance, the Treaty of Lisbon significantly
constrained its competences, particularly within the EU foreign and security
policy and regarding the country’s visibility on the European stage. The shift
of responsibilities from the rotating Presidency to the non-rotating institu-
tions – to the President of the European Council and to the High Represen-
tative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) within most issues
related to the external representation, Common Foreign and Security Policy
(CFSP), Common Defence and Security Policy (CSDP) and the coordination
of national foreign policies, deprived the country holding the Presidency of
hitherto existing political channels which enabled the member state to stay
visible on the international and European stage and to influence the policy
of the EU. For instance, the rotating Presidency’s previous task to prepare
and chair the meetings of the European Council has been shifted to the newly
established President of the European Council. Although the bulk of the
decisions are already agreed to in the working groups, in the Committee of
Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and in the Council, the most crucial
and sensitive issues are still dealt with in the European Council. Moreover,
the summits of the European Council are major media events which until
recently gave the government at the helm the chance to publicly celebrate
the final deals. However, the Lisbon Treaty reduced the role of the presiding
government to the level comparable to many other participants of the Inter-
governmental Conference.
Thomas Mehlhausen and Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
The Lisbon Treaty reforms were supposed to increase the effectiveness
of EU decision-making following the EU’s Eastern enlargement in 2004 and
2007. The elimination of the rotating agenda-setting as well as broker op-
portunities, both within the European Council and in the Foreign Affairs
Council, in favour of a permanent arrangement aimed to enhance continuity
and effectiveness. However, this arrangement risks the establishment of ad-
ditional autonomous agents with considerable power at the highest levels of
intergovernmental bargaining (Pollack 1997; Tallberg 2000). In addition,
the growing centralisation of the decision-making process within the Euro-
pean Council makes it more susceptible to informal influence, exerted in
particular by the most powerful member states. This was apparently one of
the reasons why the smaller states were keen to avoid these institutional
reforms (Schoutheete and Wallace 2002: 21; Bunse 2009).
It is still too early to pinpoint what exact consequences the Lisbon Treaty
reforms will have for the EU Council Presidencies. The Spanish, Belgian
and Hungarian Presidencies were rather transitional in character, since they
had to cope with various hurdles in the implementation of the Treaty of
Lisbon. For instance, the Spanish Presidency had to come to terms with the
initially underspecified role of the newly appointed High Representative.
The Belgian incumbency faced some obstacles during the introduction of
the Citizens’ Initiative and new rules on comitology. Finally, the Hungarian
term was impaired by both internal and external shocks. On the one hand,
the domestic and international criticisms of the introduction of a new con-
stitution shed doubt on the government’s adherence to European values; on
the other hand, the Presidency was overshadowed by numerous external
shocks, such as the euro crisis, the civil war in Libya and the tsunami in
Japan. After this cumbersome transition phase, we may assume that the Pol-
ish Presidency is the first one capable of bringing new insights into the post-
Lisbon profile of a rotating Presidency.
A three-tier approach to the EU Council Presidencies
We embark on the study of the Polish EU Council Presidency in three steps.
First, we follow the mainstream of the descriptive literature by evaluating
its performance along the major functions of this rotating office. This facil-
itates the assessment of the newly introduced institutional reform of the
Presidency (functional dimension). Second, we strive to explicitly address
the tension between the formal neutrality norm and the tempting opportunity
Chapter 1: Introduction
for the incumbent to advance its national interests through informal policy
shaping (behavioural dimension). In this sense, the volume is to contribute
to the theoretical debate on the behavioural rationale of the government in
charge. Third, we take into account that the success of the Presidency, how-
ever it may be defined, does not exclusively depend on its performance. We
therefore adopt a contingency dimension for our evaluation by distinguish-
ing between endogenous and exogenous variables that may affect the out-
come. This conceptual avenue intends to stimulate a balanced and theoreti-
cally informed evaluation of the Presidency.
The functional dimension
We argue that political institutions including the rotating EU Council Pres-
idency are established to accommodate a functional demand legitimising
their very existence. A remarkable dissent prevails in the literature as to the
specific tasks a Presidency is supposed to fulfil. We largely follow the ap-
proach proposed by Daniela Kietz (2007a), though subsuming ‘strategic
leadership’ and ‘pro-active initiation’ under the general term of ‘agenda-
setting’, and define six functions.1 However, not all functions might be rel-
evant to each policy field, since they partly refer to different stages of deci-
sion-making – e.g. eliciting the members’ position, deliberations, voting and
finally striking a compromise with external parties and most issues are
unlikely to pass the entire procedure during one term.
First, the management of the administrative procedures involves the or-
ganisation of more than 1,000 meetings on several institutional levels re-
quiring a careful and timely preparation (Łada 2011: 7). This absorbs con-
siderable bureaucratic capabilities and would certainly be insurmountable
for the staff in Brussels given its restricted personnel capacities. It tends to
particularly overburden the small states which, in turn, fuelled the perceived
need to reform the rotating office and propelled the establishment of trio-
presidencies. Second, agenda-setting refers to the adding of a country’s own
priorities to the predetermined topics as well as the structuring and excluding
of issues which is a competency shared with the Commission. The govern-
ment at the helm is expected to shift attention towards strategic long-term
1 Tallberg (2003) proposes ‘agenda-shaping’ to broaden the concept but we use the
more commonly used term of ‘agenda-setting’ in a broader sense which entails ‘agen-
da-structuring’ and ‘agenda-exclusion’.
Thomas Mehlhausen and Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
goals and may also initiate new projects which aim to advance developments
in areas where the holder of the Presidency has a certain expertise or repu-
tation. Even though this accounts for only ten to twenty per cent of the issues,
agenda structuring or the exclusion of certain issues in the course of the
Presidency might prove decisive for the outcome of the Presidency (Tallberg
2003). Third, the Presidency is assigned with the task of internal media-
tion in the Council to form a common ground that can be externally com-
municated as a common position. The challenge is greater the higher the
voting threshold, i.e. simple majority, qualified majority or unanimity. For
this purpose the presiding government may choose both the size of meetings,
e.g. multilateral or bilateral deliberations, and convoke ‘confessionals’ dur-
ing which the parties reveal their intrinsic preferences, minimum require-
ments and so-called ‘red lines’ (Wessels and Traguth 2010: 304). For the
sake of effectiveness, ‘confessionals’ enable the Presidency holder to detect
Pareto efficient solutions formerly obfuscated by the secretive bargaining
strategy of the participants. However, this presupposes discretion and a suf-
ficient degree of impartiality to establish mutual trust. Fourth, the Presidency
is empowered to represent the Council in terms of an inter-institutional
agency, in particular for the co-decision procedure with the European Par-
liament, where it is supposed to reach an agreement which best fits the
Council’s majority position. By moving between the two negotiation arenas
the Presidency is designed to spot and pinpoint the best compromise for the
Council’s majority. For this purpose, it is given some leeway in order to
eventually reach a compromise and enhance the effectiveness of inter-insti-
tutional legislature. Fifth, the external representation is set to advocate the
Council’s interests in negotiations with third states. This function resembles
to a great extent the inter-institutional agency. The most institutionalised
field where the Presidency performs this function is the bargaining with EC
applicants. Typically, it is the Presidency that paves the way to the final trade
and association agreements as well as to the start or conclusion of accession
negotiations. Sixth, we include the media spinning of the Presidency’s re-
sults in its communicative task of staging the media coverage, instilling the
essence of the achievements on the national public, and celebrating the suc-
cess of the Presidency. Although it might not be termed a formal function,
it is arguably a welcomed side-effect and an implicit objective: the European
Council summits – as the most visible snapshots of EU decision-making –
are major media events which impact the national public discourses. It can
be qualified as a major element in the EU’s attempt to tackle the problem of
Chapter 1: Introduction
a missing European public sphere and European identity as a prerequisite
for further integration.
The behavioural dimension
The second dimension aims to inquire into the rationale driving the chairing
government. There exist divergent notions of a legitimate Presidency. One
influential line of arguing refers to the Council Secretariat’s handbook for
Presidencies which states:
“The Presidency must, by definition, be neutral and impartial. It is the moderator
for discussions and cannot therefore favour either its own preferences or those
of a particular member state.” (Council Secretariat, cit. in Tallberg 2006:
In this reading, the Presidency is supposed to subordinate its individual ob-
jectives to the European common good (Wallace 1985: 16; Metcalfe 1998;
Laffan 2000; Elgstrøm 2003b). If sensitive national interests are at stake, it
should seek another, more neutral broker to ensure impartiality during the
negotiations (Kietz 2007a: 12). The other strand either supposes that states
will nonetheless act self-interestedly (e.g. Tallberg 2006; Bunse 2009) or
even list the pursuit of national interest explicitly as one of the Presidency’s
major purposes (Schout and Vanhoonacker 2006; Wessels and Traguth
2010). Indeed, the small states’ fierce opposition to the European Council
reform suggests that for them the Presidency is not merely an organisational
service to the community but a rare occasion to shape European politics
(Bunse 2009: 2). If the Presidency is better understood as an ‘amplifier’
rather than a ‘silencer’ of national interests (Bengtsson, Elgstrøm and Tall-
berg 2004), then the privileged access to informal channels of influence must
account for the attractiveness of the Presidency’s office given that the in-
cumbent is not granted any additional formal power.
Therefore, we juxtapose two opposed behavioural orientations of how the
Presidency may operate. On the one hand, the incumbent President may
strive to enhance the European common good as an honest broker, regardless
of whether it runs counter to national preferences.2 Proponents of this con-
ception argue that an effective pursuit of national interests, if attempted
2 This corresponds to what Schout (1998) calls a ‘neutral broker’ and descriptively
resembles the term ‘responsibility without power’ (Dewost 1984; Wallace 1985).
Thomas Mehlhausen and Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
nonetheless, will be in any case impeded by utterly adverse external cir-
cumstances: the lack of added formal power, the short term in office, the
heavy administrative burden, unforeseen external shocks, the issue legacy
dominating the agenda, and the interplay of various veto players with het-
erogeneous preferences (e.g. Bassompiere 1988; Verbeke and Van de Vo-
orde 1994; Nugent 1995). As one links the behavioural orientation of a
‘neutral broker’ to the above-mentioned functional obligations, this norm-
compliant behaviour should entail
organising the meetings efficiently to ensure smooth proceedings,
highlighting topics as urgent or strategically crucial to the EU,
seeking broad majorities or, if possible, even consensus,
representing genuinely the Council’s majority position both in the inter-
institutional and the external bargaining,
media staging the negotiation results as a joint achievement of the EU in
order to contribute to the European common good.
On the other hand, the presiding government might be tempted to use its
formal position as a self-centred president to advance its foreign policy ob-
jectives (Thomson et al. 2006; Schalk et al. 2007; Warntjen 2008). Notwith-
standing the lack of formal power, the Presidency possesses considerable
organisational, procedural and informational assets: the leverage over the
setting of the meetings – face-to-face confessionals, unilateral or multilateral
consultations – and their frequency, the capacity of adding and prioritising
issues of national interest while ignoring unfavourable topics, as well as the
position to selectively channel information between the negotiating parties
or to even purposively play parties off against each other (cf. Tallberg 2003,
2006, 2008; Bunse 2009). In line with the concept of a self-centred president,
we would expect the Presidency to aim to
organise the meetings effectively in terms of its own preferences,
highlight topics as urgent or crucial to the member’s foreign policy,
seek sufficient majorities compatible with national interests despite more
consensual alternatives, or to otherwise stall negotiations,
represent the Council’s majority position in a biased way both in the
inter-institutional and the external bargaining in order to steer compro-
mises in a favoured direction,
media stage the negotiation results self-centredly as a distinctive achieve-
ment of the incumbent Presidency.
Chapter 1: Introduction
These idealised behavioural orientations require three qualifications.3 First,
there is no theoretical reason why these conceptions should indeed be com-
petitive. Quite on the contrary, empirical studies on the modes of action
within the Council confirm that strategic and non-strategic actions can both
be identified depending on the particular issues under negotiation (Niemann
2008; Pollack and Shaffer 2008). Second, several patterns of behaviour be-
tween these two extremes are conceivable (Lewis 2008). For example, gov-
ernments may act rhetorically by pursuing their national interests as long as
they can justify it on valid grounds (Schimmelfennig 2003). In addition,
similarly legitimate norms, such as neutrality, effectiveness and consensus-
building (Elgstrøm 2006: 178), might be played off against each other, en-
abling states to advance their national goals in the shadow of accepted norms
(Mehlhausen 2009a; see also Tallberg 2004: 1002), e.g. by quitting consul-
tations on the pretext of efficiency once a preferred outcome is feasible.
Third, both extremes are strategies difficult to fully realise. On the one hand,
impartiality is virtually impossible if the objective of efficiency forces the
incumbent to push negotiations in a certain direction deemed unfair by some
participants (Elgstrøm 2003b). On the other hand, the sheer pursuit of na-
tional foreign policy objectives is likely to be countered with heavy criticism
and ostracism. Therefore, the rationale of steering the Presidency is not a
matter of principle but rather of degree.
The empirical question is thus (a) under which conditions the incumbents
tend to what rationale and (b) which overall pattern of behaviour can be
discerned. The following table summarises the main ideas of the first two
3 Kirchner (1992) is the first study with similar theoretical aspirations. These two in-
terpretations assume different modes of action. The respect for the neutrality norm is
what sociological institutionalism would expect in terms of a ‘logic of appropriate-
ness’, whilst the self-interested abuse of the Presidency’s formal position corresponds
to rational choice institutionalism according to a ‘logic of consequences’ (Hall and
Taylor 1996).
Thomas Mehlhausen and Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
Table 1: Contending notions of how to execute the Presidency’s functions
honest broker
aim: EU’s collective interest/
common good
self-centred president
aim: national/governmental interest
management effective management of ad-
ministrative tasks and organi-
sation of meetings
management according to national in-
terests through manipulation of the
frequency and type of Council meet-
supplementing and structur-
ing the agenda according to
long-term goals of the Com-
supplementing and structuring the
agenda according to national interests;
omission or masking-out of inconve-
nient goals
internal me-
identification of potential
compromises; preference for
majority rather than minority
use of information asymmetry; focus-
ing on compromises favouring nation-
al interests; preference for minority
positions whenever they reflect na-
tional interests
tional agency
genuine reflection of the
Council’s majority position in
the European legislature, in
particular with the European
Parliament in the co-decision
biased reflection of the Council’s ma-
jority position in the European legis-
lature, in particular with the European
Parliament in the co-decision proce-
dure, to push through the country’s
own position within the Council
external rep-
genuine reflection of the
Council’s majority position in
negotiations with third states
biased reflection of the Council’s ma-
jority position in negotiations with
third states to push through the coun-
try’s own position within the Council
media spin-
staging the negotiation re-
sults, in particular vis-à-vis its
own population, as the EU’s
staging the negotiation results, in par-
ticular vis-à-vis its national popula-
tion, as a merit of its own Presidency,
thereby disguising national interests
as contributions to the European com-
mon good
The contingency dimension
The success of a Council Presidency, regardless of the criteria for success,
partly depends on circumstances beyond the Presidency’s control (Schout
and Vanhoonacker 2006; Kietz 2007a). In order to acknowledge this con-
tingency of the Presidency’s performance, we distinguish between endoge-
Chapter 1: Introduction
nous and exogenous variables that determine the Presidency’s performance
(see also Bunse 2009: 16-17). The policy field studies pay attention to the
wider context in which the operation of a Presidency is placed. The endoge-
nous variables include domestic background, reputation, special resources
and timely preparation, whereas exogenous variables cover sensitivity of the
negotiated issue, external shocks, given deadlines or usurpative initiatives
by other actors.
One of the most essential endogenous variables is the domestic environ-
ment in the country holding the Presidency. A democratically elected gov-
ernment can act autonomously in international negotiations only to a limited
degree (Putnam 1988). There are three important obstacles to a smooth
Presidency. First of all, upcoming parliamentary or presidential elections
may severely impede the incumbent’s leadership capacity since the govern-
ing parties have to simultaneously run an election campaign at home and, if
unsuccessful, a new government can exchange the Presidency team. Second,
an unstable government coalition or a strong opposition may constrain the
Presidency’s flexibility, which is pivotal for an efficient term. Third, an
overall sceptical attitude of the national population may considerably reduce
the Presidency’s ambitions in a certain policy field or regarding further in-
tegration in general.
A good reputation constitutes a trust-enforcing resource for a mediator.
A state known to adamantly pursue its national interests is suspected of
abusing its improved formal status as an additional strategic resource and
might face a tougher term in office. Since confessionals presuppose confi-
dence in the broker’s impartiality, the participating members might start to
conceal their intrinsic preference or even openly protest against the practices
of the incumbent Presidency.
A profound and timely preparation may prove to be as relevant as the
availability of special resources such as expertise in a policy field or special
relations to third states (Tallberg 2008). The Presidency’s information ad-
vantage allows for a better detection of compromises and thus can provide
the incumbent with alternative solutions to collective problems and may help
to convince other member states to accept its own favourable outcome.
Furthermore, the Presidency is constrained by several exogenous vari-
ables beyond its control. The first one is the sensitivity of the negotiated
subject, which results from the intensity and distribution of national prefer-
ences within the Council. In particular regarding redistributive issues, hard
bargaining strategies are likely to be adopted which restrain the Presidency’s
informal space for manoeuvre (McKibben 2010: 698). In situations of high
Thomas Mehlhausen and Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
uncertainty over a decision’s distributional consequences, however, norms
provide a first reliable guidance for one’s behaviour. In principle, it might
be assumed that the lower the intensity of interests, the more likely the ad-
herence to community norms is (Mehlhausen 2009a: 96-114). Moreover, a
heterogeneity of preferences in the Council limits the potential for self-in-
terested conduct since the number of available win-sets dwindles (Putnam
1988) and, consequently, the leeway is narrowed to maximise one’s utility
by advocating the most beneficial out of the feasible outcomes. The most
devastating impact on the initial agenda can be attributed to external shocks
and usurpative initiatives. For example, the Georgian–Russian military con-
flict in 2008 absorbed much of the French Presidency’s resources. Regarding
usurpative initiatives, small states are particularly prone to being overridden
by larger states on the grounds of their limited bureaucratic capacities. For
instance, the French activity in the EU foreign policy during the Czech Pres-
idency in 2009 can be viewed as an attempt to sideline this rather small
The structure of the book
The empirical chapters deal with virtually all policy fields that are central
for an assessment of the Polish Presidency, including the institutional de-
velopments in the EU, the Eastern Partnership, the Climate and Energy Pol-
icy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Single Market and the
Enlargement Policy of the EU. This mixture of policy fields gives a broad
picture of the Polish Presidency revealing its individual successes and fail-
ures in particular as well as the potential and limitations of rotating EU
Council Presidencies after the Lisbon Treaty in general.
Chapter 2 focuses on the general performance of the Polish EU Council
Presidency. Piotr Kaczyński argues that the limitations of the Lisbon Treaty
rendered the Polish Presidency politically irrelevant. The largely reduced
role of the rotating EU Council Presidencies became quite visible in the
Polish case, even though Poland is a larger EU member state and it has been
committed to the preparations for the Presidency long before its beginning.
Despite its sizeable political and administrative resources and its overall
effective performance the Polish Presidency fell short of political weight on
the European arena. On the one hand, the Polish government handled the
parliamentary elections and the coordination with the permanent President
of the European Council and the High Representative remarkably well. Also,
Chapter 1: Introduction
Poland’s public administration could achieve some success during the UN
climate and the European patent negotiations despite their lack of experience
from previous Presidencies. On the other hand, however, Poland could exert
only very limited influence on the Schengen policy and particularly econo-
mic governance during the Euro crisis as the Polish initiative to participate
in the Euro group in the ECOFIN meetings was rejected.
Chapter 3 by Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza deals with the
institutional aspects of the Polish Presidency. The authors point to the fact
that the Presidency acted mainly as a service provider and fulfilled its man-
agement tasks, thereby making it comparable to other ‘post-Lisbon’ Presi-
dencies. The Polish government was capable of guaranteeing the smooth
running of the EU’s legislative and administrative processes. Although pub-
lically largely invisible, its role in paving the way for compromises between
27 EU member states, the European Parliament and various interest groups
was very successful. In that role, Poland supported, for instance, the prepa-
ration and follow-up of the European Council and the different Council con-
figurations and mediated between the Council and the European Parliament
in legislative matters and between the different member states in internal
Council matters. Important examples include the agreement on the Sixpack
legislation, the budget for 2012 and the compromise on general arrangements
when issuing EU statements in multilateral forums.
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang focus in their chapter on the Eastern
Partnership a pivotal area of activity for Poland’s Council Presidency.
Despite its relevance on the Polish agenda, little progress could be made in
this realm. The authors characterise Warsaw’s approach as ambitious real-
ism. On the one hand, Poland did not conceal its high expectations in this
area, which was reflected by two major events the Eastern Partnership
Summit and the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. On the other hand,
the Polish government recognised the external limitations, for instance the
shift of attention from the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood towards the MENA
region or the adverse effects of the disputed Tymoshenko incarceration. As
a result, Poland followed a rather defensive approach, in order to safeguard
what had already been achieved. However, it resulted from a pragmatic un-
derstanding of the external circumstances, rather than weakness, as Poland
had to stabilise the structure of the Eastern Partnership as well as its funding
against the pressures linked to the ‘Arabellion’.
Chapter 5 by Ernest Wyciszkiewicz deals with the areas of climate and
energy. According to the author, Poland was better prepared to play the role
of neutral broker in the field of energy. This resulted from the fact that the
Thomas Mehlhausen and Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski
energy policy of Poland was much closer to the EU mainstream than its
climate policy. Thus, Poland could easily and credibly use the language of
the EU’s ‘common good’ when speaking about its energy policy plans.
However, in the area of climate policy Poland displayed a more self-centred
approach and the contrast between the Polish position and that of other
member states was quite visible. Nonetheless, in the field of climate policy
Poland was under strong pressure before the Presidency to act in line with
the majority due to its performed function.
In her chapter, Monika Sus explores the Common Foreign and Security
Policy during the Polish Presidency, as particularly in this area the Lisbon
Treaty has introduced significant changes. The author analyses both the in-
stitutional aspects in terms of the cooperation between the Polish Presidency
and European actors involved in CFSP and the conceptual contribution that
the Presidency intended to deliver during its term. Poland can be described
as an ‘attentive supporter‘ of the High Representative. In this sense, Poland
did not only manage to be a supporting Presidency, that is to substitute
Catherine Ashton and cooperate with her in the organisation of informal
meetings, but also it came up with new foreign policy proposals such as the
European Endowment for Democracy. Moreover, the Polish government put
attention and brought new ideas within the Common Security and Defence
Policy, which points to a moderate success of the Polish Presidency under
dynamic institutional circumstances.
Chapter 7 by Paweł Tokarski analyses the problématique of the single
market during the Polish Presidency. The author argues that many initiatives
concerning the EU’s single market became a ‘mission impossible for Poland
due to the escalation of the financial and sovereign debt crisis in the Euro-
zone. In this sense, the single market fell victim to the crisis, which had an
impact on the Polish initiatives in this area. Nonetheless, Poland as a single-
market-friendly member state was able to achieve some success, for instance
concerning the progress in the European unitary patent protection, despite
the unfavourable political context. The single market now belongs to the
margins of public attention, compared to other policies that are less complex
and more media-friendly. Therefore, Poland had to deal with difficulties to
overcome the single market fatigue and push forward with some of the
Chapter 8 by Janusz Józef Węc deals with the EU’s enlargement process.
The author argues that the results of the Polish Presidency in the area of the
enlargement process of the European Union were quite positive. Despite the
objections and doubts expressed by the governments of many member states,
Chapter 1: Introduction
resulting from the sovereign debt crisis of the Eurozone and the need for
internal and external consolidation of the European Union, the Polish Pres-
idency managed to maintain the concept of enlargement of the Union as a
relevant element on the Union’s agenda. Furthermore, the Polish govern-
ment was successful at finalising the text of the accession treaty with Croatia
and brought about the signing of the treaty in December 2011.
Chapter 9 by Mario Kölling explores the negotiation of the post-2013
Multiannual Financial Framework as one of the most critical political chal-
lenges for the European Union since 2011. From the perspective of the Polish
Council Presidency the MFF negotiations were of utmost relevance since
Poland is the main beneficiary of the Cohesion and Structural Funds and the
‘leader’ of the group of member states which defend a strong Cohesion Pol-
icy. In this context, the proposals of the European Commission and the
European Parliament were of particular interest since Poland expected them
to be natural allies in maintaining a generous budget.
In the last chapter we draw conclusions concerning the performance of
the Polish EU Council Presidency. We first discuss theoretical predictions
on the behavioural strategy the Polish government was to adopt. We then
discuss along our analytical framework to what extent Warsaw met the
functional needs, to which self-conception it tended and which endogeneous
and exogeneous challenges it faced. Drawing on the empirical chapters of
this volume we contend that the Polish term may serve as a yardstick for
future incumbents and we argue that in order to be successful a Presidency
must ensure a timely preparation and seek close ties with the HR. Our case
study confirms the expectation that the rotating Presidency will provide
considerably less potential to impact EU politics. Nonetheless, under certain
circumstances it may still turn out to be a crucial channel of influence.
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Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
Overview of the general performance of the Polish Council
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
The Treaty of Lisbon has made the rotating Council Presidencies politically
irrelevant. Before December 2009 the national leaders controlled the Coun-
cil activities, and the relationship between the Council and the Parliament
favoured the Council much more than after December 2009. On the one
hand, under the new rules the Council has lost political weight and is now
balanced in almost all its activities by the European Parliament. The Euro-
pean Council, on the other hand, has largely taken over the political clout
from the Council Presidencies, as it now has its own permanent President,
and there is no special role left for the rotating Presidency (see the contri-
bution of Mehlhausen and Karolewski in this volume). On top of these
things, not only have the Council powers towards other institutions been
limited, but also within the Council the rotating Presidency has been limited
by the permanent chair of the Foreign Affairs Council and many of the sub-
sidiary working parties and committees.
Because of all these limitations, the rotating Presidencies are no longer
Union Presidencies. If this concept was not yet fully visible before the Polish
Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second semester of
2011, then the Polish experience is very telling. In the time of economic and
political crises the ongoing dedication to the difficult legislative issues was
probably more important than the political ambitions of individual politi-
cians. For these reasons the Polish Council Presidency of the second half of
2011 can be considered successful.
Statistically, the Polish term was the fourth Presidency from the ten coun-
tries which joined the Union seven years before. After the Slovenian (first
half of 2008), Czech (first half of 2009) and Hungarian Presidency (first half
of 2011) were either insignificant or turbulent, the Polish half-year came
when the ‘novelty’ of newer states was no longer relevant. The older mem-
bers have now experienced Presidencies managed by ‘states in the East’;
there is enough experience in the region to share with the first-timers (Cyprus
in 2012, Lithuania in 2013 and so forth), and the most important question is
no longer ‘can they manage’ the Presidency business, but ‘how can they
help’ to solve the multiple ongoing crises. This question has been particularly
visible in the Polish case, as the previous newer states’ Presidencies were all
low-profile ones (with the half-exception of the first two months of the Czech
Presidency), and the Poles’ ambitions were high. They did not even hide that
the Presidency is the entrance on the scene of this country as one of the EU’s
heavyweights. Therefore, their success or failure – or, in real life, the limits
to their objectives – were important lessons for the country to improve its
position in the EU in the years ahead.
In this chapter I analyse the running of the Council Presidency in the
following order. First, I look at the preparations and the agenda of the Pres-
idency. Then, I explore the various opportunities used and success stories of
the Presidency. Finally, I consider the impact of the anticipated and unfore-
seen problems.
The kick-off
The Presidency being legislatively influential but politically marginalised,
the Polish entry was still spectacular. There were many cultural activities all
around Europe, including masterpiece exhibitions in Madrid and London
and an exhibition in Brussels, “The Power of Fantasy”, called the best con-
temporary art exhibition of the year by the Financial Times (Wullschlager
2011). This wave of activities symbolised the arrival of a new actor on the
European political scene. The beginning of every Presidency is crucial at
least from the public affairs perspective, as the public attention focuses on
the country ‘in the main chair’ only for a few weeks prior to the Presidency
and a few weeks after the Presidency has begun. After a low-profile Hun-
garian Presidency, the Poles thus started with a tremendous cultural and
political offensive and a very well received speech in the European Parlia-
ment by Prime Minister Donald Tusk on the EU’s challenges (Tusk 2011).
Importantly, the domestic political commitment has also been fully con-
firmed. Some Czech (2009) and Hungarian (2011) pre-Presidency experi-
ences were negative in this respect. The lessons from Prague and Budapest
seemed to be: if the partners do not know you well in advance, they will not
allow you to chair meetings effectively. In order not to face the same reality,
the long-standing dedication also meant that the administrative preparations
for the Presidency had been organised already for a couple of years before.
The Polish Presidency preparations included a wide-ranging consultation
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
programme, including a visit by the entire Polish cabinet to Brussels twelve
months before the Presidency. In the first days of July, the Commission paid
a return visit to Warsaw. The Presidency budget was not affected by austerity
measures adopted in 2009 and 2010. There were more Presidency staffers
than under the preceding Presidency. Out of some 1,200 people working for
the Presidency in Brussels and Warsaw, the Polish Permanent Representa-
tion in Brussels employed up to 300 persons (Hungarian staff in the first half
year numbered about 200 persons). Also, the Presidency hired one of Brus-
sels’ top PR companies to look after its image and Prime Minister Tusk
completed his European tour of capitals offensive ahead of 1 July. In short,
the Presidency was not short of staff, resources or commitment and the
question has been rather about its management and effective organisation.
All of these activities aimed at overcoming the shortcomings of holding the
Presidency for the first time. It turned out very well as there was no criticism
towards the Presidency throughout the six-month term. Quite to the contrary,
some expectations had arisen which were difficult to meet effectively.
An early institutional setback was also indicative of the country’s high
political ambitions. Despite not being a member of the Eurozone, the Polish
Finance Minister was first asked to participate and then denied a seat in the
meetings of the Eurogroup. Two arguments were equally solid. On the one
hand, why would a Polish minister be present if Poland is outside the Euro-
zone? On the other hand, how can the Economic and Financial Affairs
Council (ECOFIN) be effectively run and rubberstamp the Eurogroup de-
cisions if its chairman is not in the room? For the system’s swifter operational
running, it would be welcomed if all rotating ECOFIN chairs were present
in Eurogroup meetings. Poland’s leverage over the Eurogroup was thus non-
existent. The Poles were soldiers in the war on the crisis in the Eurozone (i.e.
work they performed on the Sixpack on the economic governance), but they
were not among the generals who met on 21 July 2011 as a summit of the
heads of state or government of the Euro area member states. The issue of
presence at Eurogroup meetings returned like a boomerang towards the end
of the Polish term (see below).
Despite not presiding over the European Council and the Foreign Affairs
Council, the rotating Presidency still chairs nine other Council formations,
the very influential Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER)
meetings and over 150 other lower-ranked working parties and committees
(table 1). Outside of the Council, the Presidency also had a parliamentary
dimension, since it chaired the cooperation among national parliaments of
the European Union. Within this dimension of the Presidency there were 11
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
inter-parliamentary meetings of various parliamentary committees (includ-
ing COSAC, energy, finance, agriculture, defence CODACC, and foreign
affairs COFACC). Among the notable topics covered (but unsolved) was the
issue of involvement of national parliaments in the pan-European debate on
European foreign policy.
Table 1: Polish representatives chairing the Council formations and
institutional body chairmanship
General Affairs Council State Secretary Mikołaj Dowgielewicz
Competitiveness Council Vice-PM and Minister of Economy Waldemar
Economic and Financial Affairs
Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski
Justice and Home Affairs Council Justice Minister Krzysztof Kwiatkowski* and Inte-
rior Minister Jerzy Miller*
Agriculture and Fisheries Coun-
Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki
Transport, Telecommunications
and Energy Council**
Infrastructure Minister Cezary Grabarczyk* and
Vice-PM Pawlak (on energy)***
Environment Council Environment Minister Andrzej Kraszewski
Education, Youth, Culture and
Sport Council**
Education Minister Katarzyna Hall*, Higher Edu-
cation Minister Barbara Kudrycka, Culture Minis-
ter Bogdan Zdrojewski or Sport Minister Adam
Employment, Social Policy,
Health and Consumer Affairs
Labour Minister Jolanta Fedak, Health Minister
Ewa Kopacz or Vice-PM Pawlak (on consumer af-
COREPER I Deputy Permanent Representative Karolina Os-
COREPER II Ambassador Jan Tombiński
Comments: *These ministers were replaced following the establishment of the second
Tusk cabinet in November 2011; ** representation depending on the specific issue; ***
usually represented by one of his deputies
Shaping and reshuffling the agenda, the official priorities for the Council
proceedings were described on 38 pages of its programme. The three main
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
headlines were: “European integration as a source of growth”, “secure Eu-
rope” and “Europe benefitting from its openness”. The unfolding of events,
however, strongly redefined the priority list. Two events marked the Presi-
dency’s fate regarding its agenda-setting capacity. First, the emergence of
the Eurozone Summits as the decisive moments when the key decisions were
taken on the Euro crisis overshadowed the Poles twofold. Not only had the
Presidency no longer chaired the European Councils but also the Poles were
not even around the table on 21 July or 26 October, when the most important
decisions were discussed. The last December 2011 European Council
showed clearly that the Poles not only were unable to lead, but they were
equally unable to prevent the idea of a Fiscal Compact from emerging. The
proposed treaty was marginalising Poland and other non-Eurozone countries
in the European Union.
The second event bounced Poland back into the leading stream of the
European debate. In his speech in Berlin on 28 November 2011, the Foreign
Minister outlined his European convictions in the following way: “What, as
Poland’s foreign minister, do I regard as the biggest threat to the security
and prosperity of Poland today […]? It’s not terrorism, it’s not the Taliban,
and it’s certainly not German tanks. It’s not even Russian missiles which
President Medvedev has just threatened to deploy on the EU’s border. The
biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland would be the collapse
of the Eurozone” (Sikorski 2011). This speech had some impact on the
European debate on the future of the continent, but at the same time it had
a major impact on the perception of Poland among the German political elite.
The speech was somewhat a culmination of the Poles’ aspirations to voice
their uncompromising pro-Europeanness coupled with emerging economy
and political activity.
There was a clear void in the leadership despite the appearance of a per-
manent chair of the European Council. In the ongoing pan-European debate,
the voices advocating the deepening of the integration were limited. Not only
did the strong pro-EU position of the Polish government at large and Prime
Minister Tusk in particular raise the profile of Poland, but they were also
important voices in the pan-European debate on the future of the integration.
His opening speech in the European Parliament was strongly pro-European:
“The response to the crisis is more of Europe and more of integration” (Tusk
2011). Tusk’s closing speech was also well received, even though in hind-
sight it remained in the shadow of Sikorski’s speech in Berlin. Ever since
the beginning, the Presidency was widely perceived as unquestionably pro-
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
European, which allowed it to secure a more trusting relationship with the
European Parliament.
The opportunities used
The most important dossier during these six months (or, at least during its
first half) turned out to be the economic governance’s Sixpack. Its successful
adoption in early autumn 2011 was an important step in the EU’s struggle
with the crisis, but it was equally important for the Presidency to show its
ability to be effective. Other difficult yet important issues were the 30-year-
old story of negotiating a status of European patents, the debate on the
Schengen rules and the Schengen enlargement to Romania and Bulgaria, the
beginning of the debate on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the suc-
cessful adoption of the annual 2012 budget, and the horizontal issue of cor-
relation tables. The correlation tables aim at improving the transposition of
European laws into national laws and make the process more transparent.
However, for a number of years the Council and the Parliament did not agree
on the shape of the correlation tables; the stalemate put on hold work on at
least two other directives on child pornography and on fruit juices. The
compromise on correlation tables was finally adopted in October.
The context of each of the rotating Council Presidencies has been central
for their relative successes. The same rule applies to Poland. The dire eco-
nomic situation made the life of the Presidency more difficult. For that rea-
son, when asked to assess the Presidency at its mid-term, the Europe Minister
Dowgielewicz identified trust as the main challenge (Dowgielewicz 2011).
The ongoing economic crisis has strongly challenged European integrity.
However, the system is not operational if the partners (states, institutions)
do not trust one another. Trust, and its consequence, solidarity between EU
members, is a precondition of any form of European integration. “Trust is
the European currency; it is the socio-political glue for the European project”
(Dowgielewicz 2011).
A number of further circumstances have helped Polish ambitions. Poland
established a broad network of contacts to other key players in the European
Union. It developed special ties to the EU’s largest of strongholds, Germany.
Not only could the Presidency learn from the German Presidency, it was also
important for the Presidency not to be undermined by Germany when exer-
cising the Presidency – additional backing makes life easier. Warsaw-Berlin
relations were so close that some third country officials informally com-
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
plained that the Poles were investing too much in Germany at the expense
of other states. Prime Minister Tusk and Chancellor Merkel enjoy particu-
larly good relations and mutual trust. In the run-up to the Presidency, the
Chancellor was coming to Poland at least once a month. However, this did
not change the German policy that France is its main European partner. Since
autumn 2010, the Poles therefore started to invest strongly in the (Polish–
French–German) Weimar cooperation, especially in defence matters. The
Polish–German relationship, however, has evolved. Since mid-Presidency,
the Poles conveyed a message of the unity of the EU-27 in the context of the
new debate on the treaty changes and strengthening of the integration. Their
objective was for Berlin to include the Polish views as much as possible.
The results were mixed. On many occasions German support was important,
such as to smoothly lead the MAFF negotiations, or to start free trade talks
with Georgia, but on the key issue of the autumn of 2011 – the unity of the
EU-27 – the Germans remained undecided. On the one hand, without them
non-Eurozone countries could probably not become parties to the Fiscal
Compact. On the other hand, their presence is secondary.
The ties were exceptionally close with Berlin, but Warsaw also enjoyed
good relations with many other actors, too. The mostly passive Central and
Eastern European nations did not follow Poland as a regional leader – as in
some corners in Warsaw people like to think about Poland – but they were
learning more and more to at least recognise Warsaw’s regional leadership
on specific issues. They rarely challenged Poland unless the Poles have
proven to be arrogant (see below). Additionally, the Czechs, Slovaks and
Hungarians the Visegrad partners were pre-contacted on many occa-
sions.1 Importantly, the Visegrad leaders usually met ahead of the European
Council meetings. Since the main role of the rotating Presidency is to be the
honest broker, most Presidencies often share with their most trusted allies
their national interests, so that those states will de facto represent the Pres-
idency’s national position in Council proceedings. In the Polish case, at least
some of the Visegrad states received lists of issues in which Poland asked
for informal representation.
Apart from Germany and the Visegrad group, Poles also enjoyed good
working relations with countries like Sweden (especially between the For-
eign Ministers) and Denmark (within the Trio) in the Baltic Sea area and
1 These nations together with Poland form the Visegrad Group – a political forum for
exchange of ideas, and at times political cooperation.
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
with France (as strategic partners, and in cooperation within the Weimar
Triangle together with Germany). France, however, has been among the
most difficult partners for Poland in running the Presidency. A strong pro-
EU voice gained further support in states like Finland, Belgium or Luxem-
bourg, traditionally supportive of the deepening of EU integration. Cooper-
ation with Finland seemed to be effective on two accounts: in the second
half of 2011 the country had been emerging as a potential middle ground
broker in the area of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, and, secondly,
in November it dropped its veto on Schengen enlargement to Romania and
The Polish dedication to European issues has been exceptional. This was
the other positive development that helped them in running the Council. Not
only is a great majority of the population pro-EU (figure 1), but the govern-
ment is also firmly pro-EU and supportive of the EU institutions. The good
relationship with the European Parliament is particularly noteworthy. Due
to the clearly pro-European position of the Polish government, all major EP
political groups – for the first time in years – warmly welcomed the incoming
rotating Council Presidency. The European People’s Party and the Socialist
& Democrats Group, as well as the Liberals and the Greens, all manifested
to be pro-Council. The reason for the positive approach lies in the clearly
pro-European position of the Polish government. Already twelve months
before the Presidency, the entire Polish government met with the College of
European Commissioners in Brussels – an event without precedent in recent
history. The strong pro-European Parliament position was confirmed when
Prime Minister Tusk addressed the chamber in July 2011. The legislature’s
president was a fellow Pole, Jerzy Buzek, a politician from the same party
as the Polish leader.
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
Figure 1: Support for European integration in Poland 1999–2011
Source: Standard Eurobarometer 56–75.
The limits of ambitions
The Euro crisis
Positive constellations on the European sky for Poland were not, however,
the only ones on the cloudy European firmament. The biggest set of risks
for the Presidency was in the crisis in the Eurozone. It largely overshadowed
the Presidency since Poland has not introduced the Euro as its currency. The
Presidency was not at the centre of the public debate, and was not even
invited to the extraordinary summit of the heads of state or governments of
the Eurozone members of 21 July 2011. Surprisingly, there was a reference
to the Polish Presidency in this document. At first sight it reads as a reference
to an actor who should follow the summit’s conclusions: “Euro area mem-
bers will fully support the Polish Presidency in order to reach agreement
with the European Parliament on voting rules in the preventive arm of the
[Stability and Growth] Pact” (Council of the European Union 2011). How-
ever, another explanation is that this paragraph was illustrating not the Polish
irrelevance in the Eurozone debates, but a softening of the French position
on the so-called Sixpack. In the timely adoption of the Sixpack, France was
the main “troublemaker”, together with some Members of the European
Parliament. Paris as the main protagonist of closer political integration with-
in the Eurozone (without Poland) did not only delay the Sixpack but also
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
vetoed the participation of Poland’s Finance Minister in the Eurogroup
meetings. This explains Poland’s attempt at a greater focus on Paris since
mid-Presidency and in Poland’s Europe policy post-Presidency well into
As a consequence, Poland was not among the main actors addressing the
most important issues of the crisis. Its role, however, was as supportive as
possible. Warsaw has shown that being outside the Eurozone does not keep
it silent. For example, the Euro Plus Pact adopted earlier in 2011 was initially
considered a pact for the Eurozone states, and only at the Polish request in
February 2011 was the project opened up to the non-Eurozone countries. In
2011–2012 negotiations of the Fiscal Compact, the Polish team also advo-
cated openness of the document to non-Eurozone countries, tried to limit the
competence of the Eurozone summits and fought (unsuccessfully) for a seat
at the table during the Eurozone summits. Both cases illustrated the political
commitment of Warsaw to actively pursue inclusive solutions to the ongoing
and developing situations.
The Schengen debates
The political climate in Europe in 2011 was grim; hence there was a risk that
the Polish message of optimism was not being taken seriously. Next to the
difficult financial and economic situation, the future of the Schengen zone
was also at stake. The EU passport-free travel area of most of the EU nations
was to have been enlarged to include Bulgaria and Romania. While Poles
would in fact prefer to keep the zone untouched, other nations (i.e. France,
Italy and Denmark) had at times been aggressively pursuing revisionist pol-
icies in the first half of the year. Hence, the European debate was marked by
many controversies, and national popular or populist voices. The Presiden-
cy’s role (in chairing position, this time) was to maintain the Schengen rules
as untouched as possible. This was achieved thanks to timing rather than
active negotiations; in Denmark elections took place and since then the issue
had been largely dropped. In Italy and France the situation had somewhat
normalised. Malta continued to be in need of assistance, but this did not
require a changing of the rules.
Yet, the Schengen enlargement continued to cause problems. As hap-
pened with previous Presidencies, this issue put the Presidency on a collision
course with some other member states. Particularly difficult relations were
with the Netherlands, which vetoed the Schengen enlargement together with
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
Finland in September 2011. The Finns have since removed their veto, but
the Dutch did not until the end of 2011. Polish–Dutch bilateral relations were
also challenged earlier in 2011 by unfortunate developments in the Nether-
lands Polish migrants ridiculed by Dutch extremists – and The Hague
government’s limited political flexibility, as it was dependent on populist
parties’ support in the national parliament. Before the Presidency, relations
with Lithuania worsened over the situation of the Polish minority in the
country. Also, with the UK, the ties became strained mainly due to diverging
views on annual EU budgets, EU cohesion funds and the MAFF negotia-
tions. During the Presidency, cooperation with both the Lithuanians and the
British – on the future treaty revisions – improved significantly.
The parliamentary elections in Poland
The difficult pan-European climate was matched by domestic affairs. De-
spite strong domestic support for EU membership, there was no consensus
among political parties on how to run the EU Council Presidency. In recent
years, two main parties have dominated Polish politics: the liberal-conser-
vative Civic Platform (PO) of Donald Tusk (about 40% of support), which
is a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), and the conservative-
nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party of Jarosław Kaczyński (about 30%
of support), which is a member of the European Conservatives and Reform-
ers (ECR). Two smaller parties are the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) – a
social democratic party, which a decade ago had about 40% of support, but
in recent years has been largely marginalised to about 10% of public support,
and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) an agrarian junior ruling coalition
party with about 8% of support, also a member of the EPP. The coalition
parties and SLD agreed that the government running the Council Presidency
should enjoy national support; hence, they refrained from public criticism
of the government over the Presidency. However, the main opposition party,
PiS, was critical of the government preparations before July 2011 and pre-
sented their own vision of the Presidency’s priorities.
The risks related to elections were prominent. Polish elections were
scheduled for 9 October 2011 and it was constitutionally impossible to post-
pone them until after the Presidency. The political parties considered holding
early elections in the spring of 2011, but the decision was never taken. The
electoral turbulence was minimised with the electoral results. The PO won
with 39.1% of public support, while the PiS result of 29.9% placed it as the
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
main opposition party. The new Sejm created a very comfortable situation
for the Prime Minister, whose party could choose with whom to form a new
government. The PO chose its previous partner, the PSL, and the new gov-
ernment was sworn in November 2011. Some of the Presidency-engaged
ministers changed, but not the Europe Minister, the Foreign Minister, the
Finance Minister or the Prime Minister. The electoral results brought to the
Sejm for the first time a new pro-European socio-liberal party, the Palikot
Movement, which was supported by 10% of the voters.
Apart from the risk of changing the government in the middle of the Pres-
idency, there were two other risks related to the elections. First, there was
the risk of domestic politicisation of the Presidency during the electoral
campaign. This materialised only partially when the PO issued a TV adver-
tisement arguing that only they had the best people in the country to secure
Polish interests in the European Union. Hence, a side-effect of this adver-
tisement might have been that the Council Presidency is organised for the
purpose of promoting national interests as opposed to being the honest
The second elections-related risk refers to marginalising the Presidency-
related topics from the public debate in Poland. In fact, the campaign re-
placed the interest of the national media in the Presidency affairs. The focus
was on the domestic political campaign and, following the elections, on the
process of government formation. The news from the European Union was
as often about the Polish Presidency as about new crisis developments, the
Eurozone Summits or the European Councils. It can justifiably be argued
that the Presidency did not attract much attention either outside the country
or inside Poland.
The lack of European experience of Poland’s public administration
Another potential risk was linked to the obvious fact that this was the first
Council Presidency of Poland. There were no national experts in the public
administration who would know how to run it. Hence, all of the 1,200 per-
sons employed, to some extent – despite a long preparatory phase – had to
learn ‘on the job’. The ability to constantly readjust on an ongoing basis was
required. On the one hand, there is an old tradition of limited consensus-
seeking in the Polish public administration and a limited number of experi-
enced negotiators. On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of hierarch-
ical decision-making. All of these elements could potentially be detrimental
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
for the Presidency: negotiating Presidency staff needed to remain as flexible
as possible as an honest broker; in order for them to succeed the level of
autonomy from their supervisors also needed to be high.
In principle, there are two ways of managing the Presidencies: from the
national capital or by the Permanent Representation in Brussels. Usually the
higher the degree of autonomy of the Permanent Representation, the higher
the degree of effectiveness of the Presidency. Yet, in the past the Presidencies
that were more political than administrative (i.e. those of larger member
states) were usually managed with tighter control from the national capital.
This limited their administrative effectiveness, but in exchange they may
have compensated with greater political effectiveness.
The French Presidency in 2008 ran a Presidency based in Paris, but as the
French national capital is only 1 hour 22 minutes away by train from Brussels
and the trains go every hour, during the French semester in 2008 Paris and
Brussels (French Permanent Representation) functionally (almost) merged.
The Poles were in a different situation and the relative trust between various
branches of the government – especially between the Warsaw-based min-
istries and the Polish Permanent Representation – was not fully tested ahead
of the Presidency.
The reason why the Permanent Representation needed more trust was
linked with the fact that these people were in direct ongoing contact with
their partners from fellow member states, the Commission and the Parlia-
ment. They usually had the best understanding of what compromises were
feasible and when, while pursuing the negotiations; delayed acceptance of
these agreements by supervisors in the national capital was occasionally
detrimental to the delicate process of consensus-seeking. Overall, however,
in the long preparatory phase the typical Polish public administration’s
shortcomings were mostly overcome. Two negotiations were successful: the
UN climate negotiations in Durban in December, where the Polish Presi-
dency was part of the negotiating team with the European Commission; and
the European patents negotiations, which substantially moved forward dur-
ing the second half of 2011.
Relations with Lisbon EU actors
The Polish cooperation with the two new actors created by the Lisbon Treaty
clearly indicated that there is a post-Lisbon model for the smooth running
of the rotating Presidency: the Prime Minister’s and the Foreign Minister’s
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
activities were supportive rather than competitive to that of Mr Van Rompuy
and Lady Ashton. The Polish Presidency has been a test for both of these
EU leaders, as the Polish ministers, Prime Minister Tusk and Foreign Mi-
nister Sikorski, did not choose to lower their profile. Quite to the contrary,
they chose to work in ‘tandem’ with their European counterparts. Their role
model was the following: not to challenge the EU leaders, but to strengthen
and motivate them to be more ambitious about what was possible. They have
been moderately successful – more in the area of foreign policy than within
the European Council, though.
Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, who on the one hand
were the two figures not chairing any of the Council formation, and on the
other hand were probably the most visible (alongside the Finance Minister,
and at a lower level the Europe Minister and the Permanent Representative)
as ‘Presidency faces’. In the pre-Treaty of Lisbon situation, Prime Minister
Tusk would have chaired the European Council and Foreign Minister Siko-
rski the foreign affairs body. Since they chose not to withdraw completely
and give space to the EU leaders, the pending question ahead of the Presi-
dency was how to organise their role in the Presidency. Clearly they pre-
ferred to have a visible role, which was important at least because of the
national elections. Their relationship with the formal leaders of both the
European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council became central.
The relations between Prime Minister Tusk and President Van Rompuy
were mostly smooth. The two leaders were known to be conciliators and
accommodating others’ perspectives. Hence, there was no real competition
between the two; Herman Van Rompuy’s main task was the situation in the
Eurozone, while Prime Minister Tusk focused on all other elements. One
situation, however, was important, and without a clear solution by the end
of the Presidency. Following the Dutch and Finnish veto over Schengen
enlargement to Romania and Bulgaria during the September 2011 JHA
Council, Prime Minister Tusk aimed at having the issue addressed at the
European Council. As the agenda of the European Council is set by its Pres-
ident, the two leaders met. The Poles tried to raise the issue of their concern
to the European Council. The outcome was only partially successful. The
issue was addressed during the November European Council, but there was
no agreement.
The relationship between Minister Sikorski and Lady Ashton remained
more challenging (see the contribution of Sus in this volume). The High
Representative did not enjoy good press as a foreign policy chief of the
European Union. Her position was weakened politically by member states
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
and their foreign ministers, her agenda was driven by external events, and
her public administration (the European External Action Service) was still
under construction. In that specific situation, Minister Sikorski came into
the Presidency as one of the longest-serving ministers of foreign affairs in
the EU, as one of the most vocal ministers and as someone who does not
avoid responsibility to take the initiative. In the absence of effective Brus-
sels-led European foreign policy, there was a risk that he might have taken
the lead on some issues. Ahead of the Presidency, there was a pending ques-
tion if Minister Sikorski would or would not challenge the leadership of High
Representative Ashton. And if not, what sort of relationship would the two
enjoy? The Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Janos Martonyi replaced
the High Representative on 14 different occasions during international meet-
ings when she was not able to participate. Would the Pole follow the model
of his Hungarian and Belgian predecessors?
In reality, ahead of the Presidency, Radosław Sikorski publicly pledged
loyalty to Catherine Ashton, and did not undermine her position. They
agreed that he would represent the Union not only in official meetings, but
also on official trips. Minister Sikorski went on a policy trip to Afghanistan
and Pakistan in that capacity, and on another occasion also to Libya. On the
ground, he was accompanied by EU diplomats. Not challenging, but still
policy-defining, were the activities related to the establishment of the Euro-
pean Endowment for Democracy. For that purpose both leaders, Ashton and
Sikorski, wrote a letter in November to their partners asking for support.
Also, the Polish minister represented the High Representative in the Euro-
pean Parliament. In short, the Ashton–Sikorski cooperation was in fact more
fruitful than expected.
The Polish Government started the EU Council Presidency ambitiously and
with high expectations. Poland had been committed to the preparations for
the Presidency for a number of years and proved to have a dedicated political
and administrative leadership. A critical assessment, however, needs to in-
clude the double jeopardy situation of the Polish Council Presidency in 2011.
The first limitation was brought about by the Treaty of Lisbon and has ef-
fectively decapitated all the Presidencies politically. A while back, Swedish
diplomats were asking the question “what is the role of our Prime Minister?”
when it looked like the new treaty was to enter ahead of the Swedish term
Chapter 2: Coping with multiple challenges
in 2009. The Polish Government faced the situation in reality. The second
limitation was related to Poland being outside the Eurozone. None of the
non-Eurozone countries can execute the ECOFIN Presidency fully, least of
all at a time of profound crisis in the Eurozone. Taking these limitations on
board, the first-time Council Presidencies, after all, are ‘maturity tests’ for
countries of their presence in the European Union. The Polish Council Pres-
idency of 2011 was such a test for Poland and it passed it successfully.
Council of the European Union (2011) Statement by the Heads of State or Government
of the Euro Area and EU Institutions, Brussels, 21 July 2011, available at: http://
Dowgielewicz, M. (2011) The Polish Presidency: A Mid-Term Assessment, lecture at
the Centre for European Policy Studies, 20 September 2011.
Sikorski, R. (2011) Poland and the future of the European Union, Speech at the German
Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, 28 November 2011, available at: http://
Tusk, D. (2011) Speech in the European Parliament, 6 July 2011, available at: http://
Wullschlager, J. (2011) Poles apart. Exhibitions highlight an exceptional generation of
Polish artists,, 24 June 2011, available at:
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
Institutional aspects of the Polish Council Presidency
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
From an institutional perspective, the Polish Presidency of the Council pro-
vided an interesting test case for the functioning of the rotating chair. Firstly,
after the Spanish Presidency in the first half of 2010, which took place in an
intermediate period, it was the first time a large member state with high
political ambitions took over the chairing of the Council under the rules of
the Lisbon Treaty. Several of the major institutional shifts of the Lisbon
reforms had a great impact on the institutional environment for the member
states chairing the Council meetings. Whereas previously the Presidency
chaired all meetings from the European Council to the nine formations of
the Council of Ministers down to all Council Working Groups, Poland now
had to cooperate closely with the permanent chairs introduced by the Lisbon
Treaty: the permanent President of the European Council, the High Repre-
sentative chairing the Council for Foreign Affairs as well as the several
Council Working Groups on external issues chaired by the European Ex-
ternal Action Service (EEAS). Although this leaves large parts of the ad-
ministrative work in the Council to the Presidency, the political shift of these
reforms were already apparent in the previous Presidencies under the Lisbon
rules insofar as Belgium, but also Spain and Hungary, worked primarily in
the background as a service provider rather than an agenda-setter (Bunse,
Rittelmeyer and Van Hecke 2011). Unlike the previous Presidencies, how-
ever, Poland had enough time to both learn from their experiences under the
Lisbon rules and coordinate early on with the President of the European
Council Herman Van Rompuy and High Representative Catherine Ashton.
The second institutional challenge for Poland was connected to the defin-
ing political theme during its term at the helm of the Council – the European
debt crisis. Though Poland like the other accession countries is obliged to
eventually adopt the common currency, it does not take part in decision-
making structures of the Eurozone. Even as Council Presidency, it was
therefore excluded from the politically most important consultation fora, that
is the Eurogroup and the newly created Euro Summits (see the contribution
of Kaczyński in this volume). As a Pre-In to the common currency, one of
the main institutional interests of the Polish government was to get access
to the negotiations of the Euro countries via its role chairing the Council,
including in the formation of economic and finance ministers.
These challenges raise the questions in which way Poland institutionally
pursued its Council Presidency in the second half of 2012 and which
precedents it established for other large EU member states under the Lisbon
rules. Did the Polish government follow in the footsteps of smaller members’
Presidencies by acting like a service provider, focusing on administrative
tasks, or did the Polish government pursue the strategy of agenda-setting, in
particular in areas of its own political interests? A special focus in this regard
will be put on the cooperation of the Polish Presidency with various other
institutional actors in the political system of the EU, in particular the Euro-
pean Council and its President, the European Parliament (EP) as well as the
High Representative and the EEAS. Finally, it is analysed how being a by-
stander to the Euro structures impacted the Polish government’s ability to
substantially influence EU politics during its time at the helm of the Council.
In conclusion, the analysis shows that even a large member state such as
Poland no longer has the institutional instruments for influencing high po-
litics as the Council chair, but that its successful fulfilment of the role of the
service provider and the smooth management both within the Council and
vis-à-vis the other EU institutions has greatly increased Poland’s image as
an important and constructive EU member state.
Organising the Council
Among the institutional roles and tasks prescribed to the rotating Presidency,
the management of the Council has changed the least in comparison with
the pre-Lisbon era. In addition, as other functions like the heading of the
European Council or external representation have been taken off the plate
of the Council Presidency, the importance of an effective and efficient or-
ganisation of the daily work of the Council has increased immensely. It is
also the task with the highest administrative challenges for the country at the
helm of the Council – in a Union of 27 member states, the Presidency has
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
to manage the negotiations in nine plus one Council formations1 as well as
a total of 132 Council Working Groups. The Presidency also has to coordi-
nate with a further 32 Council Working Groups (CWG) with permanent
chairs, most of which are active in the area of external relations (General
Secretariat of the Council 2012). The discussions here range from purely
technical exchanges in the CWG to the more political negotiations in the
Committee of Permanent Representatives up to the ministerial Council itself
(Hayes-Renshaw and Wallace 2006). The task of the Presidency in coordi-
nating this vast number of different fora is therefore mainly one of managing
negotiations, including setting the agenda of the different CWG and Council
formations, ensuring vertical and horizontal coherence between dossiers ne-
gotiated at different levels as well as tabling proposals for compromises after
bilateral and multilateral negotiations with the other member states (Thom-
son 2008).
Although largely invisible to the broader public, the importance of this
role of organising the Council can hardly be overstated for both the success
of a Presidency and the functioning of the EU as a whole. Of particular
importance and little visibility is this management in the CWG as previous
studies have shown that the majority of EU legislation is negotiated at the
lower levels with the ministers only engaging in the politically most con-
troversial areas (Häge 2008). It is therefore also the area where the Presi-
dency has to cooperate most closely with the General Secretariat of the
Council as well as the Commission and its previous presidencies in order to
organise the legislative calendar.
For this, the Polish administration started planning the organisation of its
Council Presidency four years before its start, namely in 2007. At first, it
consulted closely with the Commission over the general legislative plans for
the second half of 2011. As the Presidency drew closer, Poland presented
the priorities of its work programme to the member states in various CWG
as well as all ten Council formations in March to May 2010. Both Polish
officials and senior politicians also consulted extensively with the members
of the Trio Presidency and bilaterally with most of the 27 member states
(MFA 2012). The programme of the European Council and thus the Council
1 Since the Lisbon reforms, there are ten Council formations. As is well known, the
Council on Foreign Affairs is chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs
and Security Policy. However, when issues of trade policy are discussed, the rotating
Presidency also takes over the chair for the Council on Foreign Affairs.
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
for General Affairs was closely coordinated with the Office of the President
of the European Council (see below).
On the one hand, this thorough preparation allowed the Polish Presidency
to plan ahead the legislative work in the CWG and the ministerial meetings
with great detail. However, on the other hand many Polish proposals and
initiatives that were regarded as not having enough support or not matching
with the legislative calendar of the EU were taken off the agenda long before
the Presidency started. Additionally, Poland also had to live with the usual
constraint that, in practice, most of the agenda items on the Council were set
by the general legislative and political programme, while the few additional
topics are usually dictated by external pressure rather than the Presidency
itself (Schout and Vanhoonacker 2006). This is also true for the organisation
of the Council by the Polish Presidency, where the major agenda items like
the Sixpack for economic governance, the budget for 2012, the multi-annual
framework, and the EU patent or cohesion policies were part of the general
legislative programme of the EU.
Looking at the performance of the Presidency in managing the Council,
it is hard to measure the effectiveness and efficiency (see the contribution
of Mehlhausen and Karolewski in this volume). However, the first and very
positive observation that can be made on the functioning of the Council
during the Polish Presidency is that no major hiccups or controversies on the
management of the Council have been raised. To the contrary, in public
comments the Presidency was perceived as a smooth manager of Council
affairs which managed the negotiations mostly as an honest broker (Ebels
2011). This is also reflected in the quantity of meetings organised by the
Polish Presidency, where the administration chaired about 1,940 CWG
meetings in Brussels as well as approximately 450 meetings and summits in
Poland, including 300 expert conferences (Niklewicz 2011a). Compared to
the four presidencies from 2010 to 2011, this work programme is at the
higher end of the spectrum, with the Danish Presidency in the first half of
2012 organising 1,480 meetings and the Belgium Presidency in the second
half of 2010 some 1,943 meetings.2 Finally, an indicator for the management
of the Council is the number of legislative acts adopted by the Council during
2 Own calculation based on official information from the individual presidencies.
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
the Presidency3 as demonstrated in the following table, here the Polish
Presidency generally falls in line with previous presidencies, with a com-
parably high number of agreements on directives and Council decisions.
Table 1: Legislative acts adopted by the Council during the presidencies of
Regulations 82 85 94 80
Directives 25 11 21 34
Decisions 137 196 165 191
Source: Own calculation based on official information from EUR-Lex.
Almost normal member of the European Council
The chairing of the European Council used to be the most visible and polit-
ically important task of the Council Presidency. It was here that almost all
roles of the Presidency came together and the decisions that shaped the his-
torical view of the success or failure of a Presidency were often taken. As
the body where the heads of state and government set the major guidelines
for EU internal and external policy, the chairing of the European Council
put an extra spotlight on the political leader of the country holding the Pres-
idency, who had to manage negotiations at the highest political level, me-
diate between member states and also have much more leeway to set the
agenda than within the regular legislative calendar in the Council (Schild
and Koopmann 2009). The Presidency also used to represent the EU exter-
nally at the highest political level in questions of foreign, security and de-
fence policy. Not least, the European Council meetings were also generally
used for media staging, where the Presidency could present the final result
of long-night negotiations as successes to its own national and the wider
European public (Kietz 2007).
3 The number of legislative acts adopted during a presidency is of course only a rough
indicator of its effectiveness in managing the Council, as the legislative output of the
Council can also be affected by several other factors such as current events and the
cooperation with the European Parliament (Ondarza 2012).
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
Of course, the Lisbon reforms have institutionally taken away this former
centrepiece of the Presidency by introducing a permanent President of the
European Council. Elected for two and a half years in late 2009, the first
President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, was well estab-
lished as crisis manager and mediator during the many special meetings fo-
cused on the European debt crisis over the course of 2010/2011 (Ondarza
2011). At the European Council itself, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk
sat at the table as a normal member representing Polish interests rather than
chairing or organising the debate in any way. However, the institutional and
political changes to the management and power structure of the European
Council are more profound for the rotating Presidency than just the transfer
of chairing the meetings of the heads of state and government would suggest.
In addition, the Polish Presidency was further hampered by the fact that as
a non-member of the Eurozone, it was an outsider to the major political issues
discussed at the European Council.
The degree of the changes for the Presidency can best be illustrated by
analysing the effect of the office of the Permanent President in general and
Van Rompuy’s working style in particular for the individual roles of the
Presidency. First, in procedural terms, the treaty leaves some room for the
management of the European Council to the rotating Presidency: both
Art. 15 (6) TEU and the rules of conduct for the European Council stipulate
that the meetings of the heads of state and governments are to be prepared
by its President in cooperation with the Commission and the Council for
General Affairs (GAC), which continues to be chaired by the rotating Pres-
idency. Hence, Poland chaired a total of seven meetings of the GAC, most
of which focused on either follow-up or preparation of European Council
meetings.4 However, the dates and the agenda of the European Council
meetings were organised by Van Rompuy and his team with the support of
the General Secretariat of the Council. For instance, Van Rompuy decided
against a special European Council meeting focused on foreign affairs
planned for September 20115 and also decided to convene a second meeting
of the European Council in October to allow for more negotiations on the
debt crisis and the economic governance of the EU (see below). In the run-
up to the crucial October summit, Van Rompuy even participated in the GAC
4 Own calculation based on official information from the Council.
5 Van Rompuy originally announced holding a yearly European Council dedicated to
foreign affairs in September 2010. The meeting in September 2011 was never offi-
cially cancelled, but rather quietly dropped.
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
on 22 October 2011 and thus took a personal stake even in the procedural
preparation of the European Council (European Council 2011c). Finally, the
detailed management of the European Council meeting itself was completely
assumed by Van Rompuy with no institutional role for the Polish Presidency.
Even more than in the management, this power shift is secondly reflected
in the agenda-setting of the European Council. When comparing the agenda
items discussed by the European Council in the second half of 2011 with the
priorities of the Polish Presidency, it becomes clear that there was mainly
incidental overlap. At its three meetings in October and December 2011, the
European Council mostly focused on issues of economic governance and
the debt crisis. But while economic growth was also part of the Presidency’s
programme, the main initiatives discussed by the heads of states and gov-
ernments such as the consensus on a banking package reached in October
(European Council 2011a), the institutional structure of the Eurozone and,
most importantly, the drive for treaty change that ended in the decision to
establish the Fiscal Compact outside of EU structures in December (Euro-
pean Council 2011b) all came either from Van Rompuy, the EU institutions
or other large member states such as Germany and France. On the other hand,
initiatives such as external energy brought forward by the Polish Presidency
were of minor political importance compared to the debt crisis. In practice,
they were included in the conclusions of the European Council, but only
discussed at the sidelines or not discussed at all (Van Rompuy 2011a).
Of equal political importance is that Van Rompuy also took full control
of the internal intermediation between the heads of state and government in
the European Council. The prerequisite for a successful European Council
used to be that the respective political leader of the country holding the
Presidency travelled to European capitals to have in-depth negotiations with
his or her counterparts, while also taking individual or groups of heads of
state and government to the negotiation table at the summits themselves to
work out a deal on the most controversial issues (De Schoutheete and Wal-
lace 2002). Building upon his established network, the permanent President
Van Rompuy now regularly consults with all of his colleagues in the Euro-
pean Council and thus conducts the pre-summit negotiations. At the meet-
ings themselves there was also no special role for Prime Minister Tusk to
engage in mediation: the central negotiations on the treaty change for tighter
fiscal rules as proposed by Germany and France and later vetoed by the
United Kingdom were conducted between the large member states them-
selves plus Van Rompuy, with Poland playing only a minor role at the side-
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
lines. In fact, major analyses of the summit mention neither the Polish Pres-
idency nor Prime Minister Tusk even once (Emmanouilidis 2011).
Fourthly, it is therefore not surprising that the media attention and there-
fore also the role of media staging has completely shifted away from the
rotating Presidency. When the deals on economic governance in October
2011 or the Fiscal Compact in December 2011 were presented after long-
night negotiations, it was Van Rompuy who explained the official deals to
the European and global media. Full media attention, however, focused
rather on the press conferences of the main protagonists of the negotiations,
i.e. the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas
Sarkozy as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron following the
British veto.
In short, if there was any more proof needed, the second half of 2011
supplied the final indicator that the political importance of the rotating Pres-
idency at the European Council is diminished to almost zero. Hampered by
its non-membership of the Eurozone in times when most political discus-
sions were focused on the debt crisis, even a large member state like Poland
could neither shape the agenda nor did it take intermediation from the per-
manent President. In all areas of the European Council, though largely in-
visible to the public, Van Rompuy has established himself as the manager,
agenda-setter and mediator. On the other hand, those member states with
great political stake and resources in the debates could bring in initiatives
and shape the outcomes of the discussion without the added role of the Pres-
idency. This includes Poland, who thus reduced to being a ‘normal’ member
of the European Council was also free to pursue its own national interests at
the summits rather than filling the role of an honest broker.
Negotiating with the European Parliament
One of the main tasks of the rotating Presidency representing the Council is
to negotiate EU legislation with the other legislative body, the European
Parliament. Building on the experiences of previous Presidencies who first
had to get used to the new self-confidence of the EP (Kietz and Ondarza
2010) upgraded by the Lisbon Treaty as truly equal co-legislator to the
Council and illustrated by renaming and extending the co-decision procedure
as ‘ordinary legislative procedure’ – the Polish Presidency was well aware
that efficient cooperation with the EP was crucial for its success. In fact,
after Lisbon, the rotating Presidency was supposed to become “the main
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
interlocutor with the European Parliament on Council activities” (Missiroli
and Emmanouilidis 2009: 3) and – strengthened by the Lisbon Treaty in 41
activity areas6 “will have to increasingly take into account the suscepti-
bilities of the parliament” (Vos 2011: 5).
Consequently, preparations as regards relations with the EP started al-
ready at the beginning of 2010. In addition to several meetings with EP
representatives, the Presidency drafted special instructions for ministers
concerning cooperation with the parliament and installed a network of liai-
son officers in all ministries on all EP-related issues. During the Presidency
53 pieces of legislation were signed and the Polish Prime Minister and Polish
ministers attended 34 debates of the EP during 12 sessions, two EP plenary
mini-sessions (MFA 2012) and 30 EP Committee meetings (MFA 2011a).
In that sense the Poles continued the close relationship the Belgians had
established (Bunse and Rittelmeyer and Van Hecke 2011: 59).
Though most of the negotiated EU legislation was already on the agenda
of the EU, the Polish Presidency was praised for its efforts to find compro-
mises with the EP in such important legislation as the Sixpack for economic
governance legislation (rules covering deficits, public debt, government ex-
penditure, macro-economic imbalances and related standards). Overcoming
French blockage delaying the package, the Polish Presidency negotiated a
compromise between the demands of the Parliament and the reservations in
the Council in mid-September so that the package could come into force by
13 December. For this, Polish Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski participat-
ed three times in meetings of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee
(ECON) of the EP (4 July, 29 August, 20 December), which illustrates his
personal engagement especially as regards to ensuring a compromise on the
Sixpack legislation. To be fair, the successful outcome was also influenced
by the strong will of all actors to find a swift answer to some of the perceived
challenges in the Eurozone crisis. In the traditional review at the end of his
term, Rostowski was overwhelmingly congratulated by all ECON members
taking the floor for his professionalism, tone and the good working atmo-
sphere he created. This seems to stand exemplarily for the generally positive
way in which the Polish Presidency was perceived throughout the Parlia-
ment. An interesting criticism points to the way Council decisions are taken.
Though most issues under the ordinary legislative procedure require only
6 Especially as regards agriculture and fisheries, freedom, security and justice and the
common commercial policy.
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
qualified majority voting by the Council, the Polish Presidency, as others
before, continued searching for a compromise and was criticised for not
properly using the Lisbon rules.
More sensitive but also successfully managed by the Polish Presidency
was the decision on the 2012 budget (see the contribution of Kölling in this
Volume). Against the votes of the UK, Sweden and Denmark the Polish
Presidency was proud to have found an agreement with the EP (on a budget
of 147.2 billion euros liabilities and 129 billion euros payments) already in
the night to 19 November, thus for the first time under the Lisbon Treaty
within the time provided by law (MFA 2012). A more tricky exercise for the
Polish Presidency were the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial
Framework 2014–2020 (MFF). Normally in need to play an honest broker
role, Polish actors openly admitted their vital interests especially as regards
the payments from the cohesion funds (Dowgielewicz 2011). Consequently,
the Polish Presidency downgraded the expectations and labelled their con-
tribution as only about ‘clarifying issues’, giving the following Presidencies
the more difficult task of finding compromises on the main parameters and
concrete figures where Poland could again act as a normal Council member
and better lobby for its interests. The Polish Presidency report on the future
of EU cohesion policy for 2014–2020 of 16 December provides a good il-
lustration of that. Furthermore, the Polish representatives were also sceptical
as regards any major reform of the orientation of the EU budget since in their
view old mentalities prevailed. At the initiative of Mikołaj Dowgielewicz,
the Polish Presidency included selected MEPs in informal discussions of the
General Affairs Council on 28–29 July 2011 in Sopot, which was much
appreciated (Alvaro 2011). On 20 October 2011 in Brussels the Polish Pres-
idency also organised a conference on the MFF involving national parlia-
ments and the EP, which according to them could become a model for future
exercises rotating Presidencies could organise in order to bridge national and
European parliamentarians.7
Clearly, the Polish Presidency thereby showed a certain kind of style with
regard to the EP. This can be further illustrated by several ‘Meet the Presi-
7 The cooperation among national parliaments of the European Union was also chaired
by Poland in the second half of 2011. Within this dimension of the Presidency there
were 11 inter-parliamentary meetings of various parliamentary committees (including
COSAC, energy, finance, agriculture, defence CODACC and foreign affairs CO-
FACC). Among the standing topics covered (but unsolved) was the issue of involve-
ment of national parliaments in the pan-European debate on European foreign policy.
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
dency’ events in Strasbourg, which aimed to enable MEPs to ask questions
concerning current issues on the EU agenda to ministers of the Polish Pres-
idency. Four of these meetings, on the state of the union, the European En-
dowment of Democracy, ‘the road to Durban’ and ‘quo vadis Europa’, took
place. Furthermore, the Presidency organised several Presidency breakfast
Another important compromise was reached with regard to the creation
of an EU patent. On 6 December 2011 the Polish Presidency concluded
negotiations on a political agreement after a Council compromise on the
seats of different branches of the EU Patent Court (London, Munich, Paris)
was reached. After the EP postponed its vote on the EU patent due to last-
minute changes from the UK important for the EP (European Parliament
2012), it took the two following Presidencies until December 2012 to find a
solution. Among other deals with the EP were the compromises on the
European Protection Orders in criminal cases, ‘correlation tables’, and inter-
institutional agreements on the EP’s participation in international confer-
ences and the forwarding and handling by the EP of classified information
held by the Council on matters other than those in the area of the Common
Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).
In their overall review of the Polish Presidency almost all political groups
in the EP congratulated the Poles for their way of implementing their Pres-
idency tasks. Martin Schulz, then Chair of the Group of Socialists and
Democrats in the EP, even judged the Polish Presidency “one of the best
presidencies by far that I have experienced in these 15 six-month periods”
(Schulz 2011). Many MEPs described it as very professional. Only the
Greens and some members of the Group of Socialists and Democrats (S&D)
criticised the Poles for their climate policy approach, accusing it of retaining
as many carbon emission rights as possible (Ebels 2011). The fact that a
Pole, Jerzy Buzek, was President of the EP at this time as well as Poland’s
pro-European attitude, strongly highlighted by Tusk in his speech in the EP
at the beginning of the Presidency, further facilitated Poland’s good rela-
tionship with the EP. In general, what became clear is that the main activity
of a Presidency is now to negotiate legislation with the Council and the EP.
As a final note it was interestingly the Polish Prime Minister Tusk who
expressed feelings of disappointment, not about Poland’s job but about the
way the European Union had developed under its term: “Although we are
happy with the work done, I cannot say that Europe is more united now”
(quoted from Banks 2011). Similarly, Poland’s wish to achieve some eco-
nomic optimism in Europe or, using Dowgielewicz’s words, to “create a
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
better narrative about the European economy” (quoted from Mahony 2011)
did not come true. But that is something a rotating Presidency cannot achieve
by itself.
A partner for the High Representative and External Action Service
Like the position of the President of the European Council, the function of
the High Representative and its supporting European External Action Ser-
vice introduced by the Lisbon Treaty impacted heavily on the role of the
rotating Presidency. Indeed, since Ashton chairs the Foreign Affairs Council
(FAC) and takes part in the European Council meetings (which is no longer
the case for the foreign ministers), she defines the foreign policy agenda and
prepare drafts on external policy issues together with the foreign ministers
for the European Council. Having EEAS representatives chairing most FAC
working groups – all geographic ones, most horizontal ones and those of the
Common Security and Defence Policy –, Ashton and the EEAS define and
control the very important preparatory work of the principal foreign policy
decisions. On the other hand, the rotating Presidency continues to chair the
Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in both its configu-
rations, the General Affairs Council, the FAC when it meets in trade con-
figuration and some horizontal working groups,8 the working groups for
trade and development and the COREPER preparatory working groups An-
tici, Mertens and Friends of the Presidency.9 It thereby defines part of the
foreign policy agenda and potentially has an overarching view, which links
foreign affairs to other EU policies (Schmidt 2011).
The Polish Presidency used its altered role to act as an (in comparison to
previous Presidencies even more) active partner of the High Representative
and Vice-President of the European Commission in EU external relations.
The Presidency was keen to prepare everything precisely in advance and
8 Working Party of Foreign Relations Counsellors (RELEX), Working Party on Ter-
rorism (International Aspects) (COTER), Working Party on the Application of Spe-
cific Measures to Combat Terrorism (COCOP), Working Party of Consular Affairs
(COCON), Working Party on Public International Law (COJUR) and Working Party
on the Law of the Sea (COMAR).
9 The Antici Group is the preparatory group for COREPER II, the Mertens Group is
the preparatory group for COREPER I, and the Friends of the Presidency Group is an
ad hoc body which the Presidency can activate to deal with a specific, often compli-
cated issue, for example by studying its multidisciplinary aspects.
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
thus drafted a common foreign policy agenda with Ashton, which was a
precedent (Dowgielewicz 2011).10 The partnership approach was visible
when the Polish Presidency represented Ashton in the neighbourhood, with
regard to democracy promotion, in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Central Asia
when they helped chair cooperation councils and represented Ashton at in-
ternational conferences. In a letter to the Polish Foreign Minister Radosław
Sikorski, Ashton highlighted the high quality of the Polish Presidency, in-
cluding the extraordinary commitment of Poland and Sikorski to actions
supporting the High Representative. At the same time this partnership ap-
proach coincided well with Polish interests, since Sikorski was keen to take
the lead on Eastern neighbourhood issues. Similarly, Poland regards its ap-
proach to its Eastern neighbourhood as a model for the EU in its relations
towards countries in its Southern neighbourhood (Mahony 2011). The fact
that Sikorski’s visit to Benghazi as first senior representative of the EU to
express support for the Temporary National Council, which was agreed with
Ashton, received a lot of public attention and was surely not to Sikorski’s
disappointment. Already in good tradition, Polish officials intervened on
behalf of the HR during an EP plenary session, and before the EP’s Foreign
Affairs Committee (see the contribution of Sus in this volume).
An illustration of how the practice Poland applied to easing the EEAS’s
(over)load was appreciated by the service is the fact that the succeeding
Danish Presidency was advised to do the same. The partnership approach
was especially important on the ground, thus with regard to the EU's external
representation to third countries and international organisations. Conse-
quently, the Polish Presidency provided support in areas with member state
competence such as consular affairs but in the case of staff shortages in EU
delegations also with more elaborated help. In the ten countries where the
European Union did not have a representative in the rank of ambassador at
the time, i.e. Cuba, Iran, Kuwait, New Zealand, North Korea, Qatar, Turk-
menistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vatican, Poland repre-
sented the Union locally, and was responsible for all diplomatic activities
on behalf of the EEAS (MFA2012).
An important deal with regards to the institutional structure of EU foreign
affairs was reached by the Polish Presidency on the clarification of EU ex-
10 In comparison, Ashton for example did not share her foreign policy agenda with the
Belgian Presidency and the latter only wanted to play a minimalist role except for
Congo and the Great Lakes region, which the Belgians made sure to put on Ashton’s
radar (Bunse, Rittelmeyer and Van Hecke 2011: 57).
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
ternal representation at international organisations (Niklewicz 2011c). More
specifically, the discussion concerned the practices around the preparation
of EU positions and declarations in international organisations. The dispute,
which originated in differences in how treaty provisions were interpreted by
member states, the European Commission and the EEAS from the moment
the EEAS was established, was aggravated when UK Foreign Minister
Hague instructed his staff to look for competence creep in relation to the
EEAS with regard to all matters of shared competences in international or-
ganisations.11 The consequence was a blockage of over 70 EU statements to
UN Committees (Borger 2011) during September and October 2011 and
weakened the EU’s position in relation to external partners. The compromise
reached in the form of a Council document on “EU statements in multilateral
organizations. General Arrangements” provided explicit rules in which cases
the EU will apply the wording ‘on the authority of the EU’ and in which ‘on
the authority of the EU and member states’, and also established a procedure
for resolving any disputes on this issue. Between the end of October and
December 2011 more than 150 EU statements were delivered (Council of
the EU 2012). This compromise illustrates an interesting feature of the ro-
tating Presidency, which should not be underestimated. Since the EEAS is
still a very young institution – due to its sui generis position in the EU in-
stitutional system, with the hybrid function of the HR as Vice-President of
the Commission etc. – especially with the bigger member states the rotating
Presidency still plays an important role as mediator if as in the case of
Poland – it enjoys more trust among member states (Dowgielewicz 2011).
Apart from some priority issues the Presidency could implement, such as
the Eastern Partnership Summit (see the contribution of Hahn-Fuhr and Lang
in this volume), most of the EU’s foreign policy agenda was already set.
Still, the Polish Presidency managed quite well to use it for promoting their
own interests as well. With regard to the Arab Spring the Polish Presidency
was the main initiator of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED),
11 Though the Lisbon Treaty entrusted the task of external representation to EU insti-
tutions, i.e. the President of the European Council, the High Representative, the
European Commission and EU delegations. It did not change the division of powers
between the EU and the member states in particular areas of EU activity, especially
with regard to so-called shared competences. The situation is complex due to the
variable status of the EU in the different international organisations where the EU is
either a full member equal to the member states or an observer, thus having various
speaking and voting rights.
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
a fund that is to be used to support civil society actors especially in countries
with few political freedoms. In comparison to other EU instruments such as
the European Instrument for Human Rights and Democracy, the EED, ac-
cording to Dowgielewicz, will bring added value since it will be fast, can
avoid asking governments, work via political foundations, and target blog-
gers, unrecognised civil society, free media, future leaders etc. In statements
during the Presidency, Poland was keen to stress that its experience of the
transition from communism to a pluralist, democratic European Union gave
it a particular desire to support democratic movements elsewhere (MFA
2011b). After a joint letter from Ashton and Sikorski asking their partners
for support, the Polish Presidency managed on 20 December 2011 to make
the member states agree on a Council declaration on the establishment of a
European Endowment for Democracy (Council of the European Union
In EU defence cooperation Poland raised high expectations before its
Presidency (see the contribution of Sus in this volume). Seeing itself as the
only country with any military credibility to hold the Presidency since France
and the only one for quite some time into the future, Poland wanted to meet
the expectations (Dowgielewicz 2011) and restart the debate about the Bat-
tlegroups and a permanent military headquarters – especially in reaction to
the experience of the non-crisis management of the EU in Libya. Though
also defence falls to Ashton and the EEAS it was not among their priority
topics, allowing Poland to move ahead, which suited its national interests of
diversifying its security frameworks (Mahony 2011). At the end of the Pres-
idency, Poland could present a decision regarding the better use of existing
structures and the improvement of the capacity to plan CSDP operations and
missions at the strategic level, a declaration regarding the financing of all
the types of strategic inbound and outbound transport of the EU Battlegroups
from the Athena mechanism, and a decision that member states would carry
out 11 specific programmes as a part of the Pooling and Sharing Initiative
(MFA 2012). However, due to repeated opposition from the UK and not
enough interest from France to go ahead without Britain, an EU permanent
operation headquarters could not be reached. Similarly, there was neither
much appetite among Poland’s EU partners as regards discussing concrete
12 Only in June 2012 was the final decision taken to create the EED. Polish Foreign
Minister Sikorski was optimistic about choosing a seat for its headquarters, appoint-
ing staff and proposing its first programmes “by the end of the year”. Cf. Nielsen
2012; Richter and Leininger 2012.
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
implications of the Lisbon Treaty’s solidarity clause and defence coopera-
tion with the EU’s Eastern neighbours nor a breakthrough between Cyprus
and Turkey that would have allowed for improved NATO–EU cooperation.
The performance of Poland in this policy area more than anywhere else il-
lustrates the limitations of a rotating Presidency when there is no political
will of member states to move forward. Still, in the difficult circumstances
Poland achieved more than could have been expected.
In short, whereas the rotating Presidency lost a lot of its functions, espe-
cially management and agenda-setting, to High Representative Ashton and
the EEAS, it still has an important role to play in supporting Ashton with
her overburdened tasks in EU foreign, defence and development policy. Es-
pecially as long as the EU member states still seem to have more trust in
another EU member state than towards the still young EEAS, the Presidency
continues to be important for mediation exercises. Here, a bigger member
state such as Poland could use its foreign policy experience and clout to fulfil
that role in an active way. In such a supporting role one could argue that
Poland could also better pursue its own national interests and pool energy
into those areas that it deems as important, further strengthened by the fact
that it became an ordinary member of the FAC. The personal relationship
between Ashton and Sikorski can also be judged “more fruitful than expect-
ed” (Kaczyński 2011). Poland thus showed a useful potential role for future
foreign ministers playing an active supporting role to Ashton in her difficult
endeavour to form a European foreign policy.
Bystander to the Euro structures
The most important institutional innovation decided upon during the Polish
Presidency is one that was largely out of reach of the influence of the Polish
government and contrary to its declared interest – the further emancipation
of the Euro structures.
Already at the beginning of its Presidency, Poland found itself in a diffi-
cult position: next to the UK, which has a permanent opt-out from the com-
mon currency, Poland is the largest EU member state not part of the Euro-
zone. Bound by its accession treaty, it is also required to eventually join the
common currency when it meets the Euro convergence criteria, which the
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
Polish government does not foresee doing before 2017.13 As Poland is both
directly affected by the economic downturn in the Eurozone and will even-
tually have to subscribe to the new evolving economic governance system
among Euro members, the Polish government has a strong interest in taking
part in the decisions that are shaping the future structure of the Eurozone
(Gebert 2012).
The Polish government therefore strived to use the rotating Presidency to
become at least a participant in the negotiations on the future of the Euro-
zone, albeit with little success. This first concerns the role of the Presidency
in the Eurogroup. The Eurogroup is the forum where the economic and fi-
nance ministers of the Eurozone negotiate on all Euro-related issues while
the EU member states outside of the common currency are excluded. In
addition, the Eurogroup has its own permanent President, which was then
the Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. Within the EU sys-
tem, the Eurogroup has a hybrid role – although formalised with the Treaty
of Lisbon,14 it cannot formally take decisions, as these have to be adopted
by the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), where then only
the Euro member states have a vote. In practice, however, the Eurogroup has
taken on a most important role before and during the debt crises to give the
Euro member states a closed negotiation forum (Puetter 2012). For instance,
the Euro member states regularly negotiated deals on the rescue packages
for Greece, Ireland, Portugal or Spain deep into the night, which were then
adopted without real discussion at the ECOFIN the next day.
Being excluded from this forum, Tusk suggested at the start of the Polish
Presidency that the Polish finance minister should take part in the Eurogroup
in order to function as a bridge to the non-Euro member states (Rettman
2011). Although presented as a European initiative, this proposal was mainly
in the national interest of Poland as the government wanted to use the Pres-
idency as a way into the Eurogroup. This proposal was not very well received
among Euro member states, with in particular France resisting the idea as it
13 In addition, due to the disastrous effect of the debt crisis on the public image of the
Euro, public support in Poland for joining the common currency has recently fallen
as low as 12 per cent. While the debt crisis is ongoing, the Polish government has
also decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach towards joining the Euro (Sobczyk
14 Before the Treaty of Lisbon, the Eurogroup was a purely informal, though already
powerful body to coordinate Eurozone issues before they were being voted formally
in the ECOFIN.
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
was regarded as a precedent for other non-Euro states, in particular the Unit-
ed Kingdom, to force their way into the Eurogroup. After getting mixed
signals, the Polish government therefore decided to abandon this initiative
and had to remain outside of the Eurogroup (van Puyvelde 2011).
Even more problematic for Poland was the development during the debt
crisis of separate summits for the heads of state and government of the Eu-
rozone countries (Euro Summits). Although functionally necessary for the
management of the debt crisis, these summits gave the Euro countries a
forum at the highest political level where deals were negotiated on the future
of the common currency, again without even the participation of non-Euro
member states (Schwarzer 2012). Additionally, the Polish government per-
ceived a rising danger of these summits to negotiate package deals that also
extended to policy areas connected, but not isolated to, the common currency
with distinct Polish interests such as the EU budget or cohesion policy.
Viewed from this Polish angle, in this regard the Presidency started off
in a hardly satisfactory manner. Only a few weeks into the second half of
2011, under the pressure of financial market actors, Van Rompuy called an
‘informal’ meeting of the heads of state and governments of the Eurozone
in order to discuss the situation in Greece, negotiate an increase in the size
of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and to finalise the terms
of the permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Prepared by the
Eurogroup, Poland and the other non-Euro EU member states were not in-
vited and stood at the sidelines as the Euro-17 wrangled over the economic
future of the Euro. As agreement was found on all three accords, the Polish
Presidency could do little more than to welcome the decisions the next day
(Niklewicz 2011b).
Thus twice excluded from the major decision-making table early on in its
Presidency, Poland sought hard to secure a general inclusion of non-Euro
member states at the increasingly important Euro structures. In this, it won
a short-term victory and suffered a long-term defeat, both at the same time,
at the double summit on 23 and 26 October 2011.
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
Table 2: European Council and Euro Summit meetings during the Polish
Date Type
21 July 2011 Euro Summit
23 October 2011 European Council
23 October 2011 Euro Summit
26 October 2011 Euro Summit
26 October 2011 Informal European Council
8 December Euro Summit
8/9 December European Council
Source: Own compilation based on official information from the EU.
The success is connected to the hectic succession of summits during the debt
crisis: as the October meeting of the European Council and the additionally
planned Euro Summit approached, it became clear that the plethora of dif-
ficult, interconnected issues were very hard to resolve in one meeting. At
first, the European Council and Euro Summit were postponed for one week
by Herman Van Rompuy (Van Rompuy 2011b), who then suggested an ad-
ditional second Euro Summit two days after the European Council to work
out some final details on the stabilisation and adjustment programmes for
several Euro member states (see table 2). Led by Poland, Sweden and the
UK, the non-Euro member states were however successful in insisting they
attend the second Euro Summit in order to at least be partially involved in
the decision-making. Van Rompuy was thus forced to call an informal meet-
ing of the European Council for 26 October where, in effect, the heads of
state and government came to Brussels for a short meeting before the real
negotiations took place among the Euro-17 (Phillips 2011). This short-term
success was pushed through by the joint vetoing power of the three largest
non-Euro member states and thus had little to do with the fact that Poland
held the Presidency at the time.
At this double Euro Summit in October, the Euro-17 decided upon a new
institutional structure for the governance of the Economic and Monetary
Union, realising most Polish fears of being excluded from an inner core: to
facilitate closer coordination, the Euro member states decided to institution-
alise the Euro Summits on a regular basis, which are to be held at least twice
a year, and get their own permanent President. Herman Van Rompuy was
named as the first President of the Euro Summits, thus giving him a double
Chapter 3: Playing the service provider, gaining in trust
hat. Furthermore, in the future the chair of the Euro Summits is to be des-
ignated at the same time as the President of the European Council, thus ef-
fectively not only creating a new double-hatted position, but also ensuring
that only candidates from Euro member states are eligible for the post of
permanent President of the European Council. Additionally, Euro member
states decided to bolster the Eurogroup by creating their own working group
to prepare for Eurogroup meetings that is separate from the general Council
working groups (Heads of State and Government of the Eurozone 2011).
Regarding the non-Euro member states, the new President of the Euro
Summits is committed to ensure that they are informed of the decisions of
the Euro Summits, but they did not get a right to participate at the meetings
at any of the now three levels of the Euro governance structure themselves.
This last decision was later remedied during the negotiations on the details
of the Fiscal Compact, so in the first half of 2012 and thus after the end of
the Polish Presidency. In these negotiations Poland and Sweden pushed
through that non-Euro member states would be regularly invited to take part
in parts of the Euro Summits that directly affected them or the general nature
of the Euro system. All in all, however, it was during the Polish Presidency
that the Euro member states made the most distinct steps towards a separate
governance structure exclusive to the Euro-17.
When finally evaluating Poland’s relations as Council President to the other
European institutions, one can make three observations. First, Poland – like
other ‘Lisbon’ Presidencies before – also mainly acted as a service provider
and fulfilled its management tasks. Thereby the Polish Presidency confirmed
the adapted role of the rotating Presidency under Lisbon rules that is mainly
responsible for guaranteeing the smooth running of the EU’s legislative and
administrative processes. Although publicly largely invisible, this role in
paving the way for compromises between 27 EU member states, the EP and
various interest groups cannot be overstated. In that role Poland supported
the preparation and follow-up of the European Council and the different
Council configurations as well as mediated between the Council and the EP
in legislative matters and between the different member states in internal
Council matters. Important examples include the agreement on the Sixpack
legislation, the budget for 2012 and the compromise on general arrangements
when issuing EU statements in multilateral fora.
Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
Second, a big member state like Poland demonstrated that it can provide
a very useful job facilitating the High Representative’s difficult task of pur-
suing a consistent, efficient and visible European foreign policy. While also
mainly acting like a service provider to Ashton and the EEAS, Poland could
from time to time set an agenda that fitted its national interests, such as with
regard to the establishment of the European Endowment for Democracy, the
Eastern Partnership or CSDP. That attitude, while in continuous partnership
with the High Representative, could indeed set a useful precedent for future
larger EU member states under Lisbon rules, since the overburdened work-
load of Ashton and the EEAS will persist.
Third, Poland did not suffer at all from any domestic challenges affecting
its Council Presidency. Neither the national elections in October 2011 nor
the difficult economic situation in the Eurozone impacted on the efficient
running of the Polish Presidency (see the contribution of Kaczyński in this
volume). Quite on the contrary, Poland could be self-confident and tenta-
tively used its increased influence also due to its comparably positive eco-
nomic situation at home. This will be different for each following Presiden-
At the same time it became evident that the rotating Presidency has to live
with a lot more constraints than before, especially having lost the agenda-
setting power in the European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council.
Whereas the little public and media attention to the Polish Presidency re-
mains a common feature of rotating Presidencies also under Lisbon rules,
the main constraint for Poland during its Presidency was not being a member
of the Eurozone. When a larger member state in the future impacts on Euro-
pean agenda-setting it will not be because of its role as rotating President
but because it is a large economy in the Eurozone. On the other hand, Poland
greatly improved its reputation inside the EU, i.e. among European institu-
tions and member state partners. Another benefit of rotating Presidencies
after Lisbon could be perceived in the fact that it can sometimes act as an
ordinary member state in the European Council and Foreign Affairs Council
and does not have to play the broker role.
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Anne Lauenroth and Nicolai von Ondarza
Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
The Eastern Partnership as a top priority of the Polish EU
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang
Already long before the takeover of the Presidency of the Council by Poland,
it seemed clear that the development of the cooperative relations of the
European Union with its Eastern neighbours was to be a focal point of the
Polish Presidency. Poland had established itself as the advocate of Ukraine
and other Eastern European states already before its own entry into the EU,
and since its membership is one of the Union countries pushing for the es-
tablishment of an effective neighbourhood policy and the active support of
the reform processes on the far side of the Eastern periphery of the extended
Union. This resulted from the superordinate strategic relevance that Poland
attaches to its relations with its Eastern partners, above all Ukraine: their
westernisation and pre-accession to the EU is seen in the long term as a
guarantee for the preservation of geopolitical plurality east of Poland and
thus as effective reinsurance against Russia’s neo-imperial tendencies in the
post-soviet region. Moreover, the intensification of the cooperation with the
immediate Eastern neighbours is intended to reduce the economic and social
differences along the current outer EU border, which is also Poland’s Eastern
The difficult relationship with Russia has long been a handicap for
Poland’s Eastern policy plans, as important partners of Poland perceive its
commitment to Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe and the South
Caucasus as a complicating factor in relations between the EU and Russia.
For Moscow, the attempts at an EU-isation and NATO-isation of countries
like Ukraine represent an intrusion into a field of particular personal interest.
The spat with Russia reached a culmination with the Orange Revolution in
Ukraine in 2004 as well as the electoral success of the Russia-sceptical
Kaczyński twins. Since the election of Donald Tusk in 2007, a pragmatic
Polish–Russian rapprochement has been instituted and Poland’s relationship
with Russia has changed: for traditional Russia-oriented member states,
above all Germany, Poland was suddenly an asset in the search for con-
structive dealings with Russia. As a result, the willingness to accept and even
support Poland’s advocacy of Ukraine and other states to the east of the EU’s
border is greater. This is also the case for Germany, which also sought an
upward revaluation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and its
Eastern flank in the form of a new Eastern policy and an ‘ENP plus’. Poland’s
new Russia policy and its active European policy as a whole eased German–
Polish contact with regards to the Eastern neighbours and led to an active
cooperation between the two countries, reflected for example in joint trips
and forays by the respective foreign ministers. In the form of the Eastern
Partnership initiative mooted in spring 2008 together with Sweden and of-
ficially launched by the EU the following year, Poland definitively de-
veloped into one of the primary designers in the formation of the cooperation
prototype of the EU with its Eastern partners (MFA 2008).
The deepening of the relationship with the countries of Eastern Europe
and the South Caucasus as well as the strengthening of the Eastern Partner-
ship was therefore so to speak a natural priority for the Polish Presidency.
Partner countries and member states assumed that Poland would use its
Presidency as a driver of the Eastern components of the neighbourhood pol-
icy. Already with its first deliberations on the direction of the Presidency,
Warsaw took these expectations as a basis and reckoned on a substantial
acceptance of its activities (see Niemczycki 2009: 108).
This article is structured as follows. We will first outline the Eastern Part-
nership in the context of the priorities of the Polish Presidency and then
describe the concrete targets that Poland wanted to achieve for the deepening
of the Eastern Partnership. Subsequently, the main challenges and limita-
tions that would hamper Warsaw’s implementation of its priorities will be
thematised. After sketching the balance of the Presidency’s activities we will
finally assess the Presidency’s neighbourhood policy with regards to the
Eastern Partnership.
The Eastern Partnership as a pivotal objective of the Presidency
It is not surprising that the diplomats and politicians responsible for the
preparations of the Presidency named the Eastern Partnership as one of the
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang
goals of the Presidency at an early stage already.1 The six ‘preliminary pri-
orities’ agreed by the Polish government in July 2010 also included the theme
‘Eastern Policy’ and named the completion of association agreements, the
creation of free-trade zones with the EU, trade and visa liberalisation as well
as the expansion of economic contacts as concrete objectives in the context
of the Eastern Partnership (Chancellery of the Prime Minister 2010). In the
course of the further concretisation of the Presidency programme, a re-
grouping and differentiation of the priority fields into ‘strategic’ and ‘oper-
ational’ parts followed (following the pattern of numerous other Presiden-
cies). While the case of the expansion of economic contacts was addressed
by the practical experience of the respective sectoral policies, broad spheres
of action European integration as a source of growth, secure Europe as
well as Europe benefitting from its openness – were set for the other three
objectives. The latter also encompassed alongside Eastern Partnership the
theme of EU expansion (see the contribution of Węc in this volume).
These three main themes were confirmed in the framework of the ultimate
definition of the Presidency programme, but supplemented by important in-
dividual aspects. In the ‘openness’ category, relations with the Southern
neighbours of the EU as well as questions concerning trade policy were
incorporated (MFA 2012: 156 ff). Moreover, the official six-month pro-
gramme included a passage on the EU cooperation with Russia. In multiple
sectoral passages of the operative programme, specific objectives for coop-
eration with the Eastern neighbours were also to be found (MFA 2011a).
Through the widening of the priority cluster ‘openness’ as well as through
the inclusion in the context of specific policy, Poland’s commitment to the
Eastern dimension of the EU neighbourhood was packaged with other topics;
in this way, Warsaw wanted at the level of the Presidency programme to
confront the possible suspicion of an excessive advocacy of the Eastern
Partnership at the expense of other policy fields. Nevertheless, it was clear
in the set of priorities that the cooperation with the Eastern neighbours of
the EU had a particular meaning, a matter close to the heart of the Presidency.
The relevance of the Eastern Partnership had already been shown in the
preparations for the Presidency – both in the internal coordination between
1 For example during the first session of the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish par-
liament, at which the Government Plenipotentiary for the Presidency, Foreign Sec-
retary Mikołaj Dowgielewicz, described the state of preparations (Dowgielewicz
Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
and within Polish departments and their task definitions2 as well as in dia-
logue with ‘Brussels’, in particular with the Commission, the Council Sec-
retariat and the President of the European Council.3 Polish diplomats in the
countries of the Eastern Partnership were among the diplomatic missions
that received additional resources in view of the Presidency (MFA 2012:
Keeping a high profile: visibility, bilateral linkage and multilateral
Poland’s ultimate objective was the strengthening of the Eastern Partnership,
which the country had after all jointly launched, and developing it by en-
hancing its content. Since the beginning of the neighbourhood policy and
the initiation of the Eastern Partnership, Warsaw had the – not entirely un-
justified – feeling that the cooperation with the direct neighbours across the
EU’s Eastern border was not properly progressing and was being depriori-
tised or even repressed by influential member states. Foreign Secretary
Dowgielewicz described already at the beginning of 2010 the “maintaining
of a political momentum” as the greatest task for Poland, as the European
Union could not easily return to this topic after a long stagnation in Eastern
policy when it is Poland’s turn at the Presidency (Euractiv 2010). The neg-
ative developments in the partner countries as well as in the Arabic world
resulted however in the downturn of the Eastern Partnership feared by
Dowgielewicz. In Polish expert circles isolated voices were already talking
about the need for a relaunch of the Eastern Partnership. At such discussions
on a renewed reconstruction of the conceptual framework for the Eastern
partners (and the connected bureaucratic-politic implications), the Polish
government had as little interest as it did for a further slackening of the
2 At the four preparation meetings with representatives from the cabinet of the President
of the European Council, the Eastern Partnership was one of the few themes discussed
(MFA 2012: 43).
3 For example, Foreign Minister Sikorski pointed out at the beginning of the Presidency
that the Foreign Ministry had, beyond the coordination tasks, four concrete goals, of
which three concerned the Eastern Partnership: the conducting of a summit meeting
on this topic, the successful conclusion of the negotiations about the association
agreement of the EU with Ukraine as well as the creation of a European democracy
fund. The fourth priority was the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Croatia
(Sikorski 2011a: 37).
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang
cooperative relations. This being the case, Warsaw concentrated on consol-
idating and carefully expanding the Eastern Partnership in its existing form.
A better visibility, the strengthening of the bilateral ‘struts’ as well as the
expansion of the multilateral cooperation fields and levels were apparently
the three main areas of action from which individual goals and concrete steps
could be derived (cp. MFA 2011a).
An essential vehicle for an increased visibility of the Eastern Partnership
was the second summit of the state and government heads of EU and Eastern
neighbours. This was according to the schedule supposed to have taken place
in May 2011 during the Hungarian Presidency of the European Council al-
ready but was according to the official statement – postponed due to clashes
with other major international events until September 2012 and thus took
place during the Polish Presidency. With the organisation of the summit
meeting, Poland was unexpectedly given an event of the highest level that
reduced Warsaw’s concerns about insufficient awareness of its Eastern pol-
icy activities.
On the bilateral level (bilateral linkage) Warsaw’s primary aim was
progress in the negotiations on new contractual relations in the form of as-
sociation agreements. Agreement with Ukraine was to be finalised – this had
made the most headway among all partner countries and after concluding
the difficult Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) in
the framework of the association the whole negotiation package was to be
put together. In the case of Moldova and Georgia the aim was the opening
of negotiations on the free trade agreement.
With a view to the multilateral level (multilateral cooperation) of the
Eastern Partnership, Warsaw attempted to strengthen the sectoral coopera-
tion. Policy fields such as commerce and agriculture as well as security and
defence policies were to be enabled. Moreover, it was planned to further
strengthen the civil-society components of the Eastern Partnership beyond
the government-centred cooperation of the classic neighbourhood policy.
An EU-financed European Endowment for Democracy (EED) for the pro-
motion of pluralism, rule of law and democracy in the neighbouring states
was to be founded for this purpose.
An old concern of Poland that was also reflected in the Presidency goals
was the call for visa-free travel and thus at least a long-term acknowledge-
ment by the EU for the abolition of the visa requirement. Poland accordingly
underlined the goal of effectively implementing the existing EU action plans
with Ukraine and Moldova in order to allow at least for these two countries
enhanced mobility and direct interpersonal contacts.
Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
Coping with adverse background conditions
In the field of the Eastern Partnership, the Polish Council Presidency was
particularly exposed to the problems of high expectations and a modest scope
for design. Poland’s pro-European government and its efficient administra-
tion raised hopes that an ambitious programme of institutional realignment
after the Lisbon Treaty could be proactively forged. After all, Poland had
with regards to the Eastern Partnership a special expertise, successes and
very good contacts with the partner countries. But already in the run-up to
the Presidency, it became clear that Poland’s endeavours were to take place
in a difficult setting. Poland therefore followed also in the cooperative rela-
tions with the Eastern neighbours a policy of ambitious realism: although it
wanted to noticeably advance the policy field, it was conscious of the man-
ifold difficulties of this desire. The fact that the overriding topic of European
politics since 2008 – the financial, banking and debt crisis in the Eurozone
also interfered in the Eastern Partnership was by some margin not the
biggest constraint.
Four large limitations in particular noticeably reduced the momentum and
opportunities for influence of the Polish negotiating. Firstly, the Lisbon
Treaty largely deprived the rotating Presidencies of the responsibilities in
the field of external politics (see the contribution of Sus in this volume).
Above all the powers passed over to the High Representative of the Union
for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) – in particular her chairmanship
of the new Foreign Affairs Council and the formation of the European
External Action Service (EEAS) resulted in a qualitatively new situation (see
the contribution of Lauenroth and von Ondarza in this volume). This was a
particular challenge, as Warsaw was pursuing ambitious goals precisely in
the field of foreign affairs in contrast for example to Belgium, which as
the first country under the Lisbon Treaty system wanted, according to the
Belgian EU ambassador Mike Beke, to ensure that it “no longer has anything
to do with external relations by the end of the term” (Beke 2011).
How did Poland circumvent this restriction? Warsaw was aware that the
Lisbon system in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
had scope for design for the chair (see Szabo 2011: 4; Vanhoonacker et al.
2012). These opportunities were to be used through various strategies. One
strategy was to continually search for close contact to the HR and EEAS,
thus increasing the acceptance of Poland’s plans. This “cooperative model
of working together” (MFA 2012: 179) aimed at showing the HR and EEAS
which mutual advantages result from an active engagement in the Presidency
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang
diplomacy. In this way also the Polish priorities would be considered in the
definition of the foreign affairs agenda of the EU (ibid.). In practice the
representation of the HR through the Polish Foreign Minister with respect
to third-party states (such as Afghanistan or Pakistan) or international orga-
nisations played a particularly important role. A second strategy was to play
off informal contacts and to use informal fora. The most important building
block in this approach was the Gymnich meeting of EU foreign ministers at
the beginning of September in Sopot, where the second day was devoted to
the Eastern Partnership and in particular the situation in Ukraine.4 Thirdly,
Poland positioned some of its Eastern policy goals in the Council formations
that it continued to chair. This included the external relations of various
policy areas such as commerce, agriculture, or justice and home affairs.
The second significant limitation that Poland had to grapple with were
the social and political upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East. Al-
though Warsaw’s government representatives ensured that the Eastern Part-
nership would not be put at a disadvantage in light of the Arab Spring (Gazeta
Prawna 2011a), in Poland there was the general impression that the EU for-
eign policy in the second half of 2011 (and beyond) would primarily have
to deal with the opportunities and risks along its Southern periphery and
therefore unavoidably turn its back on its Eastern flank. Such fears were also
fuelled by an increased lobbying of Southern European member states for
more efforts by the EU in the Mediterranean region, for a stronger weighting
of the European Neighbourhood Policy South group as well as for a massive
increase in financial resources for the Southern section of the neighbourhood
policy. The letter to the HR from the six Mediterranean member states of
Spain, France, Malta, Slovenia, Greece and Cyprus in February 2011 em-
phasised these points and was seen in Warsaw as the beginning of a veritable
offensive by the Southern states of the EU (Ananicz 2011). While voices in
the media were loud that Poland’s government could for this reason not
overly resolutely advocate the Eastern Partnership (Pawlicki 2011), political
Warsaw reacted less through a shutting down of its Eastern negotiation
components than through the revaluation of the Southern orientation. Pres-
ence and active engagement of the Polish Presidency was apparently to en-
4 The HR chaired the meeting, Foreign Minister Sikorski was however co-host. Sikorski
suggested in the context of the Sopot meeting that there should be an additional Gym-
nich meeting of the foreign ministers each year, and stated that Poland would be
prepared – together with ‘strategic partners’ of the EU – to organise it. This suggestion
was however not implemented (see PAP 2011a).
Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
sure the support of the partners who were particularly interested in the coun-
tries to the South. Before and during the Presidency activities took place in
this respect, such as the visit of Foreign Minister Sikorski to the rebel-con-
trolled Libyan city of Bengasi in May (the first visit by a western statesman),
Ex-President Wałęsa’s visit to Tunisia or the initiative for the transfer of
‘experiences of transformation’ undertaken by Polish government agencies
and NGOs (Jones and Baczyński 2011).
The third limitation for Poland’s Eastern policy Presidency goals was the
stagnating or even worsening situation in the countries of the Eastern Part-
nership. In Belarus the suppression of the opposition by the Lukashenko
regime increased significantly after the bogus presidential election of De-
cember 2010, so that the policy of a careful partial inclusion of the country
in the European Neighbourhood Policy made way for the discussion and
implementation of new sanctions. In Ukraine democratic standards had been
further damaged since the taking over of the presidential office by Viktor
Yanukovych in February 2010. Imprisonment, court proceedings and the
treatment of the previous Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko meant that re-
lationships with the EU worsened noticeably over the course of 2011. The
most important and, in talks about an association agreement with the EU,
the most advanced country of the Eastern Partnership had changed from a
model country to a problem case. There were also concerns about other
partner countries, in particular about their inner ability to reform as well as
the adherence to the minimum criteria in the fields of rule of law, democracy,
media freedom and the protection of minorities.
Fourthly, the Polish Presidency could ultimately offer little new in the
conceptual and programmatic development of the Eastern Partnership, as
the HR and Commissioner Štefan Füle, who was responsible for the neigh-
bourhood policy, presented in the spring a policy document on the strategic
alignment of the European Neighbourhood Policy that wanted above all to
react to the recent developments in the Arabic world (European Commission
2011). This ‘review’ of the ENP did not dramatically narrow the creative
leeway in terms of content, as it did not advocate a complete reorganisation
of the neighbourhood cooperation framework. Poland had also tried early
on to feed content into the discussion on the document (MFA 2010).
The ‘review’ nonetheless defined – before the Polish Presidency and be-
fore the summit of the Eastern Partnership medium-term guiding principles
for the implementation of the neighbourhood policy, for example through
the idea of ‘more for more and less for less’, which demanded a stronger use
of conditionality in negotiations with partner countries (Emerson 2011).
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang
Poland’s Eastern policy ideas as well as its Presidency priorities had to be
aligned to the ENP review or included in it.
The behavioural orientation of the Polish EU Council Presidency
In light of these multiple limitations, the Polish Presidency was anxious not
only to implement its core goals but also as in the case of the Ukrainian
association and the pressing of its finalisation despite the obvious problems
on Kiev’s side – not to take away at least future development options of the
Eastern Partnership. Overall the aim was to demonstrate that the Eastern
Partnership is still relevant.
Against this backdrop, the Eastern Partnership Summit that took place on
28 and 29 September 2011 in Warsaw was clearly the neighbourhood policy
highlight of the Presidency. In the months leading up to it, Warsaw had put
much energy into the talks on a joint final declaration, above all in order to
obtain its old objectives such as the opening of a long-term membership
perspective for the Eastern neighbours or an affirmation of visa-free travel.
In view of known opposition in many EU member states, it was not surpris-
ing that the joint statement ultimately included only a general acknowledge-
ment of the European aspirations of the partner countries (Council of the
European Union 2011). It was therefore not possible to talk about a new
quality. The summit and declaration improved the existing mechanisms but
did not determine any fundamentally different policy guidelines for the part-
nership (Sadowski 2011: 154f.). Beyond the ‘compulsory elements’ such as
the operationalisation of the ‘more for more’ principle for the Eastern Part-
nership, the declaration however also included important passages from the
Polish point of view, such as the announcement of an additional 150 million
euros for the financial backing of the Eastern Partnership between 2011 and
2013 or the commissioning of the HR and Commission for the creation of a
roadmap containing the cooperation tools and concrete measures until the
next summit.
While an improved presence of EU participants at the summit compared
to the launch summit in Prague could be chalked up as a positive, the Pres-
idency had to deal with significant difficulties with the ‘problem case’ of
Belarus. Poland had taken a hard line against the Lukashenko regime after
the brutal repression of the opposition by the regime and especially after the
numerous verbal attacks by Minsk against the Warsaw government.
Nonetheless, Poland was still not interested in the complete isolation of its
Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
neighbour. An obvious sign of this as well as an attempt at symbolic bridge-
building was the invitation of the Belorussian Foreign Minister to the sum-
mit. This offer was however rejected by Minsk (PAP 2011b). More difficult
than the absence of Belarus was however the refusal of the partner countries
to partake in a declaration that denounced the domestic political situation in
Belarus. As a result of their own imperfect developments, the representatives
from Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Georgia were obviously
not prepared to criticise human rights violations in other countries of the
Eastern Partnership (Euractiv 2011). Poland could record as a success the
unity of the EU states; they agreed on a joint declaration in which the regime
in Minsk was sharply condemned (MFA 2011b). Furthermore, nine billion
euros of credit was made available to Belarus for when the country allows
reforms and observes minimum constitutional standards (PAP 2011c).
Not least the discussion over the EU–Ukraine association agreement
highlighted that the Polish Presidency wanted to contribute to a flexibilisa-
tion but also to a reinterpretation of only recently fixed guidelines in dealings
with the Eastern partners. The advocating of a signing of the association
agreement despite domestic political abuses meant exactly this: Poland
pleaded that the EU at least did not obstruct the option of the association, as
strategic and political arguments against a withdrawal of these important
institutional opportunities for the connection of Ukraine to the European
Union are significant in the view of Warsaw. Poland did not in any way want
to distance itself from the principle of conditionality. However, it followed
a different approach than countries such as France or Germany, who already
wanted to tie the negotiations and their finalisation to the adherence to the
basic conditions. Poland in contrast wanted to successfully lead the negoti-
ations to the end in order to judge during the final ratification process whether
Ukraine observed the criteria to which it was bound: “But in order to un-
dertake monitoring, there needs to be a contract”, explained Foreign Minister
Sikorski in November (PAP 2011d). In October the protracted negotiations
over the free-trade section of the association agreement were concluded and
Warsaw wanted to derive a visible sign with the initialling of the contract.
Despite Polish efforts – such as the visit by Foreign Minister Sikorski and
his Swedish counterparts to a football match in Donetsk in order to appeal
to the Ukrainian leadership, or meetings with President Bronislaw Ko-
morowski with his Ukrainian counterpart Yanukovych in August 2011 and
the Presidents of Poland, Germany and Ukraine in November 2011 in
Wrocław – Kiev remained unyielding in the highly important Tymoshenko
case. It can therefore almost be seen as a success that on 19 December the
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang
EU–Ukraine summit took place in Kiev. Although it did not result in an
initialling of the association agreement, the conclusions of the negotiations
were disclosed. This achieved one of Poland’s important goals, but the signal
that a formal, mutual agreement had been reached was not sent.5
Visible progress was made in contrast in the relations with Georgia and
Moldova. On 12 December 2011 the opening of negotiations over a DCFTA
was agreed with both countries (PAP 2011e). Poland had worked hard for
some time on the cooperation with Moldova in particular; visits from Prime
Minister Tusk and Foreign Minister Sikorski had made their interest clear.
Warsaw’s intention was obviously to create a new model country after the
growing problems with Ukraine. Despite political and constitutional-law
controversies and the unsolved Transnistrian conflict, Moldova appeared to
be the country that at that time most clearly allowed a rapprochement with
the EU. In relation to Armenia and Azerbaijan, the EU agreed in December
to the beginning of negotiations over visa liberalisation and readmission
agreements. A mobility partnership was signed with Armenia in October.
In the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership, Poland empha-
sised in particular the significance of sectoral cooperation. This was made
clear through the establishing of new dialogue fora – the Business Forum of
the Eastern Partnership, Conference of Regional and Local Authorities – as
well as through meetings at minister and working levels and high-level sym-
posia, including commerce with the establishment of a new panel in the
framework of the Eastern Partnership, agriculture with consideration of the
new European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture & Rural Devel-
opment (ENPARD), economy, statistical governance and customs but also
common security and defence policies. Particularly noteworthy was the field
of justice and home affairs. In the framework of a ministerial meeting in
Poznan, an action plan for the ‘Prague Process’ was agreed (Ministry of the
Interior and Administration of Poland 2011). This initiative goes beyond the
EU–Eastern Partnership relationship and includes also other countries from
the post-soviet region as well as Turkey. Its goal is the easing and improving
of migration and at the same time the strengthening of the cooperation be-
tween police, border protection agencies and customs authorities. In De-
cember 2011 the Söderköping Process, a cooperation framework of member
states and neighbouring countries along the EU’s Eastern border in the fields
5 State Secretary Dowgielewicz hoped after the EU–Ukraine summit that the initialling
could be brought about by the end of 2011. The EU was however only in March 2012
ready to undertake this step (see Dowgielewicz 2011).
Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
of asylum and migration, was also integrated into the Eastern Partnership.6
The majority of the cooperation palette was discussed at the third meeting
of the civil society forum of the Eastern Partnership in Poznań at the end of
November 2011. Polish NGOs were strongly represented in these discus-
sions from the start.
An idea floated at the beginning of 2011 by the Polish Foreign Minister
that became concretised over the course of the Presidency was the founding
of a European Endowment for Democracy. Different from existing mea-
sures, the argument ran, the EU “needs a lighter, less bureaucratic and more
flexible instrument” that allows fast and goal-directed action (Sikorski
2011b: 52). The EED fulfilled at least two functions for Warsaw. Firstly,
they could use it to react to the developments in the Arabic world but also
link it with the engagement with Eastern Europe: the traditional abiding
theme of democratisation could now be supported through the commitment
to the political changes on the Southern periphery. This is all aligned under
the title “deep democracy”, as was targeted in the ENP review. Secondly,
with the EED Poland had successfully placed a new tool in the ENP toolbox.
The ENP review had already affirmed the funds in principle, but it required
collaboration with the HR and the continual communication of the project
with the partners in the EU before the sentiments of the member states were
ultimately accepted in the form of a political declaration on 15 December
2011 (Council of the European Union 2011).7 The official final report of the
Polish Presidency described the EED as a ‘conceptual’ contribution by
Poland to a common foreign and security policy (MFA 2012: 45).
Conclusion: professional leadership but modest results
The Eastern Partnership was a focal area of activity for Poland’s Council
Presidency, but one where little progress could be made. The external lim-
itations of a political, institutional or programmatic nature denied Warsaw
the opportunities to develop or even influence this political field. Overall it
can be said that Poland followed a relatively defensive approach, presumably
6 The Söderköping Process was included in the first of the platforms of the Eastern
Partnership as the new panel ‘Asylum and Migration’, Chancellery of Sweden 2011.
7 The EED was thematised according to the Gymnich meeting in Sopot, among others.
In the late autumn, Foreign Minister Sikorski together with the HR wrote to the mem-
ber states in order to promote participation in the funds (see Gazeta Prawna 2011b).
Irene Hahn-Fuhr and Kai-Olaf Lang
in order to safeguard – or even to rescue – what had already been achieved.
This conservative approach is not to be confused with retreat or resignation.
It is more the result of a pragmatic understanding of the circumstances. Ul-
timately, Poland had to stabilise the structure of the Eastern Partnership,
maintain the fabrication of its building blocks and implement only the oc-
casional new element in the framework of the cooperation. Larger extensions
or reconstructions were not possible. In hindsight, Poland can be satisfied
with its modest but realistic achievements. At least for the period of the
Presidency, a complete collapse of foreign-policy attention by the EU with
regards to its Eastern neighbours could be avoided, and key components such
as the association process could be pursued.
Considering fundamental presidential functions, the Polish Presidency
can be considered mildly positive in terms of the Eastern Partnership. The
organisational development and the management of ongoing processes went
well. The extensive expertise and sufficient personnel support in the admin-
istration helped here, as did the contact with the institutions in Brussels, even
if the communication with the uncompleted European External Action Ser-
vice represented a particular challenge. All scheduled meetings concerning
the Eastern Partnership were recognised as administratively well prepared.
Especially the significant presence of EU leaders during the Eastern Part-
nership Summit can be considered as satisfactory.
New impulses and the setting of the agenda could only be followed
through in isolated cases in view of the unfavourable underlying circum-
stances. It is notable that Sikorski successfully convinced the HR and the
majority of the European Parliament of the necessity of an EED, especially
against the hesitation of the German government. The EED constitutes one
of the few sustainable and visible initiatives of the Presidency. Moreover, in
view of the extensive dropping of representation functions, the representa-
tion functions of the Council Presidency in the European Parliament (inter-
institutional agency) performed in consultation with the HR can be assessed
as a significant plus point.
The picture is more mixed with regards to the mediation tasks. On the one
hand, the internal mediation in connection with the European Neighbour-
hood Policy in relation to the balancing of the discussion with the Southern
dimension as a result of the Arab Spring was clearly successful. On the other
hand, although the Council Presidency was able through its activities to bro-
ker a differentiated declaration of the Partnership Summit between the mem-
ber states, this remained without a forceful strategic appeal and without a
breakthrough in sensitive issues like the European aspirations of the partner
Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
countries or visa liberalisation. In the field of external representation, the
Polish Presidency was furthermore not in a position to bring the remaining
five Eastern partner countries on board with regards to the issue of Belarus,
which was particularly frustrating for Warsaw. Regarding the relatively li-
mited impact on Kiev in the Tymoshenko case, there is even the impression
that Poland lost at this time an established strength, namely the ability to
exert decisive influence on its Eastern neighbours through its political weight
and as an advocate of the neighbourhood policy in the EU. On the other hand,
significant successes could be achieved with countries such as Georgia and
In the overall picture it is however not surprising that in the geopolitical
and internal climate a true strategic development of the neighbourhood pol-
icy was not realisable and instead an attempt was made to push existing
pathways – such as the roadmap for the 2013 summit – to the front. Never-
theless, taken as a whole a positive judgement can be made. Poland can be
considered as a committed and solid broker in times of stagnation. Poland
dampened expectations without causing the long-term goals of the Eastern
Partnership to be abandoned. Although Poland made no secret of its prefer-
ence for cooperation with the Eastern neighbours, it was never perceived as
partisan or one-sided. And ultimately it skilfully executed its presidential
tasks against a wealth of external adversity. In this sense, the main area of
negotiation of the Polish Presidency – the Eastern Partnership – is a graphic
example of a Presidency that achieved a moderate result but that did every-
thing right. What footprint Warsaw left behind will probably only become
clear after a few years. In the meantime, the Presidency management has
had one effect: Poland remains also after the Presidency the symbolic leader
state of the Eastern Partnership.
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Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
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Chapter 4: Ambitious realism
Chapter 5: Between honest broker and self-centred president
Energy and climate Policy during the Polish EU Council
Ernest Wyciszkiewicz
The EU energy landscape in the making
In recent years the EU has experienced exponential growth of legislative and
non-legislative initiatives related to energy and climate policies. This re-
flected a steady increase in political and economic significance of these
fields for the EU as well as for the individual member states. Both energy
and climate are highly complex domains, with internal and external dimen-
sions intertwined, and a large number of EU-level, state and non-state actors.
These actors espouse different interests and numerous frequently divisive
issues with serious political or financial implications. However, the EU gov-
ernments accepted that the EU would badly need a coherent approach in
climate and energy policy to tackle various external and internal challenges
and to meet desirable goals, such as ensuring security of supply, establishing
competitive electricity and gas markets and responding to environmental
risks. Therefore, the transformation of the hitherto underdeveloped energy
landscape in Europe has been under way due to overall political consensus
among member states and the determination of the European Commission,
fuelled by the volatility of energy markets, growing import dependence and
recurrent supply crises.
A significant vulnerability to supply disruption due to heavy oil and gas
import reliance on a single supplier drew the attention of the Polish govern-
ment to a common EU energy policy as a means to increase Poland’s re-
silience to external shocks. Poland has consistently supported the idea of a
common energy policy and called for solidarity in meeting challenges to
security of supply. However, similarly to other members, Poland has opted
for preserving national sovereignty over energy mix, which ultimately was
confirmed by the Treaty of Lisbon. At the same time, physical and regulatory
integration of energy markets ranked high on the Polish agenda, which was
demonstrated by its firm support for the third liberalisation package as out-
lined by the Commission. The third pillar of the EU energy policy, which
now might be narrowed down to decarbonisation, has been seen as a burden
rather than an opportunity, except for energy efficiency, which was given a
high priority in the national energy strategy (Ministry of Economy 2009).
The broader context of the EU energy policy during the Polish EU Council
Presidency is certainly the Eurozone crisis and the debate on economic gov-
ernance of the EU that cast a shadow on other domains, including energy
and climate. However, this influence should not be overestimated, since it
was anticipated long before Poland took over the Presidency. Thus, the Eu-
rozone crisis could have been a challenge had the Presidency planned to
introduce far-reaching and controversial decisions in the second half of 2011.
Since this was not the case, the economic crisis turned out to be rather helpful
by putting an additional emphasis on Polish calls for more market-oriented
policy with respect to both energy and climate.
The energy policy during the Polish EU Council Presidency
In the field of energy, the Polish Presidency was facing a typical problem of
matching contradictory expectations; that is, putting aside national interests
to act as honest broker and simultaneously making use of its perceived com-
petences, which by nature are located in the key areas for national interests.
Additionally, inflated domestic expectations put the government under sig-
nificant pressure.
Poland took over the Presidency in the midst of several parallel processes
under way in the field of energy since 2010. At the strategic level in Novem-
ber 2010 the Commission published the Communication on Energy strategy
to 2020 (European Commission 2010a) and announced its plans to prepare
the long-term Energy Roadmap 2050 by the end of 2011. Additionally, it
released papers on energy infrastructure priorities (European Commission
2010b) to initiate debate about eliminating bottlenecks and developing ef-
fective and interconnected transmission systems for gas and electricity. At
the same time it was about to prepare the proposals for boosting the external
dimension of the EU energy policy, which was a result of Polish pre-Presi-
dency efforts. Looking into more technical issues a follow-up to the third
liberalisation package (which entered into force in March 2011) was pre-
sented in December 2010 in the form of proposed regulation on “Energy
market integrity and transparency” (European Commission 2010c). More-
Ernest Wyciszkiewicz
over, in June 2011 the Commission published the “Energy Efficiency Di-
rective” proposal and Poland was obliged to moderate the first phase of dis-
cussions in working groups and the Council (European Commission
By and large, Poland was expected to put energy on a shortlist of its priorities.
The external dimension emerged as an obvious choice, notably with Russia
and security of supply lurking behind. Yet, the Polish government decided
not to target directly the EU’s relations with major gas suppliers, definitely
one of the most divisive issues among member states. Instead, it looked at
external capabilities through the prism of developing internal coherence and
transparency and extending energy acquis into the immediate neighbour-
hood. Such a decision was naturally driven by national interests and an EU-
wide perspective at the same time. Initially, it might have been seen as
masking out real objectives, but generally Poland managed to focus on issues
of European importance and to avoid controversies with a too narrow-mind-
ed approach. Particularly helpful was the position of the European Com-
mission, which not only subscribed to the Polish intention of strengthening
the external dimension but also added new features, namely the proposal on
the exchange of information and ex ante assessments of intergovernmental
energy agreements between members and third countries (European Com-
mission 2011b). Thus, the Polish initiative to give a boost to EU international
energy capabilities matched European demand. Additionally, other more
specific energy topics chosen by the Presidency were not highly controver-
sial either and were met with mostly positive feedback from other stake-
holders. One of the reasons might be that the energy debate in the second
half of 2011 was about principles and only slightly touched the future dis-
tribution of financial resources. Apart from the external dimension, where
Poland took the initiative, the stage was almost already set, and the Presi-
dency was expected to effectively manage issues that had already been put
on the table rather than bring in new ideas.
Chapter 5: Between honest broker and self-centred president
Since unexpected proposals are not welcomed by the Commission and
member states, a lot of work needs to be done well before taking the Presi-
dency, especially to push forward a new process (agenda-setting function).
The Polish government chose the external dimension of the energy policy
as a priority in the first half of 2010 after intense inter-ministerial delibera-
tions. The second option on the table was the internal market, namely the
elimination of existing dysfunctions in terms of regulations. To strike a bal-
ance it was decided that external EU capabilities in energy should be de-
veloped not only through the establishing of a coherent and consistent ap-
proach towards third parties but most importantly through market instru-
ments, such as the enlarging and deepening of the Energy Community. It
should help the EU to operate more effectively in a highly competitive in-
ternational energy environment and to upgrade its bargaining power vis-à-
vis major producing, consuming and transit countries.
The external dimension was considered the least developed, though nec-
essary, element of energy policy. It was thought neither too controversial
nor divisive, but rather too ephemeral to be covered by legislative initiatives.
Climate policy and internal market gained prominence in political debate,
while very little had actually been achieved with respect to relations with
third countries. The Polish government aimed at distinguishing and giving
new impetus to the external dimension and security of supply by outlining
optimal instruments, preferably with market measures at the forefront. The
elusive concept of external energy policy was supposed to be politically
structured to pave the way for further developments under future presiden-
Poland cooperated intensely with the Hungarian Presidency to achieve
satisfactory conclusions of the European Council meeting of February 4
specifically devoted to energy as well as the Transport, Telecommunication
and Energy (TTE) Council of February 28. They were of utmost importance
for Poland since they were to provide a political mandate for the Presidency’s
operations. Poland also managed to put several important thoughts from the
perspective of national interests into these documents, inter alia an emphasis
on indigenous resources, a declaration on the elimination of energy islands,
and developing the North-South gas corridor in Central Europe (a special
High Level Group on North-South Interconnections was set up under the
chairmanship of the European Commission). The general objective was also
to clarify expectations about the Communication, which was to be published
Ernest Wyciszkiewicz
by the Commission during the Polish Presidency. Any delay would have a
detrimental effect on the Presidency’s intention of translating anticipated
proposals into political guidelines in the form of Council conclusions to pave
the way for more tangible initiatives later on. Actually, steps undertaken by
the Polish government before taking the post ought to be seen not just as
purely preparatory work but an integral part of the Presidency. Without these
efforts and constant consultations with the Commission and member states
it would hardly be possible to achieve progress.
Presidency in progress
Naturally the agenda of meetings under the Polish Presidency was known
well before it took off. Apart from tens of technical expert and working group
discussions, three large informal events were organised to prepare the ground
for the TTE Council planned for November 24. In July, Directors General
for energy from all member states gathered in Bełchatów to discuss the En-
ergy Roadmap 2050 under preparation by the Commission. It was telling
that an event devoted to the long-term development of energy markets and
innovations, with decarbonisation at the heart of the debate, was organised
close to one of the largest coal-fired power stations in the EU. The strong
signal was sent by Poland that the Presidency opted for the optimal balancing
of three fundamental goals of energy policy – competitiveness, security of
supply and sustainability. It was aimed at changing the paradigm of thinking
prevailing in the EU that combatting climate change was stretching like an
umbrella over other domains of energy policy such as energy efficiency or
market liberalisation. Poland regularly emphasised that competitiveness, in
particular under current circumstances, should be the major driving force of
energy policy. Such a tactic was adopted with respect to the talks on the low-
emission economy and Energy Roadmap 2050, in which Poland tried to use
agenda-setting prerogatives to change the hierarchy of debated issues. Mar-
ket initiatives were placed at the forefront to put aside discussions about
emission reductions and decarbonisation. It was just buying time, since ul-
timately the Energy Roadmap 2050 as outlined by the Commission in De-
cember 2011 turned out to be far from Polish expectations.
In September, Wrocław hosted Ministers of Energy of the EU, EFTA and
for the first time ever the Energy Community, who debated external
aspects of energy policy, a week after the Commission released its Com-
munication on the external dimension of energy policy (European Commis-
Chapter 5: Between honest broker and self-centred president
sion 2011c). It was against stereotypical expectations that Poland would be
especially interested in debates about measures to contain Russian political
and business ambitions. However, the Presidency chose export of the EU
acquis as a crucial tool for power projection. Participation of the non-EU
Energy Community members signalled that the Presidency supported the
logic of extending the EU internal energy market and stable investment cli-
mate to Southeast Europe and beyond on the basis of a legally binding
framework. To strengthen its position Poland became formal participant of
the Community. Additionally there was a link between the proactive ap-
proach towards the Energy Community and other Presidency priorities,
namely enlargement and the Eastern Partnership.
The Presidency took over and brought to a successful end in September
talks about a mandate for the Commission to negotiate a legally binding
treaty between the EU, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to construct a Trans-
Caspian Pipeline System and thus to pave the way for the realisation of the
Southern Gas Corridor. Actually it turned into the first operational achieve-
ment of external energy policy in the making.
Even more important was the Commission’s draft of decision setting up
an information exchange mechanism on intergovernmental agreements be-
tween Member States and third countries. This was an unintended conse-
quence of the Polish invitation of the EC to the intergovernmental negotia-
tions with Russia in 2010. The Commission decided to use that precedent to
build a formal mechanism for increasing its knowledge about political un-
derpinnings of trade contracts. In particular, the EC emphasised the need for
an ex-ante compatibility control mechanism to check if negotiated agree-
ments comply with EU law before they are signed. It is not fully clear what
role the Presidency played, be it initiating work on this proposal or just
shaping it, but Poland definitely provided food for thought a year before and
reaped the rewards during the Presidency because the Commission’s ideas
were harmonised with Polish thinking to a large extent. The general aim was
to generate pressure on other governments and companies through the po-
litical instrument of Council conclusions to make them give up various
clauses incompatible with internal market and competition acquis.
Moreover, in October in Cracow a high-level conference was held on
competitive and integrated markets as a guarantee of EU energy security.
When speaking about market issues, the Presidency emphasised the neces-
sity of full implementation of the third liberalisation package with no dero-
gations or exemptions for third countries. Additionally, the Presidency
strongly emphasised the need for reciprocity and transparency in mutual
Ernest Wyciszkiewicz
energy relations between the EU and its partners, along with establishing a
level playing field and investment stability. Although it was rightly moti-
vated by the need for maintaining integrity and coherence, it was obviously
a reaction to Russian insistence on special treatment under EU law, and was
welcomed with ambiguity in some member states (i.e. Germany). Later,
Poland managed to include into the Council conclusions a statement that the
energy chapter of a new PCA with Russia shall be fully consistent with
internal energy market legislation.
All cited major events during the Polish Presidency mirrored three es-
sential pillars of EU energy policy and therefore fit smoothly into the con-
ceptual framework of energy policy as proposed by the EC and approved by
the Council in recent years. However, Poland put things in preferable order
to attract broader attention to its priorities. Although security of supply still
prevailed in general public discourse in Poland, for pragmatic reasons it was
muted by the government at the EU level to avoid unnecessary tensions.
Instead it concentrated on improving internal markets, which started to be
identified as a truly effective instrument to exert influence on third countries.
Anchoring proposals in ongoing developments at the EU level made ad-
ministrative and managerial work for the Presidency easier. No serious con-
flict erupted between the Presidency and other members or institutions.
It should also be noted that Poland used the opportunity given by the
Presidency to speed up developments with respect to tightening regional
energy cooperation in Central Europe with North-South Interconnections
(NSI) as a cornerstone. It was formally beyond the scope of the Presidency’s
activities, since Poland acted as member state in the High Level Group es-
tablished under the European Commission. Holding the Presidency was
helpful for drawing attention to this project, which brought a concrete result
in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding and Action Plan (High Level
Group 2011) as well as general political acceptance that NSI should be an
integral part of the infrastructure development plan under discussion.
Poland managed to conclude its Presidency with quite extensive TTE
Council conclusions which dealt in a surprisingly in-depth way with many
aspects of international energy cooperation (Council 2011). There was a
certain risk of failure, since the Baltic States opposed some elements of the
conclusions with respect to electricity, but the Presidency reached a com-
promise through the deletion of the controversial fragment. Except for this
episode it would be difficult to point to any really serious controversies in
the field of energy.
Chapter 5: Between honest broker and self-centred president
By pushing the external dimension forward, Poland was not masking out
its real intentions and preferences but dressed them into a European costume
and ultimately gained the support of other stakeholders. Several issues fun-
damental for the Presidency were ultimately included in the conclusions,
notably the drafting of a coordination mechanism through regular formal
and informal meetings of Energy Ministers and other national officials, with
the participation of various Council formations and the Commission, to
achieve consistency in dealing with major energy actors. The Presidency
also insisted on improving the coherence of the EU position in international
organisations and forums such as the International Energy Agency, Energy
Charter Treaty, International Renewable Energy Agency, G8, G20, Inter-
national Energy Forum and others. Since no serious disagreements arose in
relation to the external dimension, the Presidency’s manoeuvring between
member states and EU institutions to reach a majority was relatively un-
problematic and smooth.
Any other business
Although the external dimension was put at the heart of the Polish pro-
gramme, the Presidency was also obliged to manage the negotiations over
other issues, inter alia the energy efficiency directive and regulation on mar-
ket transparency and integrity, which represented the core energy legislation
for the second half of 2011.
In June 2011 the Commission submitted the draft Energy Efficiency Di-
rective. It was noted that the Presidency quite effectively initiated discus-
sions in the Council and ensured smooth proceedings. Poland ranked effi-
ciency highly in its ‘Energy policy by 2030’ and was interested in giving a
boost to the whole process, bearing in mind the lack of sufficient progress
in meeting