Tue, Jun 19, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Polish wary of German intentions for new EU treaty


A new treaty laying out how to run the EU has ignited fears in Poland that its power within the bloc could be eroded -- a concern fueled by historical angst over Germany's intentions.

Poland's objections to the new voting system being pushed by Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, are so strong that Warsaw has threatened to veto any deal on the future of the charter at EU leaders' summit this week in Brussels.

Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga voiced concerns on the minds of many when she openly questioned Germany's motivations in pushing the new EU treaty.

"There is an issue that I admit personally arouses certain of our fears: namely that the voting system proposed now ensures the most advantages to the country that is leading the EU right now," Fotyga told lawmakers on Friday.

The draft EU constitution -- which needs unanimous approval -- was ratified by 18 EU countries but rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005 referendums. Poland has not yet voted on the charter.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing leaders of the 27 EU nations to agree on which parts of the blueprint can be salvaged and which need to be amended or dropped, with a goal of adopting the revised treaty in 2009. She needs unanimous agreement.

Poland joined the EU in 2004, along with nine other primarily eastern European countries. At that time, voting was governed under an agreement that gave Poland, a country of 38 million, 27 votes.

Germany, with a population of 82 million, has 29 votes under the current system.

The proposed voting system is based on population size and would mean Germany's voting clout would increase to more than twice that of Poland's. The Czech Republic, which also would lose votes, supports Warsaw's proposal.

Poland is proposing that the number of votes instead be based on the square root of a country's population. That system would give Germany nine votes to Poland's six.

Germany's representative for European affairs, Guenter Gloser, dismissed concerns about German ambitions for power, saying: "It is not our goal to dominate."

Poland's objections also are rooted in a deep-seated fear of its western neighbor.

Kaczynski and his brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, harbor "a lot of prejudices against Germany," said Pawel Swieboda, director of the Warsaw-based demosEuropa think tank.

Their father fought the Nazis in the ill-fated Warsaw Uprising in August 1944, and the twins -- who were born in 1949 -- grew up in a strongly nationalistic home on family stories on wartime suffering.

Merkel sought to convince the Polish president to yield on the treaty, meeting with him outside Berlin on Saturday and following up by phone on Sunday, according to his office.

But "for the time being, we're each sticking to our positions, yet with the conviction that there must be success next Thursday and Friday," Kaczynski said in comments broadcast on local TV.

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