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Exclusive interview of the Foreign Minister of Poland Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz with eu2003.gr

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz
The positive and negative aspects regarding his country’s accession to the EU are exhaustively developed by the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairsr Mr Wlodzimierz Cimoszewiecz in an exclusive interview with eu2003.gr. Among other things, Mr Cimoszewicz expands his vision concerning the future of Europe.  

-Which will be the benefits for your country from accession to the EU? What are the problems to overcome?

Several impact studies have been published recently on the issue of costs and benefits of EU accession for Poland(see:http://www1.ukie.gov.pl/dokumenty/Balance_of_costs_and_benefits-summary.pdf).

 Their authors argue that the fundamental difference between the membership and non-accession scenarios consists in the fact that EU membership will accelerate economic growth and make the process of modernisation and bridging of the developmental gap between Poland and current Member States much faster. Poland’s GDP per head in PPP terms stands currently at only 40% of the EU-15 average. Thus the increase in the potential growth rate and accelerated real convergence should be considered as the major benefit of the EU accession.

 Poland’s membership in the EU will:
• Create favourable environment for domestic saving and investments, which in result expands the stock of capital;
• Promote the influx of private capital, especially in its most growth stimulating form – FDI entailing not only transfer of financial resources but also positive spill -over effects for local firms (via technology transfer, diffusion of innovation, know-how, etc.);   
• Lead to dismantling of trade barriers and more open economy. Together with the modernisation of the industry sector it will boost trade, enhance the competitiveness of local products on global markets and lead to convergence of economic structures;
• Due the increase in exports and private capital flows help to enhance the external equilibrium of the economy and, in the medium term, reduces the deficit in the current account
• Promote further internal macroeconomic stability (low inflation and fiscal discipline), which is prerequisite of the proper functioning within the Economic and Monetary Union.
• Financial transfers from the EU budget will help, in a mid term perspective, to overcome structural barriers of growth such as underdeveloped infrastructure and in agriculture sector.
• In the longer run it should also contribute to the increase in employment. With a higher growth, more FDI, participation in the CAP and cohesion policy and free movement of workers the situation should improve gradually.

However, the accession into the EU entails also adjustment costs. For instance, it is estimated that compliance with the environmental acquis will cost 20-30 billion EUR within the next 15 years, out of which 70% will have to be financed by the private sector. Adjustment to the EU work and health safety standards and harmonisation of the product technical harmonisation seem to be less costly. Nevertheless, in some sectors the combined cost of compliance with different EU regulations may affect economic viability of some enterprises. Thus, providing the accurate information about new opportunities and challenges is one of the biggest tasks faced by the Poland’s authorities on the way to the EU membership. Finally, setting up a proper administrative system for the use of structural funds and CAP instruments is a precondition for reaping full benefits of membership.

 -How do you assess the EU's strategy for employment? With which policies do you think it could be strengthened? Which initiatives should be taken for combating social exclusion?

Entry into force of the European Employment Strategy was prompted by poor standing of the labour markets in several EU Member States. The Member States became aware that as the integration process progresses, it has become necessary to undertake measures aimed at development of common solutions improving mid-term labour market prospects in the European Union. Unfortunately the hitherto experience shows that the effects of strategies for employment are inadequate. Despite creation of guidelines for national employment policies, their outcome is not satifsfactory. This ensues partly from lack of resolve on the part of individual states in the introduction of recommended solutions and programmes, difficult economic situation and discrepancy between supply and demand on the labour market.

 Simultaneously one needs to assess positively the method of open co-ordination, which allows for specific traits of labour markets in individual states to be taken into account. Given the current variations in employment policy models in place in each country, it is inadvisable to substitute the open co-ordination method with  a community policy.

The European employment policy and the ensuing guidelines cannot be limited solely to actions under the framework of social policy and labour market management. They need to refer directly to fiscal, economic policy (e.g. liberalisation of certain sectors) and mainly to measures targeted at stimulating entrepreneurship, particularly in the SME sector (e.g. limitation of paperwork related to establishment and pursuance of business activity; special credit lines). Each economic decision should take account of its outcome upon local and national labour markets.

Such policies should result in bringing down of unemployment levels in European Union Member States, which will in turn bring about greater social inclusion and limitation of social problems we currently experience. However, strong resolve in the introduction of the desired changes is needed here on the part of the EU Member States. One must be prepared for the fact that in short-term perspective certain solution can arouse dissatisfaction and even protests of some social groups.

It seems that currently the best effect for an increase of social inclusion among socially excluded groups will be brought about by a consistent introduction of the idea of subsidiarity accompanied by better targeted social assistance. This should result in a greater than currently activation of persons staying out of work at their own choice. One needs to remember here, however, that the necessary reforms should not affect adversely those persons who are unable to function in the society without state assistance. We cannot allow for a situation where persons leaving the group of the socially excluded are immediately substituted by others.

What is your vision for the future of Europe? Which could be its position internationally?

The debate on the future of the Union clearly shows that the fundamental challenge is to ensure the ability of quick response to new situations. That is what the citizens of the European Union expect. This is also required by the advent of globalisation and by the need to upgrade the global position of the Union and to reflect its economic potential. We support the anchoring of the principles of democracy and transparency in the pursuit of all EU activities, the internal and external ones.

 As concerns the internal dimension, the Union has to improve its democratic legitimacy and become more understandable to the citizens. A greater efficiency in dealing with such trans-frontier questions as environment protection, organised crime, drugs trafficking, money laundering, international terrorism, human trafficking and illegal migration is also required. The EU needs to improve its economic position to meet these challenges. With regard to institutional issues, we do feel that in the light of enlargement some improvements in the institutional mechanism are desirable. However the required institutional reform should not undermine the basic principles of the integration process. The so called “community method” needs to be strengthened. Moreover it is not indispensable to include all the details in the future Constitution. It must be maintained a certain amount of flexibility and allowing the future institutions room for manoeuvre.

With regard to the external dimension – the Union should try to speak with one voice on international issues, thus improving its image and enhancing co-operation with third countries. There are many examples of differences that impair the CFSP, undoubtedly Iraq being the most evident one. If the EU is able to identify honestly the reasons of the present crisis and if there is enough political will to overcome them, the CFSP will emerge from this crisis stronger for the benefit of the whole Europe. It is crucial for the EU to define its international role as a partner for the US.

 It seems that the creation of the double-hatted European Foreign Representative will be one of the most important achievements of the Convention. Experience of the past tells us that whenever we had a proper institutional framework, it was easier to succeed. Therefore having a single Foreign Representative can make a difference. The condition is that we look beyond creating the function itself and consider what instruments and practical arrangements need to be put in place to make sure that the Representative does not become a virtual one. One of such prerequisites of efficiency is for the Union to have a comprehensive security strategy and establish a mechanism for its regular review and revision.

Europe does not end at the EU Eastern or Southern borders. No one should forget that the stabilising role of the EU is not confined to its member states. It extends also to the Union’s neighbourhood. Poland intends to be an important contributor to the idea of the EU Immediate Environment.

There is one more field of immense interest for the European continent. What is its future palace in the international or world division of labour? We need a broad European debate on this. There is no doubt, the Union must become the economic motor which it once was. Grows in the Union helps all to grow.

 


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