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    People hold European Union and Polish flags during the annual EU parade in Warsaw, Poland May 6, 2017

    Polish Foreign Minister Warns Multi-Speed Europe 'Could Mean the End of the EU'

    © REUTERS / Agencja Gazeta/Dawid Zuchowicz
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    In a tense interview for German media, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski lashed out at the German and French concept of a 'multi-speed' Europe, slammed Berlin for its support of Russia's Nord Steam II pipeline project, and complained that Poland's interests are being neglected in favor of those of politicians in Brussels.

    Speaking to the German daily newspaper Die Welt, Waszczykowski started off cordially enough, describing Poland's relations with Germany as "very good overall." 

    "This applies to political, economic and military issues," the minister explained. "Our annual trade turnover amounts to nearly €100 billion." Furthermore, Waszczykowski noted that Germany's deployment of troops to Poland in the framework of the NATO effort to beef up its presence in Eastern Europe showed that Berlin was "making an important contribution to deterrence," against Russia, presumably.

    Nevertheless, Waszczykowski added that there are "some areas" where interests and views don't match. "Of course every country has the right to represent its own interests, but a certain willingness to compromise couldn't hurt, in our view," he said.

    However, taking off his diplomatic hat, the foreign minister called German cooperation with Russia on the Nord Stream II pipeline project "selfish," and suggested that the pipeline violates not only Poland's interests, but those of other Eastern European countries as well. "The Nord Stream project is a political project that has nothing to do with economic interests," the minister said.

    For its part, Moscow has consistently described Nord Stream II as just the opposite – an economic project to deliver Russian gas to Western European customers directly, thereby bypassing unstable, unreliable or unfriendly governments in Eastern Europe.

    A handout by Nord Stream 2 claims to show the first pipes for the Nord Stream 2 project at a plant of OMK, which is one of the three pipe suppliers selected by Nord Stream 2 AG, in Vyksa, Russia, in this undated photo provided to Reuters on March 23, 2017
    © REUTERS / Nord Stream 2
    A handout by Nord Stream 2 claims to show the first pipes for the Nord Stream 2 project at a plant of OMK, which is one of the three pipe suppliers selected by Nord Stream 2 AG, in Vyksa, Russia, in this undated photo provided to Reuters on March 23, 2017

    Waszczykowski expressed a different view, suggesting that Nord Stream II would "given give Russia a tool to blackmail Poland, Ukraine and, in the end, Western European governments on energy questions. The pipeline hurts European solidarity and only strengthens Gazprom's monopoly in Europe."

    The minister did not clarify how a project on the commercial sale of natural gas could allow Russia to "blackmail" anybody, since Russia, as the seller of the gas, is more interested than anyone in seeing its stable deliveries continue. This is something that has been made very clear in the repeated gas disputes with Ukraine in recent years.

    Moving on, Waszczykowski  attacked the German-French concept of a 'multi-speed' Europe, supported by both German Chancellor Angela Merkal and recently-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. The minister warned that "this concept would end in disaster" and emphasized that Warsaw rejects the idea.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany May 15, 2017
    © REUTERS / Guido Bergmann/Courtesy of Bundesregierung
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany May 15, 2017

    The minister added further that if the EU begins the process of creating its own political structures, such as an EU finance ministry or a common budget, it would split the EU. "This is very dangerous. This could mean the end of the European Union."

    Observers have warned that 'multi-speed' EU, officially described as a concept where different countries engage in integration at different levels, could see countries like Poland and Hungary being sidelined in future decision-making processes. Both countries are presently at loggerheads with Brussels on several issues, from energy security, to environmental issues, to collective responsibility for refugees and migrants.

    Multi-Speed Europe
    © Sputnik / Vitaly Podvitski
    Multi-Speed Europe

    In Poland's case, the European Commission has also demanded that Poland renege on recent legal reforms, including reforms to the country's constitutional court. Brussels has launched an investigation into whether the rule of law is threatened in Poland. 

    Asked to comment, Waszczykowski complained that it was "illegal to treat Poland this way," adding that the changes to the work of the Constitutional Court, and the composition of judicial posts, were actually made by the previous government. Accordingly, Brussels is showing "double standards" toward the current government in its assessment of the situation, according to the diplomat.

    Ultimately, Waszczykowski emphasized that the "the rhetoric of the EU Commission" on the rule of law in Poland "creates a false image" of the country. "It stigmatizes us. There is no need for this. And it doesn't impress anyone either." 

    Asked whether the European Commission might take the next step and actually move to strip Poland of its voting rights, as it has threatened to do, the diplomat said that this was "pure speculation," and that "under the [EU] Treaty, the Commission does not have the right to initiate such a procedure."

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    antagonism, interview, European Union, Witold Waszczykowski, Germany, Europe, Poland, Russia
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