Monday, June 25, 2007

The Dawn Compromise

Angela Merkel demonstrated her skills as a tough negotiator, as did Lech and Jaroslav Kaczynski.

Tony Blair turned into a French Poodle as Nicolas Sarkozy had no trouble out-smarting Blair.

The Czechs, Slovaks and Lithuanians subtly demonstrated that New Europe will be a force to be reckoned with.

But who really came out a winner from the EU's Brussels summit?
Europe's Marathon Talks Clinch a Deal


A showdown between Merkel and Kaczynski brought the summit to the brink of failure. Merkel heaped on the pressure by saying that she would launch treaty negotiations without Poland, but once a compromise deal was reached, she had to deal with other countries' resistance to what they felt had been too many concessions to Britain.

Once a deal was finally hammered out, all the heads of states pronounced themselves pleased. Polish President Lech Kaczynski praised the diplomatic skill and "solidarity" of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair. Sarkozy said he had worked hand in hand with Merkel and described the deal as "good news for Europe." He said it was a key achievement to have struck a deal with Poland. "After all, we didn't want to leave the biggest country in Eastern Europe behind."

The agreement is crucial for the EU. After the collapse of the constitutional project, following its rejection by France and the Netherlands in 2005, the bloc was caught in a state of paralysis. But Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel had been determined to revive the plans to streamline the EU when Berlin took over the presidency in January. She has spent the past six months trying to hammer out a deal for a slimmed down treaty that could be accepted by all 27 members. And she finally succeeded. The member states have agreed to an intergovernmental conference which will give the deal a legal framework. The treaty will then be ratified by the member states and should come into force by 2009.

Poland Wins Concessions

As expected, the biggest hurdles to overcome were Poland and Britain. Poland felt that its role in the future European decisions would be diminished while bigger countries, in particular Germany, would have a greater say under the new "double majority" voting system. Under the new system, decisions made by the European Council will no longer be made unanimously but rather by a combination of 55 percent of EU states, which have to represent at least 65 percent of the total EU population.

In the run up to the summit Poland's undiplomatic rhetoric, including its repeated references to the Nazi occupation during World War II, shocked and enraged many EU leaders. Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Poland's population would have been much bigger than its current 38 million if it weren't for the fact that millions of Poles died during the war.

The compromise with Poland includes the postponement of the new voting system until 2014, and it will now not be fully implemented until 2017. In essence, it means the Poles can maintain their current level of influence in the EU for another 10 years. Under the current system Poland has 27 votes on the EU's decision-making council, compared with 29 for Germany, although its population is twice as big.

Warsaw was also offered pledges of solidarity in the event of any future energy crises, a major concern as Poland is dependent on Russia for much of its energy supplies. Indeed, German-Polish relations took a dramatic turn for the worse when former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder* signed a Baltic Sea pipeline deal in 2005 that bypassed Poland. The Poles felt Germany and the EU was ignoring their concerns about being over-reliant on Russia for energy supplies.

The agreement was only reached after a dramatic struggle the likes of which has not been seen at an EU summit for many years. Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who did not travel to Brussels, seemed to be calling the shots from Warsaw. When he rejected Merkel's first compromise offer, which included a delay to the voting system until 2014 and more seats for Warsaw in the European parliament, it looked as if Germany's dream of a summit success would end in tatters.

A Surprise Ultimatum

But Merkel's reaction was swift: She presented Warsaw with a surprise ultimatum, threatening to move ahead with the treaty without Poland. Her move was a gamble, with Poland's allies the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia rushing to defend Warsaw, but it prompted a last-minute rush of mediation and finally Poland was convinced by Blair, Sarkozy and Luxembourg Primer Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who played the good cops to Merkel's bad cop. The German chancellor then presented her last offer to the Poles, and they accepted.
There's more.

*Just prior to leaving office, Gerhard Schröder signed a deal with Russia to build the Nord Stream pipeline. Shortly after leaving office, der Gerhard accepted a lucrative position with a consortium that is controlled by Russian energy monopoly Gazprom --- which is building the pipeline.

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