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Poland takes over EU presidency at time of crisis

07-01-2011 08:07 BJT

WARSAW - Poland takes over the European Union's rotating presidency for the first time on Friday and it has made reviving economic growth a priority as the 27-nation bloc battles the sovereign debt crisis in Greece and elsewhere.

Poland wants to strengthen the single market that it says underpins Europe's prosperity, to press ahead with enlargement of the bloc into the western Balkans and rebuild trust in the union's institutions.

"Poland has an ambition to move Europe out of at least the psychological problems it is in now," Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said late on Thursday. "At times of crisis, the worst thing we can do is to re-nationalise our policies."

"Europe today needs joint action, more cooperation and more integration. We want to rebuild trust in collective projects. (...) Poland will try to reconvert Europe to the faith in Europe, reignite the spark of confidence," he told a seminar.

Apart from finalising Croatia's EU accession, starting membership talks with Serbia and clinching a trade deal with Ukraine, Warsaw also wants to promote deeper energy and military cooperation within the bloc.

The EU's top two officials, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy, were both scheduled to attend Friday's celebrations in Warsaw marking the launch of Poland's six months at the EU's helm.

Success Story

Poland will present itself as a modern EU success story that has achieved strong economic growth since joining the bloc with seven other nations in 2004, even avoiding recession during the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

But the huge challenges facing the EU will test Polish optimism and ingenuity to the full in coming months.

In Greece, parliament approved austerity and privatisation bills on Thursday in a crucial vote to secure emergency EU and IMF funds to avert imminent bankruptcy. Serious doubts remain over whether the Greek government will be able to weather the course.

EU leaders remain concerned about the risks of contagion to other euro zone countries also struggling with large debts.

Other challenges include difficult negotiations over the EU's next long-term budget, due to start under the Polish presidency. The issue pits poorer countries like Poland that favour generous funds against net contributors to the budget such as Germany and Britain that want to save more money.

Poland will also hold an election in October, midway through its EU presidency, and some commentators say the campaign could distract Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his ministers from the task of steering the Union through difficult times.

Opinion polls give Tusk's ruling centrist Civic Platform (PO) a strong lead over its main rival making a change of power unlikely.

Editor:Li Wanran |Source: China Daily

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