Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has been meeting the President of the EU executive Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, keen to clear up ‘misunderstandings’ as the Polish visitor put it, or, as some diplomats and analysts see it, to brighten up Warsaw’s image – tarnished by his new government’s positions.
On this, his first, foreign trip, Kaczynski summed up parts of his meeting with Barroso saying: “I asserted that Poland was democratic in the broadest sense of the word, and it will remain democratic. It is a market economy and this will be strengthened. The changes we are undertaking serve only to strengthen democracy, the rule of the market and doing away with harmful obstacles to our development.”
Kaczynski’s conservative Law and Justice party won a general election nearly a year ago, vowing to defend against potentially corrupting foreign influences. Among the many strains on the Warsaw-Brussels relationship: a Commission probe is under way into massive state aid Poland had granted to its shipyards, which could go bust if Brussels rules the aid breaks EU fair competition rules.
Poland’s ties with Germany have also been under stress, over energy diplomacy: Berlin’s deal with Moscow to build a gas pipe-line avoiding Polish territory — this combined with a raking up of historic war-time rancour. As for European integration, Poland is the only new EU Member State not to have set a target date for joining the euro.
But Kaczynski insists his country considers its attachment to the EU important, and dismissed criticism of his human rights attitudes. Brussels has warned the new government in Warsaw to abide by EU standards, including keeping in place a European ban on capital punishment. Kaczynski said last month he supports the death penalty in some cases. He has also been criticised in western Europe for banning a gay parade when he was a mayor of Warsaw.