Ewa Boniecka: What do you consider to be Poland’s most important interests and urgent issues in the EU?
Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (PO, EPP): The European Union is constantly changing. The thing that is of utmost importance is the future shape of the EU. It is in Poland’s interest to have the European Union strong and promoting solidarity among its members.
At the same time Poland cannot afford to be a second-class member in a two-speed Europe. So we have to have our own vision of a Europe of tomorrow, and we need to build our coalitions with that in mind.
When it comes to economic policy, a banking union, foreign and defense policy and industrial policy, we should be a part of the discussions and make sure the position of Poland is taken into account by all decision makers.
What is your main area of expertise in the European Parliament?
I deal with energy and climate policy, which is one of the pillars of EU policy. We have recently set forth its main directions for the years 2020-2030. That discussion will continue in the future as well and Polish MEPs will have to put in a lot of work and effort to make the EU’s energy goals compatible with Polish reality.
Poles generally agree that we should do more to fight climate change and expand our energy networks to be more sustainable and efficient. But sometimes debates in Brussels ignore the fact that Poland is a unique country in Europe. While most member states have a wider mix of energy sources and import these sources from abroad, almost all of Poland’s energy is generated from domestic coal deposits.
Because of this, Poland will not be able to change its energy mix while maintaining its energy security and social cohesion.
How can Polish MEPs help Poland maintain its energy security?
Later this year, the European Commission will propose its new energy and climate targets for 2030. It is here that Polish MEPs and society should work to find a balance which is good for both the environment and Polish energy consumers.
Also this fall and in the coming years, European priorities for energy infrastructure will be determined and later put into practice. We have to make sure that most of the projects proposed will support Poland’s energy security.
What kind of energy projects does Poland need the most?
We need a gas network independent of Russian sources and connected to the West. Also our electricity networks need to be improved so we can support increased demand without experiencing blackouts. Finally, we have to make sure no administrative restraints hinder our right to explore and develop other Polish energy sources, such as shale gas.
What other elements of EU policy do you think are most important for Poland?
We also have to make sure that Poland continues to receive cohesion policy funds and that we are free to use them to provide Poland with the kind of support it really needs. Cohesion policy funds are the biggest advantage from our membership in the EU. It allows us to change Poland for the better at a far smaller cost than if we did it on our own.
Thanks to the hard work of Polish MEPs and of the Polish government, we will continue to receive this funding in the coming period. But now we have to manage these funds and make sure that the projects we finance will help our economy and the average Pole to increase his standard of living. Not all regions are the same and our role is to prevent any attempt to apply a “one-size-fits-all” administration with these funds.
What does cooperation with other Polish MEPs, those elected from different parties, look like?
We have a Polish Club in the European Parliament, which is a forum where Polish MEPs from all political groupings can meet. It exists but the meetings happen very rarely. So in my view it does not play a big role in our work. Nevertheless, we communicate on the most important matters for Poland and we seek the support of our colleagues from other political groups in the EP.
Ewa Boniecka: How do Polish MEPs from different political groupings handle matters which are particularly important for Poland and its interests?
Janusz Zemke (SLD, S&D): Members of the European Parliament are grouped in international political parties. A majority of Polish MEPs belong to one of the two biggest factions – politicians from Civic Platform (PO) and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) are members of the European People’s Party (EPP) and deputies from SLD are members of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group. This does not mean, however, that we don’t communicate and cooperate on issues which are considered key for Poland’s interests. We can present a common stand on such issues.
We meet formally as members of the Polish Club, where we discuss the issues of utmost importance for Poland, and those debates can be very heated. But informal communication is much more frequent. In my view this system works quite well, so when we vote on matters crucial for Poland’s welfare, we vote in agreement, often against the position of the EP groupings to which we belong.
Is that not frowned upon by the group you are a member of, Socialists & Democrats?
My group allows this on the condition that we inform the chairman of the S&D before the vote that due to important national interests we will be voting differently from the rest. This often happens when we vote on restrictive regulations regarding environmental protection.
Our faction includes a big group of deputies who believe that these regulations should be even more restrictive, for instance when it comes to CO2 emissions limits. This is unacceptable for Poles because it would mean a significant increase in the costs of producing energy in our country.
What other areas of European policy do you consider fundamental?
An issue which poses fundamental questions right now is how Europe will develop after the crisis. In my view there are two important fields which the European Parliament should support.
The first one is the development of modern technology and creating so-called “intelligent workplaces.” Europe, including Poland, is beginning to lag behind other countries in the world in terms of scientific and technological development. EU funds should therefore be spent quite differently from the way they have been spent in recent years. Decisive measures must be taken to increase spending on scientific research and the development of modern technologies.
The other important problem for which the European Parliament has to find a solution is the situation young Europeans have found themselves in, facing increasing difficulties in finding work and achieving stability in life. There is no simple way out of the problem, but it has to be dealt with.
How can the EU combat youth unemployment?
The European Union has to support courses of study that give their graduates better chances of finding a job in the future. It should also strengthen the ties between education, business and various institutions both on the local and European levels.
Helping young Europeans also entails preparing laws that will make it easier for member states to acknowledge the degrees and qualifications obtained in other member states. Today, young Poles who leave our country have to obtain nostrification documents [granting recognition of a degree from Polish universities] confirming their education and qualifications. This is a form of discrimination.
Why do I stress that? Because I want Europe to be truly open, where it is possible for people not only to move freely to other countries, but also to get work on par with their qualifications and enjoy the same rights as the citizens of the host country.
Leftist parties want to strengthen the European Union, but this process doesn’t only mean strengthening EU institutions. It also has to mean more democracy within the EU and more democratic rights for all European citizens.
Ewa Boniecka: What do you consider the most important area of EU policy as far as Poland is concerned?
Jarosław Kalinowski (PSL, EPP): We are a country with great traditions and huge potential in agriculture, which is growing every year, both in terms of production and export. Polish food is valued not only in European markets, but also all around the world. Therefore we have to do everything to support our agricultural produce.
We are currently about to complete work on reforming the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy. We are doing everything to hammer out a compromise that will satisfy farmers all over Europe, including Polish farmers.
The arguments we present meet with understanding and many of them will become a part of the Common Agricultural Policy. Poland’s aim is to adopt policies which will increase the competitiveness of Polish agriculture and in consequence will ensure a higher standard of living for Polish villages.
Which other areas do you believe are crucial for Poland?
Energy policy is also a fundamental issue. We have to remember that the main source of energy in Poland is coal, which is considered by many MEPs as obsolete and ineffective.
Investing in renewable energy sources is a necessity as well. But for that Poland needs European support. EU regulations can lay the groundwork and create opportunities for Poland to explore renewable energy on a large scale. It is a complicated matter because there are a lot of conflicting interests here.
Our goal is to make every effort to work out a legal framework that will not harm Polish biofuels producers but instead will provide them with chances for development. Building new biogas plants, using biomass produced in Poland could not only help us diversify our energy mix, but also bring the residents of Polish villages additional income.
Our current efforts will help stabilize our energy sector for years to come.
Ewa Boniecka: What in your view are the most important goals for Poland in shaping EU policy?
Konrad Szymański (PiS, ECR): There are two fundamentally important challenges in the European Union today: climate reform-related policies which should take into account the competitiveness of our economy, as well as an effective common market.
At the moment, none of the proposals on climate policy are acceptable for countries with energy-intensive industries and specifically for Central Europe. This is not only about our energy output and electricity prices. The competitiveness of the entire Polish economy is at stake.
Central European members of the EU depend on coal in energy production and a compulsory shift towards renewable energy sources is too expensive for them – both because of their climate conditions and due to financial limitations.
Without a significant increase in our own gas reserves, a shift towards gas is troublesome. A growth of gas consumption cannot be carried out by increasing Poland’s dependency on gas imported from Russia. This is one of the reasons why we see unconventional gas production as our strategic goal. The EU can play a more or less constructive role in this field.
You also mentioned the common market as Poland’s main goal. Why is that?
The matter of the European common market is by no means less challenging. It is the driving force behind our economic growth. The economic crisis is a good excuse for some politicians to slow down the implementation of the common market and even to promote policies imposing new limitations on the free flow of labor, goods or services. We need to defend open and equal access to the common market for all our citizens and companies.
How do you see the cooperation of Polish MEPs from various political groups?
There is a long tradition of deep and pragmatic cooperation of Polish politicians in European institutions.
Still, as the main opposition party, we often disagree with the feeble and often late response of the Polish government to decisions made at the EU level. But in areas concerning climate, energy, budget or the common market we are ready to work together irrespective of political divisions.
The only problem we have is the position of the Polish left on climate issues. Their political group (S&D) supports policies dangerous for Poland’s economic position in Europe.
From Warsaw Business Journal
Poles continue to look for work abroad
Poles continue to look for work abroad
New FinMin wary of Poland joining euro zone
Ukraine suspends talks on EU association
Poland will make sure it was not tapped on by US - PM Tusk
Will cabinet reshuffle save PO?
BY Remi Adekoya
What’s next for Jarosław Gowin?
BY Remi Adekoya