EU at crossroads: Poland ‘problematic member’ in bloc’s fight for future

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At the end of July, EU leaders finally struck a deal on a huge coronavirus recovery package after a fourth night of sometimes bitter talks. The €750billion (£677billion) coronavirus fund will be used as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus. The remaining money represents the EU budget for the next seven years.

The talks began with a divide emerging between the hardest hit nations and those intent on a more “frugal” package of measures.

Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria all pushed back on an initial package of grants worth €500bn (£450bn), reportedly causing French President Emmanuel Macron to bang his fists in anger.

As many wonder whether the measures will ultimately deepen the bloc’s economic integration or cause its demise, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, former Labour MP and prominent Brexiteer Gisela Stuart claimed the package was necessary for the future of the bloc.

However, she noted Poland could come in the way of Brussels’ integration plan.

Ms Stuart, who has recently been awarded a peerage, said: “I have always thought two things ought to happen if the EU wants to survive.

“Europe has to come up with a model of two kinds of memberships: one for euro members and one for non-euro members.

“The euro countries have to deeply integrate, the other ones don’t.

“Now, with the Recovery Fund, the EU is slowly edging to create debt.

“And I think it is, in the long term, a necessary step if the EU wants to become a true federal state.

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“These are just the consequences of the single currency. And for the EU, it is an important step in the right direction.”

Ms Stuart added: “Whether countries like Poland will want this…that is the crucial question.

“Poland is part of the EU but not part of the euro.

“It is going to be something they have to think about and that could complicate things for the bloc.”

In last month’s Polish presidential elections, Andrzej Duda narrowly beat challenger Rafal Trzaskowski.

It was Poland’s slimmest presidential election victory since the end of communism in 1989.

One of the major issues of the election was the future of the country’s strained relations with the EU.

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Mr Duda is a social conservative allied with the government led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has repeatedly clashed with the bloc.

Under PiS, Poland has played a purely negative role in Brussels, obstructing the EU’s attempts to reform migrant policy and become carbon neutral.

Moreover, PiS talks about Brussels as a new imperial occupation force and has been in a long-running dispute with the bloc over judicial reforms, which critics say limit the independence of the courts.

In December 2019, Poland’s Supreme Court even warned that government plans to overhaul the justice system could eventually force the country to leave the EU.

In the end, the radical judicial reforms never saw the light of day but Mr Duda’s re-election may permit him to make use of veto powers.

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