Thursday October 21, 2021
Poland question and energy prices
Merkel’s last EU summit could escalate
Your last EU summit could offer some surprises even for a professional like Merkel: The member states are arguing over the question of whether they will sanction Poland for undermining EU law. There is another problem that requires quick solutions.
The bitter dispute over the rule of law in Poland threatens to overshadow Chancellor Angela Merkel’s possibly last EU summit. Before the meeting of the heads of state and government on Thursday in Brussels, all signs point to confrontation. Some countries are pushing for a hard line and sanctions against Warsaw. Merkel and other states, on the other hand, rely on dialogue. In addition, there are also far-reaching differences of opinion on the actual top topic of the summit – energy prices. So only trouble in sight?
Poland, the rule of law and open confrontation: EU Council President Charles Michel actually wanted to keep the debate on the subject away from the summit. But since the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has recently shown no concession, there is no way around a discussion.
The background to the escalating dispute is the judgment of the Polish Constitutional Court, according to which parts of EU law are incompatible with Poland’s constitution. This decision is viewed by the EU Commission and a number of other states as extremely problematic because it could give the Polish government an excuse to ignore its unpleasant judgments of the European Court of Justice.
In the European Parliament there was a violent exchange of blows between the parties on Tuesday. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen openly threatened Poland with financial sanctions because of the judgment, Morawiecki in turn accused the EU Commission of extortion and overruns. How it will continue is unclear. While countries like the Netherlands are calling for a tough course against violations of the rule of law, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a dialogue with Warsaw last Friday. “We have big problems, but I advise you to talk to them and find compromises,” she said. The CDU politician also fears that if there is too much pressure Poland could block important EU projects such as climate policy.
Paris wants to promote nuclear power
What can be done about the explosion in gas prices? The real hot topic of the heads of state and government is the dramatic rise in energy prices. Prices – especially for gas – have been skyrocketing for months. This is reflected in higher electricity and heating costs for consumers. The EU Commission recently presented ways in which EU countries can take action against this. These include tax cuts, payments to affected households or subsidies for small businesses.
Several countries have already taken such measures. However, states like Spain or France are calling for more far-reaching measures at EU level. At the summit, for example, there will be discussions about how, among others, Spain and Greece are calling for joint gas stocks to be created or to buy gas together.
However, there is no consensus on this; Germany, for example, is critical. France, among others, had also called for the system for setting up European electricity prices for wholesalers to be changed. Paris is also taking the opportunity to promote nuclear power. Since the positions differ widely, the summit is unlikely to produce any concrete results.
And otherwise? At dinner, the heads of state and government want to hold a strategy debate on the EU’s trade policy. Foreign policy issues are also discussed. On Friday there will be another discussion on the situation in the area of migration and digital change on the agenda. Somewhere between the talks there will also be a small farewell party for Angela Merkel, who will probably be attending an EU summit for the last time. Their record is extraordinary after 16 years in the Chancellery. The summit planned for Thursday will be the 107th meeting with Merkel, said a spokesman for the European Council.