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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » April 2, 2008
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Polish Leaders Reach Deal on EU Treaty
April 2, 2008 By W.¯.    
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The government and the conservative opposition have reached an agreement on ratifying the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, ending a dispute that threatened to delay Poland's approval of the document and damage Warsaw's standing in the bloc.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk's five-hour private talks with President Lech Kaczyński at the president's vacation residence on the Hel Peninsula at the Baltic seashore produced a comprise March 29, putting an end to a two-week dispute over the ratification of the treaty.

The ratification procedure had sparked a political battle between the ruling Civic Platform (PO) and the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party. PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński, aided by his twin brother Lech, the president, unexpectedly decided to block the treaty's adoption unless the ratification act to be passed by parliament included additional provisions intended to "safeguard Poland's interests" against what they saw as threats posed by the treaty.

Paradoxically, the Kaczyński brothers opposed a document that they had themselves negotiated at an EU summit in December last year. At the time, both the president and Jarosław Kaczyński, then the prime minister, argued that the treaty was a "historical success for Poland."

But they later argued that some of the document's provisions might threaten Poland's interests by enabling Germans to make claims for properties they lost in areas that are now in Poland after they were displaced following World War II. Other threats, the Kaczyński brothers have argued, include the prospect of legalizing homosexual marriages in Poland, which, according to PiS, "would undermine the country's traditional moral order based on the Christian value system."

PiS had vowed to vote against ratifying the treaty unless the ratification bill to be passed by the Sejm, the lower house of Poland's parliament, included "additional provisions." Without votes from the opposition, the ruling coalition would not be able to muster the necessary two-thirds majority to push the bill through parliament.

The president submitted to the Sejm a bill in which he demanded that the ratification act included a clause requiring joint consent from the president, government and parliament should Poland one day decide to opt out of the Lisbon Treaty's "Joanina mechanism," which regulates the EU's decision-making system until 2019. Under the president's bill, such joint consent by the president, government and parliament would also be required if Poland decided to withdraw from the British Protocol, which limits the application of the treaty's Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Prior to their March 29 talks, President Kaczyński and Tusk discussed the treaty March 27. The next day, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński said that his party was concerned about making sure that the treaty was ratified. "We want nothing else but the treaty to be ratified as it has been agreed on in the course of negotiations. And we want ratification to be a final act, so that in one, two or three years it does not turn out that Poland is accepting the Charter of Rights with all its consequences or giving up the Joanina mechanism or some of our other successful arrangements."

Under the deal hammered out by Tusk at the president's seaside residence at Jurata, the Sejm is expected to approve the Lisbon Treaty by passing the ratification bill in the version proposed by the government and authorizing the president to ratify the treaty. The concerns voiced by the president and PiS would be addressed by a separate Sejm resolution designed to prevent politicians from changing the terms of Poland's participation in the treaty.

"The compromise has been achieved thanks to the goodwill of the president," Tusk told journalists after his meeting with Lech Kaczyński. "This is a victory for all Poles, not just a specific parliamentary group."

Lech Kaczyński and Tusk appealed to Sejm Speaker Bronisław Komorowski to call a special meeting of the house to vote on the ratification bill. The vote was scheduled for April 1.
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