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The Warsaw Voice » Business » March 31, 2011
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Preparing for the Presidency
March 31, 2011   
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AmCham EU’s Presidency Group, which works to influence the agenda of the European Council, visited Warsaw March 15-17. The group’s chairman, Rory Macmillan, talks to Witold Żygulski.

What was the purpose of your visit to Poland?
We came to Warsaw for two days to meet with a number of policy makers and political decision makers as well as AmCham Poland to talk about the agenda for the Polish presidency of the Council of the EU, which starts July 1. There were two reasons for the trip; firstly to listen and better understand the key Polish priorities for the presidency. For instance, what do the Polish government and Polish ministries want to achieve and what do they want to deliver?
We also wanted to be very clear about what we would like to see as a business community. The main thing that we focus on is the legislation; in our delegation we brought experts on intellectual property rights, innovation, energy, transport, trade, consumer rights etc. We wanted to share our knowledge and also learn what legislative proposals can be anticipated in the coming months.

Who did you meet with during your trip?
Before coming to Poland, we had a meeting with the Polish ambassador to the EU and his team. In Warsaw, we met with officials from several ministries: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Finance, and also with people from the President’s Office and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office. We were very pleased with the openness and transparency to us in terms of the discussions.

What were the main topics of your discussions?
As a result of the meetings, we now have a much clearer picture of the Polish presidency priorities. The first priority clearly focuses on the security agenda, the second one on the internal market and helping Europe deliver its economic agenda, and the third is about neighborhood policy. It seems to us that the Polish government and administration are working very well with their partners in Brussels, and they are also very well aligned with the next two presidencies—Denmark and Cyprus. This system seems to work very effectively.

What are the most important problems that the EU should take care of today?
We have recently commissioned a study about how Europe compares to 12 other regions of the world in six areas of development. I think it is very important that Europe can effectively compete on the global stage despite the emergence of developing economies and that it continues to be a good place to invest and do business. Europe must also become a better place for innovation, a place with a climate focused on sustainable development. The EU is currently behind other global regions in research and development.

Another important issue is the problem of the single market. Ensuring the free movement of goods, people, services and capital is critical if Europe is to regain its economic strength.

What in your opinion will be the most difficult problems during the Polish presidency?
The issue of energy security is becoming increasingly important today. What is happening in the Middle East and North Africa may influence what Poland will have to deal during its presidency. The same can be said about the Japanese nuclear crisis.

Of course, there will also be challenges that result from the world economic crisis from which we are still recovering. Some of the problems we are not able to predict now. When you are running the European presidency it is quite clear that unexpected things will happen. What is important is to be able to deal with them without losing sight of your main goals. I think that during its presidency, Poland should focus on a few success stories rather than promise too much. It is sometimes better to do less and do it well rather than trying to do too much. The realistic approach to the presidency of a union of 27 countries and half a billion people is not to introduce many new issues, but to concentrate on a few major priorities and push those through.
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