Letter of Prime Minister Beata Szydło to the Heads of State or Government – members of the European Council
Warsaw, March 2017
I have decided to write this letter, as I believe that our decisions and motives need to be clearly explained if the relations within the United Europe are to be based on partnership and equality.
In the last few months, my country, Poland, was placed in a very unusual situation. When it comes to important international positions, for many years we have been consequently supporting representatives of various political circles – from European Christian democratic, social democratic and liberal parties in different political fora. In spite of strained political relations, we assumed that this time it may also be the case.
The current President of the European Council has decided to violate multiple times his European mandate, using his authority as the President of the European Council in heated national disputes. This was the case e.g. when part of the opposition was blocking by force the work of the democratically elected parliament. Under the Polish constitutional circumstances, the attempt to block the adoption of the budget was an attempt to overthrow the government by means of non-parliamentary methods.
A clear support for these actions expressed by the President of the European Council was something unprecedented.
In our opinion, the overarching principle of holding an office of an international character shall be that of political neutrality towards national disputes that are characteristic of democracy. We have been waiting for many months for the relations between the Polish government and the President of the European Council to be shaped appropriately. In vain. A political affiliation of the President of the European Council shall be no excuse. In an international environment it is necessary to cooperate skilfully with people of different political backgrounds. What the function of the President of the European Council specifically requires is to refrain from interfering in political matters of individual Member States. Political neutrality is therefore an overriding principle to be obeyed by persons holding this office. A person who is unable to do this and who brutally violates this principle does not guarantee that this function will be performed in an efficient and professional way. President Tusk has failed to demonstrate adequate impartiality. He used his EU function to engage personally in a political dispute in Poland. We cannot accept such a conduct. We cannot allow for this dangerous precedent to be created where a democratically elected government of a Member State is attacked politically by the President of the European Council. I believe that if a similar situation concerned any other EU Member State, the reaction would be equally unequivocal and decisive.
In this difficult situation that we have been placed in, we agreed that it would be responsible if we presented a new candidate who would not only manage the task at hand, but also whose contribution to the European Council would bring a new quality of work, trust and guarantees that rules would be obeyed.
Taking into account all of the issues mentioned above, we have decided to propose the candidacy of Jacek Saryusz-Wolski. He has the relevant competence and over 40 years of expert and political experience in European integration matters. He does not belong to our political circle.
Aside from many obvious competences which make him a good candidate for this position, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski gives us hope for the actual fulfilment of our vision of restoration and reform of the European project. This issue is of particular importance for Poland.
The potential extension of the mandate of the President of the European Council against the will of his country of origin is contrary to the intergovernmental nature of our Council’s work. Even in the context of appointing the members of the European Commission – a purely Community institution – the appropriate candidate is chosen “on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States” (Article 17 TEU).
My country and the government I represent are convinced of the great value of the European integration for our continent. European integration may continue to be the most important instrument for the prosperity and security of our countries and citizens. It may, but – as we already know today – does not have to.
The European project faces an unprecedented crisis and its revival requires adopting a fresh perspective on many issues related to the functioning of the European Union. Despite our political and regional differences, we need to unite and preserve the integrity of the EU.
We need to robustly defend, but also strive to develop, the common market, which remains the primary mechanism driving the economic growth of the EU.
In light of growing mistrust of the European integration project displayed by numerous European nations, we find it necessary to better establish the scope of European countries’ and parliaments’ responsibility for the future of the EU.
We need a new, ambitious foreign, defence and trade policy if we are to play an important role in the world which is not always friendly towards us. We can see the proof of that at our southern and eastern borders.
In view of the uncertain future of the European project, evidenced by the proliferation of different scenarios for the EU, we need an open political debate among the European countries’ leaders on the revival of this project. No one will absolve us from this responsibility. No one will fulfil this task for us.
Mutual trust and respect for the differences between Member States and their sovereignty constitutes the necessary prerequisite for carrying out this plan. If we want the European Union to be stronger and to keep on growing, if we want it to be the safe home for its citizens, we need to repair it and change it for the better. We need to have courage to name these challenges and objectives. We cannot be afraid of making difficult choices. We need to act together and never against each other, all the while respecting our separate national identities. Only by ensuring mutual respect and trust, compliance with the established principles, as well as by demonstrating real determination to improve the current situation will we be able to achieve our goals. We need to take up this challenge together for the sake of responsibility for Europe.
Those are the reasons behind the Polish government’s decision to nominate Jacek Saryusz-Wolski for the position of the President of the European Council.