Proces rozszerzenia Unii Europejskiej jako cel operacyjny polskiej prezydencji w Radzie Unii Europejskiej
The European Union enlargement process as an operational objective of the Polish Presidency in the Council of the European Union
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On balance the performance of the first Polish EU Council Presidency in the matter of the enlargement process of the European Union seems to be positive. The Polish Presidency effectively implemented the five main functions of a Presidency: the agenda-setting, brokerage, management, coordination and internal representation in the contacts with the governments of member states and the institutions of the European Union. The most important aspect was that it managed to implement almost all the operational objectives typically required for the enlargement process. Despite the objections and doubts expressed by the governments of many member states, conditioned mainly by the debt crisis of the Eurozone and the need for internal and external consolidation of the European Union, the Polish Presidency managed to maintain the concept of enlargement as an important element on the EU’s agenda. On 5 December 2011, on the initiative of the Polish Presidency, the General Affairs Council agreed a new approach to the accession negotiations involving the earliest possible opening of the most contentious negotiation chapters, including fundamental rights and policies pertaining to the area of freedom, security and justice. Employing the agenda-setting function, the Polish Presidency was the co-author of the Group Presidency programme and the author of the country’s Presidency programme and both documents provided the foundation for Poland’s activity in the process of enlargement of the European Union. The most important achievements of the Polish Presidency resulting from the implementation of the brokerage, coordination and management functions concerned Croatia, Iceland, Serbia and Montenegro. The Polish government finalised the work on the text of the accession treaty with Croatia and brought about the signing of the treaty on 9 December 2011. It also accepted the agreements referring to the status of Croatia in the transition period; that is, until the treaty becomes fully effective. The Polish Presidency also gave a significant impetus to the accession negotiations with Iceland, by opening seven negotiation chapters and concluding six. The achievement of the Polish Presidency towards the endeavours of the countries of the Western Balkans to gain accession to the European Union was the opening of procedures leading to Serbia being granted candidate country status, although the formal decision was taken on 28 February 2012 by the General Affairs Council under the chairmanship of the Danish Presidency. In addition, the politically crucial enlargement conclusions of the General Affairs Council for Montenegro, on the basis of which the European Council announced that a decision would be taken on the commencement of accession negotiations in June 2012, were achieved during the Polish Presidency. Taking into account that some member states were critical of the steps taken to normalise relationships between Serbia and Kosovo, the balanced conclusions of the Council, in the part referring to Serbia, should also be taken as a success for the Polish Presidency. Although the Polish Presidency suffered a few failures it is worth emphasising that they resulted mainly from the attitude of other member states such as Greece or the negligence of the third party countries in the enlargement process – in the cases of Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. The Polish government, like the others since 2009, failed to overcome the opposition of Greece to the commencement of accession negotiations with Macedonia, although other member states fully supported the concept. The Polish Presidency, like the Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies, was unable to open any new chapter in the accession negotiations with Turkey. However, the reasons were the lack of progress in the implementation of the process of reforms by the Turkish government, the still unsolved controversial issues with Cyprus, the growing assertiveness of Turkey in the foreign policy arena and the unfavourable attitude towards the accession of Turkey to the Union by some member states. Nonetheless, the Polish Presidency achieved an agreement with other member states for a positive agenda in the relations between the Union and Turkey, which led to a relatively balanced text relating to Turkey in the conclusions of the General Affairs Council on 5 December 2011. The reason for the lack of achievement in the enlargement process with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo was the limited progress in fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria made by these countries. Therefore, these countries still remain only as states which aspire to be members of the European Union. Balancing all the stated successes and failures it should be emphasised that the Polish Presidency gave new impetus to the enlargement process of the European Union. This was visible in the proposal by the Polish government and its acceptance by the General Affairs Council of a new methodology for conducting future accession negotiations, the significant advancement of the accession negotiations with Iceland, the opening of the procedure for granting candidate country status to Serbia and establishing the political requirements for the commencement of accession negotiations with Montenegro. In addition, the Polish government signed the accession treaty with Croatia and accepted the agreements regarding the country’s status in its relationships with the European Union in the transition period until the accession treaty is fully implemented.
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