That’s the headline in today’s Gazeta Wyborcza, describing the Polish attitude to Tony Blair’s plan to ‘reform’ the way European Union does its business.
The British Guardian reports that France and Poland are spearheading the attack on Blair’s attempt to get a compromise agreement on the EU 2007-2013 budget, which plans to cut spending by 16 billion euros.
Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, the Polish prime minister, underlined the deep unease in Eastern Europe at Britain's plan to slash their structural funds by £9.3bn. "The proposal is not based on solidarity," he said. "In this form it is unacceptable."
In a sign of Britain's isolation, the European commission's president, Jose Manuel Barroso, added his voice.” This proposal amounts to a budget for a 'mini-Europe', not the strong Europe we need."
Britain hopes to win round the new member states by proposing four measures that will make it easier for them to spend the £100bn they will be offered in structural funds. These are: cutting the level of cofinancing the new members will have to provide from 20% to 15%; allowing private funds to be included in co-financing; giving an extra year to spend the money; and allowing inner-city housing to be funded. Mr Straw said: "This is an enormous amount. The total funds for the new member states is twice the amount of the Marshall Fund that rebuilt Western Europe 60 years ago."
There has been some surprise that Poland and the other 8 countries from Central Europe that entered the EU in May last year are so opposed to cutting budgets and liberalizing markets. And that surprise is not just limited to Britain. Whatever happened to Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘New Europe’, many Americans are asking themselves?
But the ‘New Europe’ thing always was a load of tosh. The reason that countries like Poland wanted to get into the EU in the first place was to get their hands on some much needed investment – not to have Brussels tell them to put funny little traffic light symbols on their food packaging and regulate how to throw away their rubbish.
Poland wants structural funds to help with infrastructure projects like road building and repair – Polish roads currently have more holes in them than a string vest.
So the prospect of Britain getting a deal when the nations meet on December 16 looks slim, though Poland is under enormous pressure to find a compromise, as it cannot start planning for expenditure in the 2007-13 period until a budget is agreed.
For Poland, Blair’s six-month presidency of the EU has turned into a horror movie.
The beatroot is going to be spending some EU money of its own this week, as I am being sent – at the EU's expense – to Dublin to do some reporting. So the next post will be from the Emerald Isle. See you then.