European Union: Development and climate priorities of the Polish presidency remain unclear

Source: Eurostep Weekly 

On 1 July 2011, Poland took over the presidency of the EU Council. This country will have now significant influence on the political direction of the EU. It will host most EU events and will play a key role in all areas of the bloc's activity, including the development policy orientation at a time when the world faces multiple crises and crucial progressive actions are needed. But thus far, the priorities of the Polish presidency in that matter have remained unclear, with no real plan of action having been announced, warned Eurostep this week, in its most recent briefing. 

European economic growth, security (including food, defence and energy) and increasing the ‘openness’ of the bloc have been highlighted as priorities for the first weeks of the current Presidency — this is unsurprising in times of financial difficulties for the euro zone and the relatively new status of Poland as a donor. Moreover, Poland missed the 2010 EU interim aid target of 0.17% of GNI allocated to Official Development Assistance (and significantly so, Polish ODA currently stands at 0.08% of GNI), and is also likely to miss its individual target of 0.33% of GNI by 2015. Upon reflection of these factors, development policy is seemingly low on the agenda, according to Eurostep.

This is not only worrying due to the current multiple global crises, but also a number of key international development events will also take place during the Polish presidency, including the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan in October, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-17) in Durban at the end of the year. The 6th European Development Days will take place in Poland in December. These responsibilities make the direction of EU activities development both daunting but also an opportunity for progression. The events call for mobilisation of resources and motivation in addition to sustained engagement of various individuals and institutions, not only from Poland, but equally from the two countries that complete the presidential troika, Denmark and Cyprus.

Climate change policy in particular has dominated discussions so far, with member states and NGOs voicing concerns over the likelihood of an ambitious policy being pursued at UNFCCC given the less progressive Polish climate agenda. At the last EU Environment Council meeting held in June, Poland was the only member state against the adoption of the Council Conclusions that would have seen a revision of Europe’s Energy Roadmap 2050. The revisions included a 40% cut in carbon emissions by 2030, a 60% cut by 2040 and an 80% cut by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. Polish Climate Coalition advisor, Zbigniew Karaczun, called for Poland to constructively join the debate about greater EU climate action. “Twenty six EU Members States agreed that climate protection is in their own economic interest. Poland cannot keep ignoring this fact,” remarked the official.

However, there is reason for optimism since Poland now has a strategic opportunity to prove its commitment to sustainable development. The Zagrinca group, a network of Polish NGO’s stated in a memorandum for the Polish presidency: “Poland may and should strengthen its activities, especially in the context of involvement in the Eastern Partnership countries, developing countries of the Global South, and in North Africa. Polish foreign policy, in particular development cooperation policy, should be a tool to implement sustainable development in the global dimension, share the experience of transformation and democracy building, and express care for the fate of generations to come as well as openness to cooperation with active civil society.”

More information

Polish Presidency 2011:

Global Development Research Group: