| BRUSSELS, March 10
BRUSSELS, March 10 Poland will not be
blackmailed by Western Europeans threatening to take away
millions in European Union funds for standing up for its
interests, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said on Friday, a day
after Warsaw was badly defeated over who chairs EU summits.
On Thursday, Szydlo was the only one of 28 EU leaders to
fight against the re-appointment of Donald Tusk, a former Polish
prime minister, as the chairman of their meetings
She retaliated by refusing to endorse a joint statement of
the summit, saying the EU had failed to respect the will of one
of its member states.
Diplomats said French President Francois Hollande and German
Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted Szydlo over Thursday dinner,
with the French leader saying it was the wealthier Westerners
who contribute funds for Poland's development.
"If EU politicians think they can blackmail countries by
telling them some money would be taken away from them, the EU
has very bad prospects ahead," Szydlo told a news conference,
confirming the emotional exchange.
Her comments highlight how difficult it can be to achieve
unity in the bloc, just as it tries to close its ranks after
Britain's decision to leave the EU, an unprecedented setback.
The talk of a multi-speed Europe has intensified in recent
months. Western leaders increasingly see the way forward for the
EU as fostering more cooperation among the willing and leaving
the reluctant behind.
The 27 remaining EU states are now preparing a joint
declaration to mark later this month the 60th anniversary of a
founding treaty of the bloc. But agreeing a joint text is
Germany, France and Italy are among those who want to push
ahead with "enhanced cooperation". But Szydlo said there were
red lines for Poland.
"We will never agree to talk of Europe of two speeds ... we
will never agree to deny equal opportunities to all member
states, a level playing field," she said.
"The countries of our region cannot go on being treated like
we have to keep on showing gratitude that we are in the EU...
Some politicians in Western Europe feel they can tell us their
views and tell us to listen and follow. That won't be the case."
Many in the EU are furious with Poland's eurosceptic,
nationalist-minded government, which has clashed with other EU
states and Brussels over migration, rule of law, climate and
energy, among other issues.
They say Warsaw is not only undermining democratic checks
and balances in the biggest ex-communist EU member, but also
imports its domestic political feuds to the bloc.
Still, some EU leaders on Friday sought to turn the page on
the bruising dispute from the previous day. Merkel saying no
cuts to Poland's EU subsidies were on the agenda now.
"I am convinced it is just an episode. I see no sense in
feeling offended and retreating into a corner, neither for the
Poles nor for the others," Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern
said of the Polish debacle.
Diplomats said Szydlo was engaged and cooperative during
Friday sessions, and the Polish premier said she felt some
sympathy from other EU leaders.
But for some EU countries, the Thursday spat only served to
prove that the EU should allow coalitions of the willing to go
ahead in fostering closer ties on areas they can agree on,
without being blocked by those opposed.
"The lesson for the future is that we have to avoid at all
cost a situation in which one country could have veto over
everyone else," a senior diplomat in Brussels said. "The
enhanced cooperation, the multi-speed Europe ... is the only
answer, the only way forward."
(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke, Writing by Gabriela
Baczynska; Editing by Larry King)