WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will start to debate whether to join the euro zone only when the bloc becomes a stable and transparent entity, Poland's top official for European affairs said on Friday.
Britain's decision last year to quit the European Union prompted calls for closer integration and resulted in proposals for a "multi-speed Europe", gaining support in Germany, France and other EU countries.
The victory of Emmanuel Macron, an ardent supporter of strengthening the single currency zone, in France's presidential election has presented the EU's eastern members with a dilemma of whether to join the currency union or possibly risk losing influence in Brussels.
But conservative governments in Poland and Hungary, both hoping to rally support among their neighbors for a push to erode the power of Brussels institutions, have long said they need the flexibility of a national exchange rate.
The Czech Prime Minister, however, told Reuters on Thursday that his country should set a date for the adoption of the euro and have "the ambition to belong among the most advanced European countries."
Asked whether this was a good time to start a domestic debate on Poland joining the euro zone, Konrad Szymanski, the Polish deputy foreign minister in charge of European affairs, told the Reuters Central & Eastern Europe Investment Summit that "being in a hurry" was not the key criterion.
"The key criterion is the predictability of the system, the stability of the economic and monetary union and integration into a system that has well-described economic interests, rather than the mistaken notions of a country's political position in the euro area and outside the euro area," Szymanski said.
According to various polls, more than two-thirds of Poles oppose joining the euro area.
Szymanski said that one of the main internal contradictions in the euro zone was the fiscal troubles in the south and the zone's northern members "not being too keen" to pay their debts.
"This shows the still unresolved problem of the stability of the currency and the whole system," the 47-year-old Szymanski said, adding that Warsaw will keep a "watchful eye" on the reforms.
"The only problem we see that must be solved is the preservation of the freedom of the single market in everything that is planned for the euro area," he said.
The single market has been the biggest benefit of membership to the east, opening borders and getting rid of regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services.
Szymanski, whose conservative government sees Britain as its strategic ally, said that discussions on calculation of what London owes when it leaves the bloc should be "honest" but the financial gap left behind should not be large.
"We, of course, are of the opinion that if somehow there is a shortfall, we should protect the continuity of the policy, so the preferred option is to cover the gap by raising contributions," Szymanski said.
For Poland, a net beneficiary of EU funds, this option would be relatively easy, but in larger EU members who contribute the most, this will be difficult, he added.
"The key is reaching an agreement, coming up with the terms that will protect the financial interests of the EU and the member states," Szymanski said.
"Negotiating this point will not be easy at all."
Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Writing by Lidia Kelly