Opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights raised some discussions

The last elections eliminated the eurosceptic and populist parties (League of Polish Families and Self-Defence) form the Polish Parliament. Only four parties reached the required 5% threshold and managed to send their deputies to the new Parliament. All four of them support the Lisbon Treaty in the current form (with the Polish opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights). The new governing coalition partners the Civic Platform (which received 42% of the votes in the October 2007 elections) and the Peasants Party (9%) support the swift ratification of the new treaty. At the outset the government has even proclaimed that it would be good if Poland could ratify the treaty as the first member state. Such stance was met with support from the social-democrats (13% of the votes) who always supported the treaty, and were against the tough negotiating stance on the issue of the previous Law and Justice government (it should be reminded that the previous government’s position on the distribution of votes was supported by the Civic Platform). The Law and Justice (32%) which negotiated the treaty supports it, provided that the opt-out from the Charter is upheld. On the 20th December 2007 a resolution supporting swift ratification process was supported by the majority in the Parliament (248 votes for), however most of the deputies from Law and Justice (142) voted against because of the new government’s intention to withdraw the opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was signalled in the resolution. The ministry of foreign affairs announced that the it should prepare all of the ratification documents for the beginning of February 2008, which would allow the Parliament to vote on it on the same month.
 
The public opinion is overwhelmingly pro-European (89%) and the majority support all the moves aimed at deepened integration (85%), 55% majority supports deepened political integration[1]. The majority supports the entry of the new treaty into force, although almost 40% do not have an opinion on it and do not feel well informed. The new government (the deputy minister of foreign affairs Jan Borkowski) announced that it will conduct the information campaign but so far not much has happened.
 
State of discourse on the preparation of ratification
 
There is an agreement between the major political forces that the ratification should take place in the Parliament. The majority will vote for the treaty. There were some voices (from the League of Polish Families and the most conservative members of Law and Justice) to organise a referendum but they were largely ignored. The opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights seems to be the only problem which concerns the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Initially the new government wanted to withdraw the Polish opt-out. Civic Platform believes that the guarantees contained within the Charter itself (especially those contained in article 51, which states that the charter does not extend the field of application of Union law beyond the powers of the Union) are sufficient. They make it impossible to extend the EU law to cover issues such as abortion or euthanasia (which is the argument used to justify the opt-out by Law and Justice). The government sees the opt-out as redundant, however, in the face of strong opposition form Law and Justice and the Catholic Church for the sake of smooth ratification, the Prime Minister Donald Tusk decided to uphold it for the time being. Such reasoning was strengthened by the realisation that it is not so easy to withdraw the opt-out and the opening of the issue could tempt other member states to tinker with the approved treaty, which the Polish government wants to avoid at all costs. It seems that the conservative opposition was placated by such decision. The President Lech Kaczyński (Law and Justice) during his meeting with the diplomats accredited in Warsaw on the 16th of January 2008 confirmed that Poland will not become an obstacle in the process of the ratification of the new treaty.
 
Reactions to the establishment of a ‘Committee of the Wise’
 
There has been almost no discussion in Poland concerning the Committee of the Wise. The new government hopes, however, that it will not serve as a pretext to create new obstacles to further enlargement (such fear is evoked by the statements of President Sarkozy who claims that the committee’s principal work should be focused on discussing the geographical limits of the EU). Not much has been said about the mandate of the group within the EU itself. At first it seemed that is would be restricted, but the recent announcements (especially in the January Financial Times interview) of the former Prime Minister of Spain Felipe Gonzales, who is tipped to become the chair of the group seem to indicate that it will focus on a quite broad socio-economic agenda. If such was to be the case, Poland would definitely support all the moves aimed at improving the EU competitiveness by liberalizing the EU economy even further and oppose any attempts to undermine the current EU redistributive policies.
 
Lech Wałęsa was mentioned by the representatives of the Civic Platform as a suitable candidate for the Committee.


[1] See: .