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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 July 2007, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Polish tactics annoy EU allies
By William Horsley
Writer on European affairs

The Polish government has been branded a troublemaker for threatening to bring the latest EU summit to a standstill in a dispute over voting rules.

"Very near to unacceptable," was the verdict of Luxembourg's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, after President Lech Kaczynski refused to drop unpopular Polish proposals on the relative voting strengths of large and small countries.

Lech Kaczynski
Poland is ready for more arguments at inter-governmental talks
Fervent campaigners for a united Europe accused the Poles of "Germanophobia", as Poland's objection to the voting system favoured by other European governments is that it would be directly linked to population size, giving Germany more votes than any other state.

The Poles' rough summit tactics did win them a delay to 2014 before new rules will start to be applied.

But the dispute is far from over. Last weekend the Poles suggested that some thorny details should be revised as part of scheduled inter-governmental talks.

That would be "totally unacceptable", retorted the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, a German.

Little sympathy

Passions are running high on all sides. Lech Kaczynski's twin brother Jaroslaw, who is Poland's prime minister, has inflamed the mood by claiming that "something very negative" is happening in Germany.

Earlier, the Polish premier had shattered the polite norms of European diplomacy by saying that the EU should take account of Poland's six million deaths during six years of Nazi German occupation in World War II.

Without that experience, he said, Poland's population would be 66 million instead of 38 million today.

The vehemence of the Polish onslaught has left its leaders with little or no public sympathy elsewhere.

Missile defence test
Poland sees a role in the US missile shield as a route to extra security
However, the anti-German outbursts from Poland reflect a real fear in Eastern Europe that the EU is not showing the strength or will to protect the region from falling back into the sphere of influence of a newly-assertive Russia.

In 2005, Polish people were shocked when the German government secretly negotiated a deal with President Putin to build a big new gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, to bypass Poland and send supplies of Russian gas directly to Western Europe.

The then Polish defence minister, Radek Sikorski, spoke out against deals done behind his country's back, recalling the Poles' memory of betrayal over the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact to carve up Poland in World War II.

Since then Russia's unyielding policy of wresting back state control of energy production in Russia, and buying into more downstream delivery systems abroad, has further strengthened its hold over Europe's energy security.

At an EU-Russia summit in May EU leaders did pointedly take Poland's side in a long-standing trade row with Russia, and refused at this stage to enter into talks aimed at a long-term partnership accord with Moscow.

Chancellor Merkel also voiced some rare public criticism of Mr Putin's policies, deploring his crackdown on peaceful protests by dissenters.

Missile worries

But East European worries about alleged Russian bullying persist.

A joint bid by the Poles and Czechs to win stronger security guarantees from the US in return for hosting America's future missile defence system has been cast into doubt, after a severely hostile response from Russia.

Mr Putin has threatened to target nuclear weapons on European cities if the scheme goes ahead.

And the Poles are sorely disappointed that the EU has failed to place a higher priority on the East by giving Ukraine and other former Soviet countries a clear prospect of eventual EU membership.

With such discord over the EU's policies, it is natural for the powers and decision-making rules of the EU to excite passions too.

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