President warns against cohesion, CAP funding cuts
President Andrzej Duda told the annual meeting of the Arraiolos Group in Athens on Friday that cuts in EU cohesion and agricultural funding threatened to impede the EU's economic growth and deepen differences between the member states.
Addressing the meeting's first session, Andrzej Duda said levelling out differences in prosperity between the EU member countries was of fundamental importance, and in this context observed that none of the EU members who joined the community in 2004 have yet attained the EU's per-capita GDP average. Needed to change this, Andrzej Duda stressed, were moves to reduce social inequalities at the national level and an "ambitious cohesion policy" at the EU level.
Andrzej Duda said social inequality in Poland has diminished over the past five years, and stressed that this was mainly due to the government's priority treatment of social issues. He added that at the EU level, cohesion policy was the most effective tool for combating regional differences within the community.
Referring to debated cuts in the EU's cohesion and agricultural funding, Andrzej Duda said this would have a negative bearing on the EU's economic growth and increase differences between the EU members. He added that the EU needed greater cohesion, especially in view of contemporary challenges like customs wars and China's economic expansionism.
Andrzej Duda also addressed the problem of excessive protectionism in the EU's service segment, especially in connection with recent complaints about the sale of inferior-quality versions of well-known western-European products to Central and Eastern Europe.
Andrzej Duda also complained about western Europe's anti-dumping measures against Central and Eastern European service providers and simultaneous demands that the eastern markets remain fully open to service providers from the west.
Andrzej Duda also spoke about migration, and in this context pointed out that Poland has to date accepted over a million Ukrainians, and since 2015 has spent EUR 104.91 million on humanitarian aid to third countries.
At the meeting's second session, devoted to security, Andrzej Duda admonished that the EU's defence initiatives should not be conducted in rivalry with NATO nor aimed at weakening transatlantic relations. Referring to Poland's strivings for a raised US military presence on its territory, Andrzej Duda stressed that it was "natural" for Poland to seek additional security in light of contemporary conflicts like the offensive of the Islamic State, the Middle East situation or Russia's operations in Georgia and Ukraine.
At the close of the meeting Andrzej Duda referred to Poland, observing that Poland's current policy favoured development coupled with social advancement, which placed it "in the avant-garde of European trends."
Andrzej Duda emphasised that the present Polish government has managed to reduce social inequalities and poverty, especially among children, at the same time successfully boosting the country's economic growth.
"What pleases me very much (...) is that Poland is pursuing a policy which today is in the avant-garde of European trends, (...) a policy very focused on social issues. A development policy, but one that primarily benefits ordinary people," the president said.
The Arraiolos Group gathers the presidents of countries whose prime ministers take part in EU summits. The Athens event was the fifteenth meeting of the Arraiolos Group, founded in 2003 on the initiative of Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio. The name derives from the city in Portugal where the first meeting of the presidents of Austria, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Hungary and Italy took place. Later, Slovenia, Croatia, Estonia and Bulgaria joined the group, followed by Malta and Greece. The President of Ireland also attended this year's meeting.
This year's meeting of the Arraiolos Group was devoted to increasing the European Union's resistance to economic and social crises, as well as to European security issues. (PAP)