Poland denies linking shipyard aid, EU reform treaty
Poland's foreign minister Monday countered reports that Warsaw might sign a European Union reform treaty only if the EU agrees to shield ailing Polish shipyards, a news agency said.
"We didn't tie and we're not planning to tie" the two issues together, Poland's PAP news agency quoted Radek Sikorski as saying, the dpa reported.
Poland and the EU's executive European Commission are headed for a showdown over a Polish plan for privatizing the Szczecin, Gdansk and Gdynia yards, which gave birth to the Solidarity labor union that helped bring down communism.
A commission ruling is expected this week and Poland may have to repay the EU billions in aid to the yards if the commission finds the plan unconvincing.
The Gazeta Wyborcza daily speculated Monday that if Polish President Lech Kaczynski promises his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy to sign the Lisbon Treaty, France and Germany could lobby other EU governments to soften the commission's stance.
Kaczynski has said that signing the Lisbon Treaty was "pointless" after Irish voters rejected the pact in a June 12 referendum.
But after meeting Sarkozy in Paris on Monday, he said Poland would not block the treaty.
Sikorski hinted at the possibility of linking the treaty and the shipyards during a weekend trip to Germany, Gazeta Wyborcza reported.
"The European Commission should know that President Lech Kaczynski will be making his decision to sign the treaty in a political context," Sikorski was quoted as saying.
"In the public's opinion, these two things - even if they're not linked in law - have a European context. We count on the situation being understood."
The European Commission has worked with Poland for four years to find a solution for the shipyards, but it has recently expressed impatience. Warsaw has asked for another extension until September.
Thousands of shipyard workers had recently protested in Warsaw and Brussels, appealing to Polish leaders to save 60,000 jobs the workers say are at risk.