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Poland 'is ready to wreck everything if our voting demands are not met'

Poland is ready to let next week's EU summit collapse rather than accept a new constitutional treaty that eats away at its voting power, President Kaczynski told The Times.

The Polish leader said that he was not going to buckle under the diplomatic pressure that is piling up on Warsaw. „Poland has the right to protect its raison d’état, its interests,” he said. Europe could come to agreement, but „cooperation with and within Europe should not be dependent on agreement with Germany”. The summit seems set to be an epic duel, with Polish resistance to the constitutional treaty perhaps triggering moves towards a two-speed Europe and a fundamental shift in thinking about EU integration. Kaczynski – who had quick-marched out of talks in Warsaw with President Sarkozy of France for the interview with The Times – said he could not countenance a result in which Poland emerged as one of the losers. The French leader's visit was part of a broader diplomatic offensive. Alfred Gusenbauer, the Austrian Chancellor, saw the president's twin brother Jaroslaw, the Polish Prime Minister, this week. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister, arrives today.

Crucially, the twins will travel to Berlin on Saturday for a last ditch attempt to save the summit. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, presented the possible failure of the summit in grim terms yesterday. The current proposed formula of double majority voting – with Council decisions requiring the approval of at least 55% of member states, representing at least 65% of the population – discriminates against smaller countries, said the Polish President. „The system cannot change in a way that would make us the greatest losers.” The Czechs, he stressed, seemed willing to fight the Polish corner.

The Poles are proposing the „square-route” system, which will give nine votes to Germany (which has a population of 81 million) and six to Poland (more than 36 million). This, say the Poles, is a reasonable snapshot of the balance of power between Berlin and Warsaw. „That is already a compromise,” the President said, speaking in the Poniatowski Palace. Everything that diluted Polish rights guaranteed under the Nice Treaty represented a weakening of Polish clout. The Poles were not willing to go any further. He stopped short of threatening to veto the treaty, but said: „I do not exclude the possibility . . . I'd like this to be a success, but not a success where some come out as winners and others as losers.”

Although there may be an element of presummit brink-manship, the Poles are fighting on one issue alone – voting rights – and so bargaining on other issues becomes difficult, if not impossible. Poland's stance hinges on fears that if it is weakened, other countries – in particular Russia – could start to throw its weight around. But the President is no lover of Germany, either: his parents fought in the Warsaw uprising against Nazi occupation; one of his controversial acts as Mayor of Warsaw was to demand reparations from the Germans for the destruction of the Polish capital. One argument deployed by Germany is that Poland – which is lobbying strongly for Ukrainian accession – will jeopardize further eastern enlargement if it drags its feet on the constitutional treaty. „I do not accept this argument,” said the President, „because cooperation with and within Europe should not be dependent on agreement with Germany. That cannot be the point. It is Germany that first of all needs to understand Poland.” (timesonline.co.uk)