France calls for close cooperation with Poland as ties warm

Warsaw (AFP) –


France on Wednesday called Poland a "key player" in Europe, signalling warming ties between the two countries that had been chilled by diverging political views and Warsaw's cancellation of a major military contract.

"Poland can play a key role in the future of Europe, and France is aware of that," France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily, adding that "not only spring but summer" prevailed between Paris and Warsaw.

"Poland is already one of the key players on the European scene," he said, pointing to "huge potential" for cooperation while insisting that old differences should be left behind.

Ties between the two countries began to sour after the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party took office in Poland in 2015.

It soon called off a multi-billion euro deal with France's Airbus to buy 50 of its Caracal helicopters, triggering fury in Paris.

Centrist French President Emmanuel Macron has had harsh words for the nationalist and eurosceptic PiS government, accusing its leaders in October of "lying" to their people about the European Union.

Macron's comments came as the PiS government put Poland on a collision course with the EU by introducing a string of controversial judicial reforms that the bloc warned pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.

Warsaw has since backed out of some of the controversial legislation.

"In politics, you have to be able to deal with disappointments and think about the future, not about the past," Le Maire said, adding that he was "convinced" Poland understood the "necessity of observing common rules" within the EU.

Poland in January also accused France of breaching EU laws by exceeding spending limits.

Insisting that "we must overcome them (differences) and focus on strengthening cooperation," Le Maire pointed to Poland joining a new push by France and Germany to begin production of electric batteries.

Le Maire's comments come after he met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw last week to agree closer cooperation between the countries.

"Poland wants to be part of the initiative that we initiated with Germany a few days ago" he said, adding that "we are on the right path to the implementation of the project".

Europe needs to act fast to catch up with Asia in producing electric batteries for cars and power storage, the minister said.

"Our choice is quite simple; either we can meet the competition in the world and maintain our position between China and the United States, or we will be divided and lose," he added.

Decisions on the joint industrial project "must be taken very quickly," he said, also signalling that the European Commission must also "green light" it.