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France’s Macron visits Poland in bid to warm frosty ties

French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda shake hands during a news conference after their meeting, in Warsaw, Poland February 3, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda shake hands during a news conference after their meeting, in Warsaw, Poland February 3, 2020. © Kacper Pempel, Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday sought a "turning point" in strained ties with Poland, saying Brexit requires a new dynamic among the remaining members of the European Union.

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The French leader announced a summit with Poland and EU heavyweight Germany in the coming months under the "Weimar Triangle" framework which had fallen out of favour in recent years.

Poland's controversial judicial reforms, which the EU has warned undermine the rule of law, and its position on EU climate goals, injected tension into ties with Paris and other EU members in recent years.

But Macron said Monday he hoped his visit "will mark a real turning point in the role that together we can play for the Europe of tomorrow" following talks in Warsaw with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda.

Macron urged cooperation to "make the European project stronger, because indeed today... after Brexit, fragility and doubt have set in."

Cooperation must serve to "meet the climate challenge and support Poland, which faces a challenge that I do not underestimate," Macron added, referring to Warsaw's uphill battle to wean itself off coal.

Duda spoke of a "breakthrough" in ties and welcomed the signing of a Polish-French cooperation program as part of their "strategic partnership".

Relations between Paris and Warsaw have been cool at best.

Judicial reforms have set the right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) government on a collision course with Brussels over rule of law violations and drawn concern from fellow EU members, including France.

Macron said on Monday that he had urged Warsaw to pursue dialogue with Brussels to safeguard the rule of law.

Progress

An agreement by EU leaders in December to try to make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050 was undermined by Poland's rejection.

Macron in 2018 himself accused Poland's PiS government and Hungary's populist Premier Viktor Orban of "lying to their people" about the EU's powers to interfere in domestic affairs.

But Brexit has made good relations with Poland all the more important as the central European heavyweight will now be the EU's fifth-largest member in terms of population and sixth in terms of GDP.

The interests of Paris and Warsaw line up neatly on the key issue of continued generous funding for the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the bloc's upcoming 2021-27 budget.

Despite political differences, economic ties between the two EU partners remain strong and stable.

France ranks sixth among Poland of trade partners, having exchanged nearly 21 billion euros worth of goods in 2018.

French companies take fourth spot on Warsaw's foreign investor ranking, with 18 billion euros from 1,100 companies, according to Polish data.

Macron also meets Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as well as the speakers of both houses of parliament in Warsaw on Monday.

(AFP)

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