* Poland takes EU helm as bloc battles debt crisis
* Warsaw pins hopes on economic reform, more integration
* EU budget talks, election may stir trouble
(Adds fresh quotes)
By Gabriela Baczynska and Luke Baker
WARSAW, July 1 Poland takes over the European
Union's rotating presidency for the first time on Friday aiming
to promote economic reforms and deeper integration in the bloc
struggling with debt crisis in the euro zone's peripheries.
Poland, the EU's largest ex-communist member, wants to
strengthen the single market that it says underpins Europe's
prosperity, to press ahead with enlargement of the bloc into the
western Balkans and rebuild trust in the Union's institutions.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Warsaw would play an active
role to ensure that member states speak openly about challenges
facing the bloc related to the debt crisis, or migration.
"Poles don't want politicians who engage in rows with
Europe. They want politicians who know how to operate in Europe,
who can engage with Europe on a business level and who operate
professionally. That's my ambition," Tusk said on Friday.
Poland also wants to finalise Croatia's EU accession, start
membership talks with Serbia and clinch a trade deal with
Ukraine, as well as promote deeper energy and military
cooperation within the bloc.
Poland will hold an election in October, midway through its
EU presidency, and some fear the campaign will distract Tusk and
his ministers from steering the Union through difficult times.
But opinion polls give Tusk's ruling centrist Civic Platform
a strong lead making a change of power unlikely.
The EU's top two officials, European Commission head Jose
Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy,
will attend Friday's celebrations in Warsaw marking the launch
of Poland's six months at the EU's helm.
Poland will present itself as a modern EU success story that
has achieved strong economic growth since joining the bloc with
seven other ex-communist nations in 2004, even avoiding
recession during the 2008-09 global financial crisis.
"The Polish presidency is a dream come true for many
generations of Poles who hoped for a permanent alliance with the
western world of freedom, security, democracy and wealth,"
Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski told a special
parliament sitting on Friday.
"We have received a lot from the EU over the last few years
and now it's time to give as much as possible from what is our
strength based on out national success -- we should share our
Euro-optimism," he added.
But the huge challenges facing the EU will test Polish
optimism and ingenuity to the full in coming months.
EU leaders remain concerned about risks of contagion from
the Greek debt crisis to other euro zone countries struggling
with large debt piles despite a successful vote in Athens paving
way further international help for the country.
Other challenges include difficult negotiations over the
EU's next long-term budget, due to start under the Polish
presidency. The issue pits poorer countries like Poland that
favour generous funds against net contributors to the budget
such as Germany and Britain that want to save more money.
Poland, which depends on the highly-polluting coal for
almost all its energy needs, also upset Brussels recently by
blocking an attempt by all other 26 member states to agree a
more ambitious plan to curb the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions.
(editing by Mark Heinrich)