June 24, 2016 / 11:33 AM / a year ago

Eurosceptic Poland wants new EU treaty after Brexit

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland said on Friday the European Union needed a new treaty, as the bloc had to reform in order to preserve its unity following Britain’s decision to leave.

The EU’s dominant eastern member state would not, however, hold its own referendum on membership, said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who heads the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and is considered the main power broker within the government.

The EU’s remaining 27 members would need to clarify Europe’s decision-making rules, which had become “arbitrary”, often at Poland’s expense.

“The conclusion is obvious. We need a new European treaty,” Kaczynski said. “We need a positive reaction, and not persistent movement in the same direction, a direction which has led to crisis.”

The eurosceptic PiS government has clashed with Brussels over the rule of law since it came into office in October, with the European Commission questioning whether its attempts to reform the constitutional court meet Europe’s democratic standards.

Kaczynski is mindful of the broad support for EU membership among Poles. A February survey showed 81 percent want to stay in the bloc, from which the country receives billions of euros of aid for agriculture and infrastructure projects.

Poles are also among the biggest beneficiaries of the EU’s open-borders rules, with some 700,000 of them living in Britain alone.

But PiS has frequently employed anti-EU rhetoric, criticizing in particular the EU’s stance on migration and opposing mandatory quotas for refugees.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of ruling party Law and Justice attends a news conference about Brexit in party headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

It has also said the EU needs to pay more attention to the individual interests of its members, and not be swayed by the power of Germany, echoing many Britons’ belief that Brussels commandeers too much power.

‘COMPLETELY INEFFICIENT’

For Poland, one senior government official said, the Brexit vote might mean pressure from Brussels would ease, for now.

“Of course we are not happy about the Brits’ decision,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But it does show the (EU) mechanism was completely inefficient.”

“For the EU, its biggest problems now are Brexit, migration. This may ease pressure on Poland.”

When it last governed Poland between 2005 and 2007, PiS held up ratification of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and fought for more voting power in the bloc, irritating other member states.

Diplomats have said PiS would likely want to rebuild a blocking minority within the EU, possibly by strengthening ties with other central European states.

On Friday, Kaczynski said the EU should re-examine “consensual” decision-making processes and broaden the spectrum of issues on which unanimity was needed.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said Poland planned to make proposals on what needed to be changed. “Poland’s aim is to build a strong, united EU of sovereign nations,” she said, without giving details.

Reporting by Pawel Sobczak, Tadeusz Kolasinski, Pawel Florkiewicz, Marcin Goetting, Marcin Goclowski, Anna Koper; editing by John Stonestreet

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