Commissioner Bieńkowska in Kraków
On 8 September, Kraków hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with the Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska. 200 participants asked questions and expressed their views on the current situation in Poland, the consequences of Brexit, the refugee crisis in Europe as well as on defence policy.
Commissioner Bieńkowska began the dialogue by acknowledging that, for the first time ever, the EU is talking about concrete cooperation between the Member States on research and common purchases within the defence market. "EU Member States are open to our proposals, even the UK wants to participate, but in reply we say: this initiative is limited to the EU countries only" she said, referring to the ‘Decision on the financing of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) adopted in April this year.
She described it as a concrete step aimed at assessing and demonstrating the added-value of EU supported defence research and technology (R&T). The main goal is to strengthen European defence stakeholders.
Participants, representing industry and small and medium enterprises wanted to know the details of the procedure, deadlines and available budget. It was important for them to hear that the whole project envisages close cooperation between the government, industry and university researchers and that the main goal is to create more jobs in Europe.
Since she mentioned that the UK is keen to participate in the program even if the EU position is clear that it is limited to the EU counties, many questions touched upon the consequences of Brexit.
In her view the European Commission is much better prepared for Brexit negotiations that the UK. - We hear demands instead of constructive dialogue – she added.
A substantial part of the Dialogue was dedicated to the current situation in Poland and the disputes between the EC and PL government. As Commissioner Bieńkowska explained, there are more and more topics where disagreements arise: from issues related to the rule of law, to the dispute surrounding Bialowieza Forest to new media law and state control over the NGO’s network in Poland (both in preparatory phase).
A number of participants questioned Commissioner Bieńkowska on possible sanctions against Poland. "For the moment there is no threat" she replied, "nor is the Cohesion Fund in danger." She underlined that for many years, Poland has been perceived as a natural leader in Central and Eastern Europe. That is why many EU Member States want to avoid sanctions. "In any case the solution is in the hands of the PL government", she pointed out.
During the discussion on the 5 scenarios for Europe, Commissioner Bieńkowska drew attention to the fact that scenarios three (those MS who want more do more) and five (doing much more together) seem to be the most realistic.
"In both cases, research and defense are present. This is a new approach, because in the past we were focused mainly on values and the economy", she said.
According to her, it is also possible that a 6th scenario would be presented by European Commission President Juncker during his State of the Union address, on 13th September.