July 7, 2015 / 8:22 AM / in 4 years

INTERVIEW-Poland should join euro only after referendum: president-elect's adviser

* New presidency to be cooler on EU integration

* Adviser says to fight Poland’s corner on green regulation

* Seeks NATO combat bases in Poland to counter Kremlin

By Christian Lowe and Wiktor Szary

KRAKOW, Poland, July 7 (Reuters) - Poland should hold a referendum before joining the euro, a senior adviser to its incoming president said, heralding a more cautious approach to European integration from the European Union’s biggest eastern economy.

Krzysztof Szczerski, foreign affairs adviser to president-elect Andrzej Duda, also signalled Poland would resist giving up more sovereignty to Brussels, and said it would fight EU green policies that harm the Polish economy by forcing it to burn less coal.

Poland has been a major beneficiary of EU funds and a supporter of integration, but that is shifting with the rise to prominence of the Law and Justice party, which is allied to the Conservative party of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Law and Justice candidate Duda was the surprise winner of a presidential election in May, and opinion polls show the right-wing party, now in opposition, will form the next government after a parliamentary election in October.

“The decision on ceasing to mint one’s own currency must be ... the nation’s decision,” Szczerski told Reuters in an interview, saying that this required a “direct vote.”

“This realistically means that a discussion about introducing the euro in Poland during President Duda’s current term is pointless.”

Poland has committed itself to joining the euro zone one day, but there is no legal requirement for it to hold a referendum on the issue. Opinion polls show if there was a vote on accession, it would be firmly rejected.

Echoing views expressed by Cameron’s government, and Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, Szczerski said the EU should return more powers to national capitals instead of constantly moving towards ever-greater integration.

“The metaphor of European integration being like a bike is well-known: you can only go forward, there is no reverse gear. Which means we’re in a conceptual trap,” Szczerski said. “In my view, now is the time for common sense to return to Europe.”

Carbon emissions are a sticking point between Brussels, which wants to limit greenhouse gases, and Poland, which depends on coal to generate most of its electricity.

Szczerski said President Duda’s administration will be “more decisive” than its predecessors in blocking moves on emissions which are unfavourable for the Polish economy.


Szczerski signalled the new administration would take an assertive stance on Russia, despite fears among some of Warsaw’s NATO allies about antagonising Moscow.

Szczerski said Poland would continue the existing policy of seeking NATO combat bases on its territory, and would aim to build a coalition of central European countries backing that in time for the alliance’s 2016 summit in Warsaw.

Russia says deployment of significant NATO forces close to its borders would violate the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.

Szczerski said this agreement needed to be reviewed, as circumstances have made the limits on NATO’s military presence in the region “no longer valid”.

Poland will also seek stronger bilateral security ties with the United States, ultimately looking to set up permanent, joint U.S.-Polish military bases on Polish territory, he said.

On Ukraine, Szczerski said the new administration would aim to establish visa-free travel for Ukrainians to Poland and will defend Kiev’s right to eventually join NATO and the EU, a prospect that Moscow fiercely opposes.

“The (NATO) membership offer is in itself already a very important political instrument,” Szczerski said. (Additional reporting by Pawel Sobczak; Writing by Wiktor Szary; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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