September 5, 2017 / 3:47 PM / 18 days ago

Polish president says 'multi-speed' EU will lead to break-up of bloc

FILE PHOTO: Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks during his media announcement about Supreme Court legislation at Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

KRYNICA-ZDROJ, Poland (Reuters) - The European Union will become less attractive to some member states if it implements a “multi-speed” vision and the bloc will ultimately break up, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday.

Deeper eurozone integration is sometimes called a “multi-speed” Europe because it would create different speeds of convergence within the 28-member bloc. Poland and other eastern EU states say they fear it could reduce their influence, financial support and competitiveness.

“A division of the Union into a multi-speed union will not be beneficial ... politically, will not be beneficial economically,” Duda told an economic forum in Poland’s southern city of Krynica-Zdroj.

“In my opinion it will ultimately lead to a break-up of the European Union,” he said, adding that all member states would be hurt in such a scenario.

Europe-wide polls show Poles are one of the most pro-EU societies, even though they overwhelmingly oppose adopting the euro currency.Duda also said EU support could falter in member states that do not participate in deeper eurozone integration. The remark appeared to suggest he believes EU support could fall in Poland.

Duda is an ally of the ruling eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party.

“If EU membership becomes less attractive for countries that are thrown out of the first decision-making circle, then this moment in my opinion will be the actual beginning of the end of the union,” Duda said.

“Sooner or later the societies of states that today view the EU positively ... will feel rejected and support for the EU will decline, which will result in further Brexits,” Duda said.

Since PiS won an election in 2015, the government has clashed with the European Commission over issues ranging from its refusal to accept EU migrant relocation quotas to the ruling conservatives’ tightening grip on the judiciary and media.

French President Emmanuel Macron, one of the most vocal supporters of deeper integration within the euro zone, said in August that Warsaw was moving in the opposite direction to Europe on numerous issues and would not be able to dictate Europe’s future.

Poland rejected the accusations, saying Macron was inexperienced and arrogant.

Macron also wants the EU to tighten its rules on the employment abroad of labour from low-pay nations, which could threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs performed by Polish employees in richer western EU states.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Writing by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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