Poland says it wins protection for Poles in British EU deal

AP News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2016 11:44 AM
Poland says it wins protection for Poles in British EU deal

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron found support Friday for a renegotiated deal with the European Union from Poland and Denmark, marking a positive start to a two-week tour of European capitals aimed at winning over European partners to his plans for a looser union with the bloc.

In Warsaw, the head of Poland's ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, met with Cameron and then announced to reporters that his country has achieved a satisfactory compromise with Britain, winning a "full protection" of social rights for Poles living in Britain.

"We have really achieved a lot. We are satisfied," said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the conservative Law and Justice party.

Poland, which uses its own currency and wants to maintain strong national sovereignty, favors Cameron's drive to reduce bureaucracy in the EU and keep power with national parliaments. At the same time Warsaw has been fighting measures which would limit welfare benefits to migrant workers in Britain, as Cameron seeks to do.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who also met with Cameron, said there are more than 1 million Poles now working in Britain. She said they contribute to Britain's GDP and deserve the same rights and opportunities as British citizens.

Kaczynski's comment indicated that Poland would accept some limiting of welfare rights for future migrants as long as those already there are not affected.

Cameron also appeared to be winning Warsaw's support by offering to do more to bolster NATO's presence on the eastern flank of the alliance, an issue of key importance to Warsaw, which is fearful of Russia's resurgence.

Cameron's talks in Warsaw with Kaczynski and Szydlo focused both on the EU reforms and security, and Kaczynski said Britain had promised to do more to bolster NATO's presence in Poland.

Cameron next traveled to Denmark, which, like Britain, has kept its own currency and opts out of several EU initiatives. Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said Cameron's plan "is in British interest and Danish interest. You will find Denmark being a very supportive country."

Loekke Rasmussen's office also issued a statement saying the legal model presented by Tusk is similar to the opt-outs Danes obtained from the EU in 1993 in the so-called Edinburgh agreement.

"It has served Danish interests well for more than two decades," it said.

EU leaders have called Britain a vital member of the bloc, but many also feel annoyed by Britain's demands for special treatment.

"The British often test our patience and good will with their continuous demands," Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said Friday.

"Many of my colleagues say behind closed doors: 'Don't stop a rolling stone. If the Brits want to leave, let them leave,'" Schulz told an audience at the London School of Economics.

But he said the EU needed Britain, with its "foreign policy experience and clout, its open market policies and its trade track record."

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Olsen reported from Copenhagen; Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.