Polish PM expresses commitment to battered euro after talks with Harper

OTTAWA – The battered euro received a rare boost Monday when Poland’s prime minister affirmed his country’s commitment to adopt the currency, despite the financial woes that threaten Europe.

Donald Tusk said Poland has coped well during the economic downturn and will continue to work with the European Union to strengthen the currency that 17 of its 27 members use.

Tusk said Europe’s future depends on a common currency. His vote of confidence on Monday came as the political stalemate in Greece entered its eighth day and raised the possibility of the country’s exit from the eurozone.

Poland committed to joining the eurozone when it became a EU member and “nothing has changed to this extent,” Tusk said Monday after a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Parliament Hill.

“What has changed is just the reputation of the eurozone.”

The ongoing economic turmoil in Europe formed the backdrop for Harper’s meeting with his Polish counterpart.

But Harper demurred on whether the continuing political and economic uncertainty currently facing Greece warrants its expulsion from the eurozone.

“It’s not my place to tell Europeans how to resolve problems within the European Union,” he said as he stood beside Tusk. “Obviously these problems remain serious. They’ve been with us since the financial crisis. And it is essential that they be addressed.”

Harper said his government is focused on increasing jobs and growth at home and getting its budget passed.

While Harper often uses international visits to trumpet Canada’s relatively strong economic performance since the 2008 economic collapse, he tipped his hat to Tusk for his successful stewardship of Poland’s economy.

“Largely due to Prime Minister Tusk’s leadership, Poland is also the only EU country to have completely avoided a recession following the 2008-2009 global economic and financial crisis,” Harper said.

Tusk didn’t downplay the economic problems that the eurozone countries face because of the crises in Greece and elsewhere.

“The European Union, in the Polish assessment, must continue to integrate economically, politically,” he said. “One of the elements of the integration should be an unquestionable single currency.

“However single currency makes sense when we also have a single set of rules and when the single set of rules is observed by all the participants of the single currency.”

Canada and Poland agreed to an expanded energy partnership and signed a new tax convention during the visit.

Ottawa also announced a $400,000 grant for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, the memorial that stands on the site of Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland.

Harper paid a solemn visit to Auschwitz during a 2008 visit to Poland.

The two leaders also addressed the plight of an Ontario man, who will battle this week in the Polish courts for the return of his two sons.

Stephen Watkins, 40, gained custody of his sons, aged 8 and 10, after he broke up with his wife Edyta Watkins.

She and the boys vanished in 2009, only to emerge later in Poland, the woman’s native country.

A Polish court ruled last year against sending the boys back to Canada but Watkins will appeal that decision this week.

“The Canadian government has been giving consular assistance to ultimately enforce Canadian court orders in this case,” Harper noted, but he said he didn’t want to comment further while the matter was before the courts.

Tusk said there is little role for politicians in such sensitive domestic cases. But he hinted that if Watkins wins his day in court, the Polish government won’t stand between him and his sons.

“We would like to ensure that if legal decisions are made, with all certainty, co-operation of the administrations of both states will be absolutely excellent. I do not imagine any dispute between the states, Canada and Poland, about this.”