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Macron Seeks Poland Reset As Warsaw Tightens Grip on Courts

(Bloomberg) — Emmanuel Macron will need all of his charm to rekindle France’s relationship with Poland.

In the first visit to Warsaw by a French head of state in six years, he’s seeking to mend relations strained by his criticism of Poland’s controversial overhaul of the judiciary and its country’s rejection of a deal with Airbus in 2016.

Meeting his counterpart, Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, as well as an opposition official in parliament, Monday’s trip aims to clarify the position of France on misunderstandings, tension and worries, according to a French official who asked not to be named to comply with government rules.

Macron’s attempt to patch over strains with the European Union’s biggest ex-communist member is central to his plans to strengthen the bloc after the U.K.’s departure and as Germany’s role as the main engine of EU integration fades.

Read More: Macron and Orban Are Now Best of Frenemies for a New Europe

He has committed to visit every EU state’s leadership to beef up engagement with the union, including political “frenemies” like Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orban.

While Poland and France agree on areas including the need for a digital tax, a European car-battery industry and fighting tax fraud, there are also major differences.

Fundamentally Different

Poland’s reluctance toward the bloc’s climate-change and migration policies weigh on the relationship. Macron has also extended an olive branch to Moscow while making strongly worded comments on the limits of NATO, which Poland sees as its main defense from potential aggression from its Cold-War master Russia.

“I don’t see a chance for real rapprochement given the fundamentally different focus of both governments,” said Marcin Zaborowski, a senior associate at the Visegrad Insight think tank. “Macron is radically pro-European while Poland is on a reverse trajectory.”

Read More: France Won’t Pretend Everything Is OK With NATO, Philippe Says

Macron also snubbed Poland when he said it shouldn’t access EU climate-transition funds until the Warsaw explicitly backs the bloc’s emissions-cutting goals. Saying that pro-environment activists should go demonstrate in Poland rather than in France also didn’t go down well.

Trading Carefully

Warsaw’s recent confirmation that it would purchase 32 F-15 aircraft from U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin is yet another blow to Macron’s push for European defense cooperation underpinned by EU-made equipment.

Still, “both sides will likely tread carefully to possibly show common ground, for example in defense cooperation,” Zaborowski said.

Poland has had a positive attitude toward Macron’s proposed “European Intervention Initiative,” a forum to keep the U.K. engaged in European defense after Brexit.

Read More: Macron Says No Climate Aid for Poland Unless It Backs CO2 Target

The most difficult topic for Macron may be Poland’s deep constitutional crisis, as top courts remain locked in a clash over the validity of the government’s sweeping overhaul of the judiciary.

The EU is increasingly fed up with Warsaw for its drive to politicize the courts and is considering tying EU funds to members’ adherence to democratic standards. That may potentially deal a painful blow to the biggest net recipient of financial aid from the bloc.

It’s a fine line for the French president. The rule of law in Poland is handled by the EU, rather than individual countries, the French official said. Still, the topic probably will be discussed in Warsaw, the person said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ania Nussbaum in Paris at;Marek Strzelecki in Warsaw at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at, Michael Winfrey, Andrew Langley

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