Poland willing to accept worker benefit restrictions for NATO bases

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Poland has hinted it may be willing to concede to the UK’s benefits reform for EU migrants if it receives more NATO support, Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski has said.

The UK is due for a referendum on EU membership within the next two years, with many speculating it could be this summer. Benefits for EU migrants and immigration from the EU have been high on the public agenda in the runup to the vote. David Cameron has already embarked on a mission to “get a better deal” for the UK, with specific opt outs on an “ever closer union” and a four-year ban on benefits for EU migrants.

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Up until recently, Poland and other EU countries seemed willing to negotiate on the UK’s other points of contention, but not on the benefits restrictions. Under one of the four EU freedoms, governments are not allowed to treat EU citizens of another country differently than their own – for example, denying access to welfare based on nationality is forbidden.

In 2014 an estimated 688,000 Poles were living in the UK.

In a related November 2014 ruling, European Court of Justice ruled that Germany could restrict benefits to EU migrants. David Cameron claimed this was a win for his cause, and  was proof that freedom of movement could be preserved within the EU even with benefits restrictions.

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But Poland now looks like it could compromise over benefits restrictions, if certain NATO defense guarantees were met.

Poland wants better defense guarantees

Mr Waszczykowski said “It would be very difficult for us to accept any discrimination,”. “Unless Britain helped us really effectively with regard to the Polish defense ambitions at the summit in Warsaw.”

On a possible compromise, David Cameron told Reuters “Of course. Britain could offer something to Poland in terms of international security.”

Poland is seeking a greater NATO presence in its country, to counter what it perceives to be a growing threat from Russia.

Poland is seeking further, permanent NATO troops and bases as it sees itself as a “second-rate” NATO member, and wants further security guarantees.

This could include the positioning of U.S. nuclear weapons. Although no such formal request has been made, the Polish Deputy Defense Minister has stated that it is a consideration.

Meanwhile, a long delayed and often changed plan for an U.S. provided anti-ballistic missile shield was successfully tested in Hawaii in December 2015. The current plans are to deploy the defenses over the next two years, with a missile base in Poland becoming active in 2018.

Image credit: Polish MiG-29, US F15 and British Typhoon/NATO