Nations in Central Europe that have joined the European Union over the past 15 years want the bloc to hand more power back to individual countries, the Polish prime minister said, highlighting issues that often divide east and west in the EU.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on May 1 said that "where it doesn't have to, the European Union should leave member countries to their own competences.”
"We say this with a single Central European voice," Morawiecki told reporters at the end of a one-day summit in Warsaw to mark the 15th anniversary of the EU ascension of many nations from the region.
Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta joined the EU on May 1, 2004 -- marking the largest single expansion in the bloc’s history.
Leaders from Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia, which joined the EU later, were also present at the meetings at Warsaw’s Royal Castle.
In a published opinion piece on April 30, titled Poland's Vision For Europe, Morawiecki said the EU was risking harming democracy in its push to integrate, calling such an approach "dangerously misguided."
Morawiecki said he also opposed the strategy of a "multispeed" Europe that would allow groups of EU states to pursue deeper cooperation in specific policy areas.
Many of the newer EU states in Central and Eastern Europe have opposed what they have called interference in domestic policies regarding issues such as immigration, domestic corruption, and the rule of law.
The EU has launched legal action against Poland over reforms to its judicial system it says undermine the separation of power and the rule of law. Warsaw has said the revamp creates a more effective system.
The EU has also criticized Hungary and Romania over what it sees as their erosion of the rule of law, but Morawiecki warned against applying double standards.
"It is unacceptable for EU authorities to criticize some countries' institutions for practices that do not raise objections elsewhere," he wrote in the opinion piece.
Despite the differences, most ruling parties in the region generally have expressed support for EU membership and have no plans to follow Britain’s example of attempting to leave -- the so-called Brexit process.
Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said EU membership has helped raised the country's living standards and said problems facing the bloc should be solved through joint decisions and cooperation.
European Council President Donald Tusk -- a former prime minister of Poland -- wrote on Twitter that "for us in those days [before 2004], Europe really was a symbol of freedom, high standards, prosperity, modernity, and security."
"We have never been disappointed," he added.