On Sunday, 13 January 2019, Jarosław Gowin hold the first congress of his small political party, the Agreement of Jarosław Gowin (Porozumienie Jarosława Gowina, P) in the ancient Polish city of Kraków. The party has been given this name after rebranding in 2017 (previous name: Poland Together, Polska Razem, PR). As PR became P, it lost “R” following plenty of re-shuffling of individual politicians between this party, PiS and Solidarna Polska of Zbigniew Ziobro. In 2014 PR campaigned in the European elections under a slogan “Great Poland in a Small Union”. The party fell short of 5% threshold and did not win any seats in the European Parliament. This time it will be different.
Mr Gowin in February 2014: “We want a great Poland in a smaller, but more effective Union“. PR was a party of Euro-realism, not kneeling before the EU, like the Civic Platform (PO), or offended by everybody, like PiS. EU was not an object of “love or hate”, but an instrument one needs to be effective in using to maximise the national interest of the country. “We want the Union of equal opportunities, freedom of action and less bureaucracy. The Union without borders, as a free market, that was a wonderful project. The problem is this idea of Europe is lost, betrayed and perverted by thousands of silly and harmful rules that smother economic freedom“. That’s Gowin back in 2014. His views could easily fit those of ALDE’s Mark Rutte, or ECR. PR fell short of any MEP.
By 2019, P has been in government for three years, alongside PiS and SP (more on Polish political parties). Mr Gowin is Poland’s minister for science and higher education and deputy prime minister. The second government minister of P is Ms Jadwiga Emilewicz responsible for entrepreneurship and technology.
P is a part of the larger United Right under the massive leadership of Jarosław Kaczyński. It has been hardly distinguishable from its partners over the last three years. At best what the P ministers could master was to show a little bit more civility than the other two components of the ruling coalition. How? A little dissatisfaction here and there, calling for unity, but also respect for higher standards in public life. After all, Mr Gowin is a former rector of a private university in Kraków, and has been close to the Catholic Church intellectuals in Poland. No room for brutality in his actions.
In 2019 the P’s first congress was focused on the issues. The policies matter more than the politics. So what P wants from the European Elections and the national elections later this year? First, Mr Gowin presented his philosophy. Mr Gowin in January 2019: “The values Poland and united Europe need today: freedom, tradition, faith, patriotism“. And all of them are represented, according to the speaker, by Kraków, the place they met. He called on the United Right coalition and the government “to be aware of the greed and arrogance of power“.
Jarosław Gowin on Twitter: Some try to limit the economic freedom in the Union. We have to object to such practices. Poland will take over the UK role as the guardian in the EU.
— Jarosław Gowin (@Jaroslaw_Gowin) January 13, 2019
Second, the issues. Air pollution, or as the problem is known in Poland, the smog. Kraków is the Polish city suffering most of the bad air quality. P wants to go green and has an array of solutions presented by Ms Emilewicz, dressed white, under one logo “Energy+”. She talked green about the renewable energy sources, about lower energy prices, about people becoming energy prosumers (producer and consumer), about subsidies to buy photovoltaic installations. Later on she has clarified, that she was not trying to deny the reality – Polish energy is based on coal – but wants to “speed up the transition”. Well played.
EU is Us
Adam Bielan,the P vice-speaker of the Senate, and also a former MEP (2004-2014), where he served as a vice-president of the house (2007-9), presented the party position on the EU elections. P disagrees with the multi-speed Europe, and wants to keep the Union united. He wants to maintain Poland in the centre of the EU: “EU is us“. At the same time, it is opposed adherence to the Eurozone. Bielan: “Poland has all the economic arguments to remain outside of the Eurozone currently. Thanks to having our own currency we have all the autonomic instruments of the monetary policy that prevent the Polish economy from losing out competitiveness“.
Probably the most interesting was the aspiration pronounced by Mr Gowin in Kraków:
“if the British leave the EU soon, I want to declare that Poland under the United Right rule will take up the role of the guardian of economic freedom in united Europe”.
The third topic covered was the idea of decentralisation of the Polish state. In short, P wants to send out some of the ministries and central agencies around the country “to free the energy of those cities”, as one speaker nicely presented the idea. This was an important message: one of its main hashtags on the day was #EnergiaMiast (Urban Energy)
Absence of Jarosław Kaczyński
As the United Right is a coalition, Jarosław Kaczyński was not only invited. He was expected at the meeting. Is his absence an offence to Mr Gowin party? Probably not. Kaczyński’s health problems seem to be real; last year he spent months in a hospital. On Sunday, the PiS leader (aged 69) had a cold. Replacement was provided by a former prime minister and current vice-prime minister Beata Szydło, who talked about the need of unity in the ruling coalition.
Despite P being the “civilised” of the three parties, the first incident was about a brutal and vulgar approach of the event security services towards a local photographer. Gazeta Wyborcza reported it was not the first time their employees were attacked in Kraków. Minister Emilewicz and Senator Bielan apologised later for the incident.
Another incident took place earlier. The car Mr Gowin was coming to the event in, had a minor road accident. Fortunately nothing serious happened. Unfortunately for the party public relations, today (Monday, 14 Jan 2019) the most popular message reported from the congress in the popular press is precisely this incident. The take: AGAIN. Since 2015 the government officials had numerous car accidents.
Does it matter? It does. Mr Gowin was unsuccessful back in 2014, but his people will enter the European Parliament in 2019 as part of the larger coalition with PiS – United Right. Will it have a positive impact on PiS in the EU? That’s a promise I doubt. I would, however, bet that the next bunch of MEPs that the United Right brings to the European Parliament will be more committed to the issues they believe in: more renewable energy in the Polish energy mix; cutting of the EU red tape and empowering the smaller member states for whom EU membership is an opportunity to maximise their world presence.
Still, no mention on the rule of law during the congress.