“Europe needs Spring”

It is Saturday, 23 March, a theatre in the Warsaw city centre. It is a quarter to 2PM. A crowd is growing with every minute. There are more and more people, they all came here to listen to the leaders of a new Polish party, Wiosna, or Spring. The people around me take selfies, they came from all over the country, while waiting for the main programme. There are hashtags for today’s event: #nowadrużynaeuropejska and #dodajmyeuropieskrzydeł which translates to #neweuropeanteam and #addwings2europe.

Last time I was here it was a few weeks ago when I watched a children ballet piece about Cinderella… the chairs were removed for the cheering crowd.

The stage is here with the wings that Europe apparently needs. While waiting for the beginning of the presentation of the lead candidates in the upcoming elections I pop into Grzegorz Pietruczuk, one of Wiosna politicians, who is a mayor of the Warsaw district Bielany. Mr Pietruczuk: “It’s a very inspiring idea. I hope it continuous to grow”.

The crowd starts to cheer “Spring” and the show is about to start. I wonder for a moment if this is the right place: am I at a concert? There is a band playing and people clapping: “walk away… rock away… dance with me… rock me girl…”. Later I learn this is the Spring’s Eurospring band. When the band plays the flags go up into the air. There are many flags of Poland and of the EU, there are also flags of European countries like France, Germany, Portugal, Lithuania, Hungary, Belgium. Is this an Egyptian flag? I wonder. There is also the LGBT flag and many Spring symbols.

The Candidates

Here we go. A pair of young hosts enters the stage to present, one by one, 13 lead candidates for there are 13 electoral regions in Poland in the European elections. “Are you ready?” asks Patryk Janczewski, the co-host, and the show begins.

The show is Eurovision-inspired. There is a videolink with every region (a pre-recorded video my sceptical mind tells me…) to Gdańsk, Bydgoszcz, and other regional cities. The local people reveal who the candidates are. Well, some of them are known for a few days already. Here they are:

  1. Gdańsk: Beata Maciejewska
  2. Bydgoszcz: Wanda Nowicka
  3. Olsztyn & Białystok: Monika Falej
  4. Mazowsze/Radom: Paulina Piechna-Więckiewicz
  5. Warsaw: Robert Biedroń
  6. Łódź: Anita Sowińska
  7. Poznań: Sylwia Spurek
  8. Lublin: Zbigniew Bujak
  9. Rzeszów: Anna Skiba
  10. Kraków: Maciej Gdula
  11. Katowice: Łukasz Kohut
  12. Wrocław: Krzysztof Śmieszek
  13. Szczecin & Zielona Góra & Gorzów Wlkp: Anita Kucharska-Dziedzic

There are 8 women and 5 men in the crowd. Also Warsaw’s no. 2 enters the stage, Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus. This is because Robert Biedroń, the party leader and the leading candidate from Warsaw already announced he is not going to take up the mandate, if elected. He is the last to speak today, and starts with a request for a minute of silence for Mateusz, who was Spring’s activist in Gniezno in Western Poland, and who tragically died recently.

The issues

Mr Biedroń and the candidates before him outline the issues Spring brings to the elections. Spring wants to break the PO-PiS war and advocates for a modern, open, and tolerant Poland.

Spring says it is a brave movement. It wants to break with the old privileges of the Catholic Church. At one point the crowd cheers “Secular State”. A very important element on the Spring agenda is the fight against secrecy of paedophilia in the Catholic Church in Poland. The Spring’s face in this campaign is Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, who is an MP with the Now party (Teraz).

The other main campaign issue is the LGBT+ rights, the group Law and Justice singled out and started to attack for a few weeks now. Spring presents its 5 ideas for the LGBT+ community, which include fight against homophobia and same sex partnerships as a step towards marriage equality.

“Spring is a woman” shouts out Mr Biedroń explaining why 8 lead candidates are women. Feminism and women rights is mentioned by most candidates. One of the Spring leading persons is Wanda Nowicka, a champion for women rights.

The air pollution is a major issue of the general public that Spring takes on board. Quite a few of the candidates talk about the Green agenda, which makes me wonder – should they be elected, will Spring join the Green group in the European Parliament? No answer is expected today. Mr Biedroń says that the electoral programme will be ready in the upcoming days.

The Spring leader also mentions the poor level of remuneration in Poland: “We want a European salary not abroad, but here, in Poland!”. He voices full support for the teachers strike and calls on the prime minister to get to work and talk to the teachers.

The issue of the rights of the employed are dear to Zbigniew Bujak, who is one of the most recognised among the Spring’s lead candidates. Mr Bujak is a legend of the first Solidarność trade union movement of 1980s. His popularity came with an incredible ability to deceive the communist militia, who was looking for him for 5 years before making an arrest. Mr Bujak today says he joins the movement because he feels Spring has a similar enthusiasm and energy among the youth as the first Solidarność almost forty years earlier.

There are two important points on Europe that have not been so clearly voiced before. The first is the removal of the British-Polish protocol on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which talks about the limited application of the Charter in Poland.

The second is a strong statement on the healthcare that should be provided at a corresponding level across the European Union. The fight against cancer is mentioned. Mr Biedroń echoes EPP’s Manfred Weber and Ewa Kopacz voices on the issue.

“Europe needs Spring” shouts Biedroń to conclude his speech. The party latest support is about 7%.

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