Poland’s EU accession in 2004 is a success story. As such, it has many fathers. Today PiS politicians no longer talk of “imaginary community” or “ruined Poland”. Today they are pro-European. Just listen to the Polish head of state talk.
The EU enlargement of 2004 was the Union’s biggest: 10 new countries joined on 1 May and some 74 million people became the EU citizens overnight. Over 15 years those 10 countries have economically developed, but at the same time today they are depopulating. Fifteen years later they are inhabited by 73 million people.
The largest of the 2004 entrants is Poland. Today, 1 May 2019, Warsaw is home of many political rallies and speeches. The far-right anti-Europeans are “defending sovereignty” while the far-left remind the general public the true meaning of 1 May celebrations, the Labour Day.
The mainstream parties campaign in the European Elections. PiS’ shifting narrative and strategy of late is to become increasingly pro-European. The country president, Andrzej Duda, who last year talked dismissively of the EU, spoke last night.
President Duda: 15 years ago the society decided, accession was the Polish national interest. “Membership in the European Union changed many aspects of our lives; it was a challenge, but also – it brought many benefits”.
The head of state mentions open borders, the single market and the well spent cohesion funds; but the most element in it all – it is the people who make use of those opportunities. “We have used well our chance” and the 15 years of EU membership is a collective success.
Mr Duda surprisingly says: “We are members of the great, European community. We take responsibility for its shape and its future”.
Only last year for Mr Duda EU was “some imaginary community from which little results for us”. Back then he thought of a community this way: “Community is needed here, in Poland, for us – our own, focusing on our matters, because they are the most important matters for us. When our affairs are resolved, we will deal with European affairs. For now, let them leave us alone and let us fix Poland, because this is the most important thing”.
In his address to the nation Mr Duda continues talking about the Central European initiatives (Three Seas, Visegrad Group). He underlines that there are frequently differences of opinion as far as the European challenges are concerned.
We are Europe. European Union it’s us.Andrzej Duda, 30 April 2019
This is an underlying agreement of all Poles, that “we are Europe” is a major message of the day. In the following statement, the president accuses “those, who try to create anxiety in the society about the EU membership are acting against the Polish national interest”. He most likely means the European Coalition, who is arguing the Polish government is running a secret Polexit plan, or an unintended Polexit, or even a “velvet Polexit” (Leszek Miller, former Social-Democratic PM, who finished the accession negotiations in 2002; today a candidate for the EP) .
The far-right Confederacy is openly anti-EU, hence they also are the addressees of the president’s criticism.
“Our goal is a modern Poland in a united Europe”, explains the head of the Polish state. This corresponds with the statements of other PiS leaders, who are promising Eurozone accession when the Polish and German salaries are equal.
Mr Duda finishes with a positive note expressing a believe in a “strong, secure and just Europe built on the foundation of common identity”.
Can the president be trusted? He seems to be changing his tune depending on the audience and depending on the timing. The closer to the elections we are the more pro-European Law and Justice politicians always are. However, not words, deeds matter when it comes to Europe. I could accept PiS does its best at most policies. I may disagree with some of the policies, yet almost of them are within the line of a democratic decision making. The “almost”, however, is the key. The rule of law in Poland has been compromised. This is a fundamental value of a modern democratic society, this is a foundation of a European democratic nation state. This is a core value of the European Union.
As long as the issue regarding the rule of law in Poland is not addressed properly, there is no chance any PiS politician can be trusted about being pro-European or even pro-democratic.
Should the issue be addressed properly (foreign minister Czaputowicz indicates that most likely Poland shall respect the upcoming ruling on the rule of law of the Luxembourg Court), I can respect the vision of a unified, religious, Christian Europe. I wish it was truly the Law and Justice perspective. I am afraid it is not the case.