The European Coalition (EC) campaign is changing. So far, the leifmotif of the Coalition is to warn the Poles of a risk of “Polexit”, even if unintended. For that reason the EC has a hashtag #WielkiWybor, a #GreatChoice, for it tries to turn the 26 May elections into a referendum “in or out of the EU”. Some 80% of Poles support EU membership.
This strategy is history now. Two events have shaken the strategy. First, the Monday 29 April interview of Jean-Claude Juncker in Rzeczpospolita. In it the President of the European Commission says: “Even if Law and Justice (PiS) wins the fall elections, there will be no Polexit”.
The second hit against the strategy is even closer home. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council speaks on 3 May with an underlying message of a need of civility in politics. He talks inclusiveness and to “stop this spiral of reluctance, hostility, and hate”.
Effectively Mr Juncker tells the pro-European politicians of the EC: “your message to scare off the public is false”. Effectively Mr Tusk tells the same crowd: “your message is not enough, you need a positive offer”.
It does help that for over a month the EC is trailing Law and Justice in the opinion polls. Always just a 2-3 points behind the government party. Nevertheless the trend is clear: always second.
Schetyna in Białystok: 100 bn Euro more!
The 2019 campaign is organised this way that every weekend there are major speeches and events scheduled. 4 May 2019, Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the Civic Platform and of the European Coalition, in Białystok says: “This election is about the money for our country for the next decade”.
His statement comes as the end of the scaring campaign with Polexit. Now comes the “offer”: “we can negotiate better for our country than those who lose 27-1” in the European Council. He clearly refers to the 2017 situation when the Polish government was the only one opposed to the re-election of Donald Tusk as head of the European Council.
“We can negotiate 100 bn more for Poland than the PiS government”, says the PO leader about the upcoming multi-annual financial programming negotiations. “100 billion for Poland, for Poles, for healthcare, for people who work, for the Polish countryside, for education and for the fight against air pollution”.
This is a change for the better. We start to know what kind of Poland in the EU the European Coalition truly wants, not only what they do not want. As a society we come out of a paralysis. If you are a political actor it is important to verbalise your offer, not only to scare people away from your competition. Still, as the TVN (private TV) fact-checkers informed the viewers, the MFF negotiations are made in the European Council, not in the European Parliament.
Let me nuance the fact-checkers here. The Parliament is co-legislator and co-authority on the Union budget. The MFF may be open in principle for a political agreement among the prime ministers in the European Council; yet it is at the same time open to multiple parallel negotiations on policies which are negotiated in a classical ordinary legislative procedure. This procedure fully includes the EP. In fact, some of the MFF files have been already adopted by the outgoing Parliament.
The PO can be even more entitled to defend their stance with the simple fact that two of the leading EP negotiators on the next MFF are PO’s MEPs: Janusz Lewandowski, MEP/EPP from Gdańsk and Jan Olbrycht, MEP/EPP from Katowice. Both Mr Lewandowski and Mr Olbrycht are running for re-election.
What I am concerned with is another problem. The Civic Platform in times of trouble turns to the old tunes we have all heard well before: “we are better negotiators, we can get more money for you”. This is not the pro-European message. This is not about the Europe of values. This is not about the Europe of principles. Instead the PO leader turns to sell Europe to Poles as a piggy-bank once again.
Fair enough, Mr Schetyna talks also about policies he wants to finance with the extra 100 bn Euros. Yes, it is Euros he talks about, not zloties. Yet what the people will remember is “100 bn more”. Not only this is what the public shall remember. This is what Mr Schetyna wants them to remember. And that’s worrisome.