Krzysztof Szczerski, the Commissioner-nominee for the Ursula von der Leyen Commission, published a book in 2017 entitled “European Utopia“. I am reading it for you. Today’s part: “Europe without a soul is dead“.
According to Mr Szczerski the European identity is based on Christianity. He seeks a special role for the Poles: “we have a special role to play and we should not run away from it or abandon it due to political correctness or fear generated by the media“.
“Many countries await for us, for the fatherland of saint John Paul II, to lead the way. The way leading to a spiritual unity, to respect of fatherlands and tradition. We are predestined to play the role not only because we gave the great son of our nation John Paul II, the saint pope, to the world“, writes the Commissioner-to-be in 2017, “we are predestined because of our geographical location and our territorial and demographic potential“.
Mr Szczerski refers to the Polish in-built dilemma: it is a much smaller country than the larger nations in the EU, but it is equally much bigger than the mid-sized nations of the EU: “We do not threaten anybody: we can’t dominate the small, we can’t knock down the big. Nobody should be afraid of us. This is our great asset“.
He cherishes the European identity based on diversity, but rejects the Brussels bureaucracy attempts to replace it: “One should not be told that the Brussels bureaucracy, due to its international, or, better said, cosmopolitan character, is able to replace the true European identity“.
“The Noah’s days” means a situation in which life goes as usual, but there is a major event in sight only Noah knows about and is preparing for. The biblical Noah was preparing for the biblical Flood. Mr Szczerski writes: “Europe we got used to know might truly disappear flooded by mighty waves“, and continues: “[Europe] may disappear if it continues to deliver ‘the European utopia’ over the real needs of nations and the continent’s nations“.
Europe needs renewal. The rules of this renewal should be: “freedom of nations, equality of states, unity of the continent and a base in its centuries-developed identity“.
There is a special role for Poland in this “Europe of the future“. Why? “Poles, in their majority, are a nation who is at the same time attached to its sovereignty and understands the value of having their own state, and at the same time support the membership in the European family“. Mr Szczerski rejects the opposition between “integrationists” and “souverenists“. “It is not true, that if you are a supporter of the integration you have to sign up to the camp advocating the European utopia, which preaches that national state is evil and should be abolished and replaced by a European federal superstate. This vision is one of the most dangerous concepts of the European utopia.”
Mr Szczerski rightly concludes, “it is possible to maintain independence, that is self-reliance and subjectivity, while being part of a common Europe“. Only that, he argues, “this Europe needs to act differently and leave the road of a dangerous utopia, and our state needs to be more effective, more honest and positioned to service the needs of citizens“.
Mr Szczerski writes of the Poland-led coalition, “community of aspirations” between the Baltic, Adriatic and the Black seas. This is a group of nations “who still wants”, as they seek to catch up the economic development from the old days Communist past. The group is composed of nations who are competitive, ambitious and fight hidden protectionism. Many people have left the region, but as the process is negative, at the same time “it shows the dynamics of our, Central and Eastern European societies“. The same applies to CEE scientists, entrepreneurs and farmers.
This dynamism is not in contradiction to traditional values. “Modernity does not mean breaking up with identity“, argues Mr Szczerski and attacks: “different actors have thrown enormous resources and measures trying to impose a model of modernization by eradication, suggesting this is the common and biding trend, some sort of ‘social physics law’ that should not be debated. In order to be modern one needs to be a multicultural, atheist, devoid of family ties and a very morally loose society“. Mr Szczerski claims that this approach has “almost entire media dominance” to promote such behaviour. He is proud that “most Poles are not convinced” and “their European utopia loses with the Polish attachment to traditions and values” to conclude “our social model is the future of Europe, if it chooses to survive“.
Europe must feel internally strong with its civilisation and its dynamism. Like Poland does.Krzysztof Szczerski, “The European Utopia”, 2017
I agree with Mr Szczerski that there is no contradiction between being pro-European and being a proud citizen of Poland. One does not exclude the other. But I do not see the Brussels-imposed unilateralism that Mr Szczerski calls “European utopia”. I do not see the multicultural imposition of values such as openness and inclusiveness at the expense of traditional values.
Quite to the contrary, the diverse Europe embraces traditions. Europe cherishes and supports cultural events and traditions. Europe respects the member states’ individuality and uniqueness.
I also agree when Mr Szczerski writes, “Modernity does not mean breaking up with identity“. But there is a contradiction in what Mr Szczerski is arguing: on the one hand he advocates for the diversity, but at the same time he seeks for a promotion of traditional Christian values in places where those values are no longer relevant. Why is it not fair to promote atheist values in Poland while it is fair and desired to promote religious values outside of Poland?
He plays into the Polish tradition of seeing Poland as a country with a special historical mission. Poles are taught to believe that about four hundred years ago Poland was the ultimate defender of Christendom against the Ottoman invasion. Again it defended the free world against the Soviet invasion in 1920. This perspective has a name: it’s called “messianism”.
Does Europe need a messiah as a Commissioner?
I may be short-sighted and not see the upcoming Flood. Yet, somehow I cannot escape a thought that if Europe was doomed it was not because of its (lack of) religiosity, but because of climate change.
Mr Szczerski rightly points to the threats of a European super-state, as advocated by some. Ulrike Guerot wrote a book about it: Why Europe Must Become a Republic! A Political Utopia, and the two use the same word. Ms Guerot argues in favour of a European superstate. Mr Szczerski is fundamentally opposed. The two agree: this is a utopia, a dream, NOT a reality. It is strange that Ms Guerot is not quoted once in Mr Szczerski book. What an omission!
Mr Szczerski is not trying to distinguish between the European federalists, some of whom advocate for a European state, and the majority of European federalists, who simply stand by the “ever closer Union”. Here’s a link to what the mainstream European federalists think: they advocate for a Federal Political Union, not a state. They seek policy integration in fiscal and economic policies, in justice and home, migration and asylum policies, in completing the single market. More on the European Federalists here.
I am unsure if this “community of aspirations” truly exits. To put all the countries known as “the new member states” is a risky business. They are as diverse as they come. Estonia and Czechia are among the most secular and least religious nations in Europe. Hungarians are angry with their neighbours, Czechs and Slovaks are not depopulating, unlike Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic nations. Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are in the Eurozone, and Bulgaria and Croatia would like to join it. Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia remain outside of the Schengen system. On top, Etc. Etc. Etc.
What does exist is the Three Seas Initiative, since 2016. It is a useful instrument complementary to the European policy of the 12 states. It is political, diplomatic and no alternative to the EU. Clearly the 12 participating EU nations (CEE and Austria) have certain joint interests steaming from the geographical closeness. It is positive Jean-Claude Juncker attended two of those summits. It is important to know that the Americans (Donald Trump attended once) and the Chinese (present at the initial event in Dubrovnik in 2016) are also watching.
Still, as much as the Three Seas Initiative is there, I am quite sure this is not an alternative to the European Union. It could be a useful complementation of the EU membership.
As regards the clash of values in Poland today, between the traditional values and more liberal values, in relation to the role of women, LGBT rights, equality, discrimination, place of religion in the society, etc. this is not some sort of a liberal, conspiracy imposed clash. This conflict is domestic and is serious. It is between various groups of Poles who think differently. Should the religiousness in Poland be on a decrease (it is not) it is not because of some external-led campaign. There is no such campaign. The diversity of Poles is growing. Simply there are people asking for their rights to be respected by the ruling party which stigmatises minorities by instigating the public majority against them.
And no, majority of the media is not anti-traditional. It so happens, Mr Szczerski, that when Law and Justice overtakes a certain medium (TVP, Polish Radio), its viewership or listenership or readership radically decreases. It does not mean that liberals have an upper hand. It means the liberal media are more popular to read, listen to and watch.