Krzysztof Szczerski is a candidate for the position of a Commissioner in the College of Ursula von der Leyen. Earlier this week there was a meeting between the nominee and the Commission President. The only relevant information Mr Szczerski shared after the meeting is that he has signalled his interest in an economic portfolio. No decision has been taken.
Divided Europe forgets its roots
Back to his 2017 book “European Utopia” where Mr Szczerski explores the roots of the European Crisis. He offers an interesting and original take on what the European Union is. It is a practical-spiritual integration that has been based on practical cooperation and Christian values. Mr Szczerski argues that the integration has an original flaw in its construction: the limitation of the integration to a few Western European countries and the approbation of “the brutal and unnatural division of Europe into two hostile parts“, with the Central and Eastern European part of the continent left behind the Iron Curtain. “When one side of a plant is permanently in the shade, while the other side has access to the light, both of them grow in an unnatural way – one is poor, the other one extensively exuberant – the entire system loses its harmony“. Mr Szczerski empathically remarks “both sides of the Iron Curtain were victims of the division (…) since both parts were separated from each other“.
This unnatural situation results with the Eastern Europe economically underdeveloped and Western Europe alienated. The year 1989 and the new opening is not “optimally used” for reunification of the divided continent, according to Mr Szczerski. The stereotypes of Central and Eastern Europeans among the Western European political elites dominate the approach. In consequence, “they strived for simple domination over the backward Eastern countries and their economies. This was called the need of westernisation of the Central and Eastern Europe, what effectively was to be a repetition of the East German take over by West Germany“. That process has an important side-effect: “the contempt for the Eastern Germans, the Ossi“, among the Western Germans.
The spiritual element evaporates over the years: “Western Europe that we’ve met in 1989 was becoming a different continent, in which the public life was based on new, fully secularised rules“.
The Western European material domination over Central Europe results in unnatural relationship, in which the “external domination, for example in terms of owning business, or the unfavourable conditions (for us) of the opening of our national markets for Western corporations, which had very strong bargaining positions. This frequently led to market disorders, and in some areas even to practical elimination of home companies“. Mr Szczerski contradicts this reality with early days of integration: “the initial historical project assumed respect” no matter if the country was Luxembourg or France. “Then, the base of relations between the integrating states were the Christian values“. In 1989 and today it is no longer the case.
Mr Szczerski concludes this part of history: “even if according to me the European integration has never taken the optimal developmental shape, the presence of Poland in this process is essential“.
Poland needs free and stable Europe of equal states and free nations.Krzysztof Szczerski, European Utopia, 2017
Mr Szczerski’s key disillusionment is in the reality of the year 1989. This is when “the chance to rebuild the true European unity was lost“, because the West forgets its Christian values. There is a general happiness that dictators of Eastern Europe are gone, but there as an accompanying fear. The West is worried about the “backwardness” of the new democracies and their alleged nationalism and social conservatism. There are also the material worries of “flooding of the West with hordes of hungry workers (better version) or simply – thieves (worse version)“.
The Western fear results, according to Mr Szczerski, with a policy of re-education: “immediate buying out of the media and giving them a liberal-left profile as well as creation and financing of all sorts of foundations and educational centres of so-called new elites. Education obviously in one binding meaning of political correctness“.
Mr Szczerski says that the Central Europeans are considered “barbarians” and this is so unfair “when Europe is currently flooded with a true uncontrolled wave of migrants that is endangering its security, and caused by the very same politicians of the same countries who used to scare their citizens with Poles or Hungarians“.
I wonder if according to Mr Szczerski the 2015 and later waves of migrants pouring into Europe constitute a “flood of barbarians”, since he uses the term.
In his analysis of Western Europe losing touch with its own religious past Mr Szczerski turns to the social turmoil of 1968: Europe “turned more and more, for a long time, and especially since the social revolution of 1968, to the left. The turn was exacerbated in many Western European countries after the government positions were filled by politicians, who once were the revolted ‘children’ actively participating in the 1967-68 student protests“.
The 1968 revolution was not a generational conflict, it was a “clash of ways of life and a vision of social peace“.
The constructivist virus
Mr Szczerski is not a fan of social constructivism. In short, this approach mean that societies are social constructs, not a result of long historical processes. The Commissioner-to-be writes it this way: “so you can imagine creation of a multi-culti society and accordingly, systematically make it real and develop through children education, adult propaganda, through correctly chosen instruments of mixing human groups“. According to Mr Szczerski this is an EU policy: “step by step complete rebuilding of the social environment of the European policy” and many Europeans are terrified as they are “unable to identify themselves in this modern reality” and argues for return to roots.
The only way forward, writes Mr Szczerski, “to reintegrate Europe […] is a return to the source of our identity, to the core of European culture, distorted by the constructivist projects (like the gender ideology[…]).”
Krzysztof Szczerski says that social constructivism is used in European policy to create “a new economy” which rejects the free market economy. The free market approach Mr Szczerski supports is effectively deregulation and removal of market obstacles and creation of incentives for economic exchange.
Yet, Mr Szczerski argues, with time this original free market approach was compromised with the regulatory framework. The most relevant elements, that is the “financial mechanisms supporting the poorest EU regions (structural funds) and extended protection of competitiveness preventing monopolies” are supported by Mr Szczerski. However, the “constructivist virus” entered the free market, and “single market” is on the increase: “the more regulated the market, the more room for corruption and competition manipulation. A true competition is gone. This is one of the reasons for stagnation“. He notes cynically, “for the bureaucratic regulatory mind there are no cordons“.
The economic integration is “in the phase of advanced constructivism“. Mr Szczerski is not a fan of the Eurozone: “Project Euro […] has no basis in the economic reality” and “the Eurozone is condemned for permanent instability that can be mitigated, but not liquidated“.
According to Mr Szczerski the Eurozone is impossible, hence the ECB “has to take decisions serving the interests of a few at the same time trying to hurt the others as little as possible. The strongest come out of the process as winners“, hence the Eurozone is based “at the expense” of the needs of the economies outside of the decision-making centre.
His idea for renewal of Europe is to create a common, not single market. Deregulation is the key in this process.
As for the Eurozone, Mr Szczerski would like to keep the zone open, “but not mandatory, as it is today de facto. Maybe even gentle ways of leaving the Eurozone by some countries should be considered.“
Mr Szczerski says that Eurozone own budget is “the easiest way to a Europe of two speeds, hence practically, to final break off of the community“. The alternative is “to subject oneself to the euro hegemony and related regulations that are not beneficiary for countries like Poland“. In other words, Euro accession.
It is an interesting way of looking at the way European integration between the Western and Eastern parts was truly an expansion. 10 countries joined the Union in 2004. The Union that pre-existed for a number of years. It has been a long Polish belief that even if this was an accession, what really happened in 2004 was a reunification of Europe.
The debate on accession or reunification is relevant in the context of ownership for the project, if not for what Mr Szczerski argues – economic advantages of certain economies. Poles do not share the ownership for the European project, at least Mr Szczerski clearly does not. It is important to point out that Mr Szczerski in his analysis finds only problems (secularism) in Western Europe and no problem in Central and Eastern Europe (the shaded part of the plant) were analysed between 1945 and 1989. As if those societies did not undergo any relevant evolution in their own right.
I agree with Mr Szczerski that there are many Western Europeans who are sceptical of the Eastern Europeans. Isn’t this our task to eradicate the sentiment? Over the years there are fewer of them. Elections of Jerzy Buzek (EP President, 2009) or of Donald Tusk (European Council President, 2014) help the process. If the sceptics are back on the increase – maybe it is because of the policies of governments like the one Mr Szczerski is backing. Still, over the years the fears and scepticism are rather going away, and it is the Poles and Romanians, who en masse travel abroad for work, who create new opinions about our nations among other Europeans. The most important quantification in this regard is that there is no one “Poland”, “Romania” or “France” and in each and every society there are different people of different skills and qualities.
And this is a constructivist approach, too: we are constructing the perception of the Poles and of Poland. A complete rejection of constructivism is a rejection of the European integration at its core. The very Christian first leaders, Fathers of European integration who Mr Szczerski values so much, were not only deeply rooted in their religion, nation-states, but they knew that the future is in the hands of men. Robert Schuman in his Declaration writes: “Europe will not be made all at once“. Be made. “It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity“. Built.
Supranational character of the Union is from the start, not from after 1968.
Regulatory approach of the Union is from the start (regulate the coal and steel market), not from after 1968.
Over-regulation is a good objective; PM Cameron of UK and PM Rutte of the Netherlands even performed audits seeking similar results “what should be deregulated at the EU level from the national perspective”. Outcome of those reports were unimpressive for the populists.
It is easy, overly easy, populist maybe even, to argue that “Europe over-regulates” for each time it regulates it does so with the countries on board. And the citizens.
Maybe this is the problem: Mr Szczerski portrays himself as a political conservative thinker and politician who would like to associate himself with the likes of Schuman, de Gasperi and Adenauer, but the policies of his government and his political party are not only conservative, but also populist. They seek enemy, they need enemy to thrive and build support. They criticise constructivism in Europe, yet they do the same in Poland – use constructivism to raise a new generation of Poles deeply rooted in history and national narrative – this is, after all, the objective of the Law and Justice educational reform. A constructivist approach.
It is worrisome Mr Szczerski, the Commissioner-to-be does not know the difference between de iure and de facto. Poland is under obligation de iure to join the Eurozone, not de facto.
Clearly Mr Szczerski does not recognise the benefits of the Eurozone membership for the smaller nations. Maybe the Baltics’ and the Slovaks’ arguments and advice should be revisited as I am sure they had their reasons to take a decision “contrary to their national interests”, according to Mr Szczerski.
And this simplification… all of the West is liberal and left-leaning, all of Poland is socially conservative… Those presumptions are simple speaking, wrong.
I do agree that there are three ways forward for Poland: in the Eurozone, with the EU broken from inside by the Eurozone budget, or by muddling through as today. There is a chance for this choice to be relegated to irrelevant, but it would require for a series of bold decisions to be made. The true question is not how to avoid forcing Poland into the Eurozone but how to maximize the benefits of Eurozone accession for economic growth and political security.