Emmanuel Macron comes to Poland today. It is his first trip to the country since coming to power in 2017. Will he reach out to the Warsaw rulers who accused his France of breaking democratic principles? What is the olive branch? The list of disagreements is long. The list of common interests seems short. Is there room for trust building? Today we look at the Poland he meets.
Poland today is divided into three parts when it comes to the future of Europe. Almost 90% of Poles are pro-EU, hence the dividing line is not membership or no membership. The real division is between those, who (1) believe that Poland is discriminated in the EU, those (2) who believe that EU is the best what has ever happened to Poland and those (3) who take it as it is: it is not flawless, but works.
A few days ago, the Polish minister Emilewicz presented a report about discrimination of Polish companies in the EU. It is a balanced report that aims to contribute to the improvement in the functioning of the single European market of goods, workers and services. Among problems identified are discriminatory practices of French officials controlling Polish companies more frequently than the domestic companies. The populist pro-governmental media present the report as “illusion of the single market”.
The EU admirers are those who undeniably believe in the European fate of Poland, especially in the context of the revolution in the Polish judiciary. Since 2015 the Warsaw government undertakes actions challenging the independence of judges. Since the beginning of 2020 the situation is acute; the European Commission is “worried” and the Luxembourg Court of Justice has new Polish cases to hear almost weekly. The proponents of this perspective believe that since 2004 (EU accession) it has been “the best time for Poland in 500 years” (to quote one World Bank report).
The third are those who see united Europe for what it is: an unfinished project full of potential and imperfections. The Law and Justice doves qualify in this category, like the climate minister Kurtyka, who says the country has to move away from coal-based power making. There are some 2.5 million Polish citizens in other EU member states or UK, where some 700 thousands Polish citizens still reside post-Brexit. On the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian workers in Poland as the unemployment breaks the historical lows: in Warsaw 1% of workforce is without a job.
Mr Macron comes to Poland that is focused on the war on judiciary. The first group is angry with Mr Macron’s pro-European and (presented as) anti-Polish views. The second group adores him. The third group, the majority, will be willing to learn who is this French young leader, the ideological nemesis of the ruling party. Since elections in 2017 he has been 14 times in Germany. Ms Merkel has been 15 times in France over the same time, but the German leader has paid five visits to Poland since Macron won elections in 2017.
The February visit is his first trip to Poland.