Political Europe & Me

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Dear Reader,

In a form of a letter, let me try to cover the ongoing political issues related to the European Union. You are free to ask and to comment. You are free to disagree.

Today is the last day of the old world. Today is the first day of the new world. Obviously. So, what’s new?

I am reading that Croatia is reading itself to join the Schengen. How wonderful to enlarge the passport-free to the Croat paradise and integrate the 28th EU country one step more. Did you know, Croatia is the next most likely – if anybody – to join also the Eurozone within the next 4 years? Truly, this is the wunderkid in the EU corridors of power.

I still cannot get over the Macron veto over the EU enlargement to North Macedonia and Albania. The French President is so wonderfully pro-European. Defending the European interest is his objective. Why is he risking the delicate peace in the Balkans over some French stubbornness like this? Sometimes you have to prove you are European, not only talk about it. Fingers crossed for Slovenians not to derail the Croat hopes.

Brexit is eyebrow rising. Prime minister Johnson is Mr Jackal and Dr House at the same time. Clock is ticking, British media are ecstatic, the British Parliament is more fun to watch than the Late Show with Colbert. Most likely Brexit will be delayed again, 5 minutes before midnight. Next?

The US President who truly does not like Europe. Exhibit one: the Kurds and the broken alliance over… what exactly? Is Turkey still in NATO? What is NATO? Some strategists in Moscow and Beijing must be laughing at how fast the American leadership in the world is shrinking.

Exhibit two: US just introduced sanctions against the EU. Allies?

The world is not getting safer when the Germans are planning their security with Russians and the Turks, is it? Well, Mr Trump, counting your days in office for America’s and Europe’s sake. Meanwhile good news come from Canada where Mr Trudeau survived the vote and will continue his government. And from Israel where the populist Netanyahu gave up on forming government.

I do not care if the government is liberal, green, social-democratic or conservative. I care if it is democratic. I am allergic to populism.

In Spain riots. Or, in Catalonia riots. These days even how you write is political. And this issue is for the locals to work out. An interesting thing I have heard the other day and could not verify: that about 7% of Spain is already a desert and the desertification continues and that the Catalan independence move is effectively linked to the distribution of water on the Iberian peninsula. Interesting theory. Greta?

Funny how the liberal media fast forget about difficult places hoping they will self-regulate. Well, they don’t and they come back to you twice worse. Exhibit one: Italy. Ever since Mr Salvini is out of government we hear less of Italy. Peace.

Exhibit two: Poland. Before the elections there was some buzz. There were articles about the country. There was interest. Now it is somehow limited. And imagine this: since yesterday night there is the battle over the Senate. You may remember that last week Law and Justice won the Sejm, but the opposition won the Senate. Well, yesterday the ruling party decided to appeal to the court over a recount in 6 districts where the opposition candidates won. In a normal situation you’d think “recount”, what’s wrong with that? Yes, that is the democratic impulse. But it turns out the recount is going to be managed without a public scrutiny by a chamber of the Supreme Court that was created anew by PiS. There are serious doubts over its independence or the validity of the appointment. One of the ECJ cases against Poland on the rule of law situation is about the National Council of the Judiciary (politically appointed, hence judicial independence compromised?). It was the new NCJ which chose the Supreme Court’s new chamber composition. The chamber’s name is Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs… we’ll see about the judges true independence. Still, no scrutiny?

Mr Schetyna, the leader of the opposition says he wants an international supervision over the recount.

Democracy is a funny system, where some decisions hung on a undemocratically elected official decision. Thinking Poland? Think Florida 2000. Think Boris Johnson. Not voted by the British Parliament. Appointed.

More Polish news: remember the K Towers? The “independent” prosecution just decided there is no case. PiS promised transparency of spouses tax returns before the elections last week. Yesterday the country’s president Andrzej Duda just took the issue for a legal check by the Constitutional Tribunal. When the obvious problems with the law were pointed out by the opposition MPs during the adoption of the act, the ruling politicians rejected every argument. Now they are proven right. But we are a week after elections. Nobody will remember little lies, right?

There is an Austrian angle to the K Towers affair. I guess we will see how that goes in due time.

It seems the influence inside the Law and Justice is changing post-elections. Jarosław Gowin and Zbigniew Ziobro are up (each gentleman has 18 MPs within the ruling majority) and Tadeusz Rydzyk is down. Mr Rydzyk runs his right-wing Catholic media empire based around the Radio Maryja. Listenership of the radio is record-low and now Mr Rydzyk lost two of his prominent MPs, who failed to be re-elected from the PiS lists.

In Switzerland the Greens are making headlines after a major increase of public support. Do you know that 3 Greens made it to the Sejm last Sunday? This is truly good news. With the return of the Left into the Sejm the number of MPs who are responding to the urgency of climate crisis is on a massive increase in Poland. Since this is a long-haul fight, we are in it to win it, right? As Greta says, however, this is also a race against time.

We are absurdly beautiful and warm October in Warsaw. It is 22 October and it is 22 degrees outside. Enjoy the climate change!

The dream for today: a moratorium in Poland for new coal-based power plants. Please someone take this issue to advocate in the discourse! The next battle on the issue is the new power plant in Ostrołęka, north of Warsaw. It is being built, to be based on coal. There are problems with financing of the power plant. Hopefully the power plant is there but not using coal as its resource material.

What is amazing is how this country changes bottom up, not top down. The turnout last week was 61%, the highest in 30 years! In Warsaw the turnout was 77% The highest in the country. Over 1 million people voted in the city. First time ever, too.

The bottom-up civil society organised a protest in my home district yesterday: because of a car crash in which one person died. Clearly changes are necessary in the way roads are build and drivers drive. Now people protest demanding it.

Bottom-up energy: in the first 9 months of 2019 the amount of micro-installed solar panels in Poland increased by 96%! Their power making capacity increased by 100%. Good news. There is also something new on my street, for the electronic waste.

This blog is called “Political Europe” for it shall focus on the new upcoming Commission’s theme, being “geopolitical”. The Commission is late on arrival as 1 November as its commencement date has been thrown by the window by the assertive and somehow unpredictable new European Parliament.

Yes, it was Juncker’s theme, political Commission. As opposed to the administrative one before, I guess. Why? Because of the political mandate the Commission receives from the general public. The general public of some 512 million Europeans chose the European Parliament and the Parliament will chose our Commission.

“Our Commission”, so someone should scrutinize it, right? Here I am and here’s the blog. About the political developments in Europe where I am. Where am I? Who am I? Those who read this blog since the beginning of 2019 may know, it was focused on the European elections. The elections are gone. Next elections will take place in 2024. It seems far away. It is not. I shall do what I can to share information from my Europe and see how the Commission, if the Commission responds.

This blog is written without any financial support. As a true independent I occasionally train people on the EU decision-making process. I do it within the EU institutions assisting the personnel of the Parliament and the Commission. Sometimes. Occasionally I also train businesses. I do it in English and Polish. If you’d like to get access to the internal proceedings of the EU institutions, let me know.

I am also an affiliate of Team Europe, a group of experts of the European Commission based in Warsaw. I am not paid by the Commission, I am not a Commission employee or representative. Team Europe-Warsaw takes me places like corridors of power in Brussels, but also schools and universities all around Europe. I have been privileged to talk with all kind of groups of Europeans in all corners of our Europe, also when I worked with the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw and the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. That’s the past, as I worked there over 7 years ago.

Today I travel to villages and towns and cities on invitation, mostly. This year alone (thus far) I am grateful for the opportunities to talk with the citizens of Douchy-les-Mines (France), Bruxelles, Tallinn, Belgrade, and in Poland: Wejherowo, Słupsk, Kołobrzeg, Ciechocinek, Kwidzyn, Dzierzgoń, Morąg and Biesal, Bydgoszcz, Gdańsk, Załuski and Bończa, Katowice, Tomaszowice, Wrocław and Warsaw. Wherever I go I learn from the people I meet as much as I hope they find interesting what I have to say.

Until the end of the year I know I am speaking in Brussels a few times, as well as in Biecz and Nieporęt in Poland.

Thanks to all those who keep on inviting me.

If you’d like to hear me speak, contact me. I receive some spectacular feedback knowing that those who did not enjoy me speak won’t say it out loud. But it is nice when a group of 60 teenagers (16-17 year olds) listens to you and no mobile phone is in use for good 40 minutes. Another testimonial: “this was the most insightful presentation we have had in 7 years. Thanks” from people dealing with EU affairs.

I love those feedbacks for they show me that there is something I know others don’t and they prove people want to listen.

I also write and talk on the media, sometimes. This year alone Onet.pl and Euractiv.com published a number of my opinion articles. I invite you to read my opinion piece about the Polish elections of 13 October published with the Balkan Insight and on Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel published by Euractiv.com.

Larger reports were published in Madrid by Real Instituto Elcano and in Prague by Europeum.

More from me to come. Please contact me if you’d like to cooperate, either by contributing to the blog “Political Europe“, co-creating it, or in any other matter.

Cordially yours,

Piotr Maciej

Marek Jurek has a problem

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Marek Jurek is a conservative MEP. In 2014 he is elected to the EP from the Law and Justice list and leaves the party a few weeks later. He is the most recognisable face of a small right-wing party, the Right Wing of the Republic (RWP, Prawica Rzeczypospolitej). Once, he was the Speaker of the Sejm, the Polish Parliament 2005-7, and has been active in the politics since 1989. Always as a devoted Catholic.

PiS No More

Marek Jurek MEP

Today Mr Jurek has a problem. There is an abundance of right wing parties in Poland. Yet, they do not qualify as good partners. Mr Jurek party’s leitmotif is a complete ban of abortion. He disagrees with Law and Justice blaming the ruling party for not strengthening the anti-abortion legislation in Poland.

In Poland abortion is legal only in three situations: if the pregnancy threatens the life or health of the mother; if according to the prenatal checks there is a high risk of a serious damage to the fetus; or if the pregnancy is a result of a rape. Mr Jurek’s party campaigns to ban all three exceptions.

For Mr Jurek PiS is not an option any more. As Marian Piłka, another RWP politician, explains in 2018: there was an agreement between RWP and Law and Justice and “the agreement contained clear wording regarding the positions of our candidates. Unfortunately, the promises have not been kept”.

The Confederacy is a No-Go

If not PiS, Confederacy is a second option. It is a coalition of various far-right groups, including Janusz Korwin-Mikke’s supporters, the Liberty party (Wolność), nationalists like Grzegorz Braun or Robert Winnicki, or other anti-abortion activists like Kaja Godek. Mr Jurek has a problem with Confederacy, too. The problem’s name is Grzegorz Braun, who recently spoke about scourging of gays.

When Mr Braun wants to talk about “penalisation of homosexuality in the EP”, Mr Jurek says bringing up this issue is not a good idea. Instead he should be focused on the real issues. Jurek: “I was with this matter in Budapest, in Paris in the National Assembly, in the Netherlands, in Brussels. Think about it, if Mr Braun, this time in Brussels, has two more speeches about scourging people who have a different lifestyle, then it is an end our project to safeguard the right of states not to recognize homosexual relationships”.

REM is a long-shot

If not Confederacy, then who? How about the Real Europe Movement (REM)? This new initiative is launched by another MEP Mirosław Piotrowski, who is also affiliated with PiS, that is – he also was elected with PiS back in 2009 and 2014, but departed from the too-soft PiS, according to Mr Piotrowski himself. MEP Piotrowski first entered the European Parliament in 2004 with the League of Polish Families (LPR), the once popular far-right party in mid-2000s which campaigned against EU accession in the 2003 referendum and entered the PiS government 2005-7.

Mirosław Piotrowski MEP

Today Mr Piotrowski tries his chances with a new movement, the REM. Their chances remain limited, but as super-conservatives and pro-Catholic Church as the REM stands for – “Real Europe”, he enjoys a powerful ally. Mr Piotrowski in a local radio says this month: “We, first of all, are in favour of Christian values in the European Union, for the civilization of life and for a normal family”. Sounds like a natural partner for Mr Jurek, especially since Mr Piotrowski allegedly has the backing of the powerful father Tadeusz Rydzyk, leader of Radio Maryja. Mr Rydzyk influence with the right-wing devoted voters is never to be underestimated by the far-right, right-wing, conservative, pro-Catholic Church politicians in Poland. Law and Justice, Kukiz’15 and all the outside of Sejm parties seek Mr Rydzyk blessing in their deeds.

And so for a moment it looks like the candidates of Jurek’s RWP are included on the electoral lists of the Piotrowski’s REM. But Jurek himself is not on the list. They campaign, they gather signatures for their candidates. All looks fine…

And the winner is Kukiz’15

Then comes 11 April and the small world of RWP is turned upside down while the small world of REM is crushing down. Mr Jurek has been saying he was not running for re-election and the RWP candidates are happy with the REP. On 11 April Mr Krzysztof Kawęcki is quoted on all major media. Who is Mr Kawęcki? He is the nominal chairman of the RWP, but not its true leader. Kawęcki says: “I do not understand the decision of Marek Jurek” and warns of the RWP break down.

What did Mr Jurek do before 11 April and announced on 11 April is the following: there are RWP candidates on the electoral list of Kukiz’15! This is the best chance for re-election for Mr Jurek, as there is no guarantee that the Confederacy or the REM can ever reach the 5% electoral threshold. And Mr Kukiz sounds like a perfect partner for Mr Jurek.

Mr Jurek: “Poland needs an independent, strong right-wing. We go to the elections to show that Poland is not a billiard ball in a game played by the Law and Justice (PiS) and the Civic Platform (PO)”. He also advocates for cooperation of all the like minded people. Kukiz’15 is to include on its lists not only Mr Jurek, but also Mr Piłka and other candidates.

Mr Jurek is No. 1 on the list of Kukiz’15 in Poznań.

Et alors?

This is a perfect deal. It allows for Mr Jurek to have a new credible chance of re-election. It allows for Mr Jurek to continue his political platform in the European Parliament. It strengthens Mr Kukiz in his struggles to break the 5% threshold. Latest opinion polls give Kukiz’15 about 6% of the votes.

In the process the chances of Mr Piotrowski to return to the European Parliament have been eliminated. The late departure of RWP from its alliance with REM meant that REM was short of time to collect enough signatures by the deadline. On 17 April Mr Piotrowski announced that REM decided to discontinue to collect the signatures knowing that they would fall short of registering lists in 7 of 13 regions necessary to run in the entire country.

The fact that REM is not going to compete in European elections is excellent news for all the competitors of the same electorate: Law and Justice, Kukiz’15 and the Confederacy.

The Scare v. The Big Lie

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The campaign to the European Parliament in Poland revolves around the weekends, when all the major political blocks try to impose a new narrative. This weekend is no different.

In the recent weeks PiS run an anti-LGBT campaign (failed) and a series of proposals with new spending programme (party successful). The European Coalition response so far is rather weak and reactive. No new proposals are made by the EC and PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna, as if the Coalition still needed to learn how to manage its own diversity first.

“The Scare”

The one idea of the European Coalition that seems to be gaining momentum is the “scare tactics”. The Coalition slogan is: The Future of Poland: the Great Choice. The European elections is a referendum in which Poles are asked to make a choice: “chose your future: us or PiS” and PiS means, for example, “Poland loses its chance to grow”, “Poland is marginalised”, “PiS politicians are decomposing EU”, “PiS – team of people full of complexes”.

The alternative is to catch up with the quality of life with the West, “strong Poland in a solidary EU”, “competent, energetic, efficient representation of Poland” and the “team of the great Polish pride”.

One of the leading candidates of the Coalition is Krzysztof Hetman MEP. He is No. 1 in the Lublin region with a major chance for re-election, as he originally comes from PSL (EPP), the agrarian party that enjoys major support in the rural region. Mr Hetman says that PiS is saying one thing and is doing another. Instead of being pro-European it secretly prepares a Polexit, the exit of Poland from the European Union.

Hetman: “I want to warn the inhabitants of [my] region that such gestures as flag removal show true intentions. I have no doubts about PiS’s intentions“. PiS officials were asked to remove the EU flag from their offices in the regional council. Beata Szydło, when took office of Poland’s PM in 2015, removed the EU flags from her office, too. Mr Hetman says today this is symbolic.

He continues: “They do not say it directly. However, creating such coalitions, or who they talk to, recently with the leader of the Spanish VOX, clearly speaks of intentions. I am most afraid of populists and those who do not talk about their intentions“.

Radek Sikorski, former foreign minister and the Coalition’s No.1 candidate in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region, says along those lines, too: “Cimoszewicz led us to the European Union and he will not lead us out of it, but – can we be sure that the Chairman [Jarosław Kaczyński] will not do it by doggedness or plain stupidity? There’s a great choice in front of us”. Hashtag #GreatChoice or #WielkiWybór.

“The Big Lie”

PiS, meanwhile, is trying a new narrative. Following the controversial votes on the copyright directive and on the posted workers in transport, it calls on the MEPs of the Coalition as “big liars”. They call the Polish EPP MEPs “European statists” claiming they voted “against the Polish interest” on the copyright directive (labelled ACTA2 in Poland) or the mobility package. They also bring back the 2016 vote on the EP political resolution on the situation in Poland in relation to the rule of law.

Back in 2016 MEP Tomasz Poręba claimed that Mr Trzaskowski, current Warsaw mayor and a former MEP, has edited the EP draft resolution. Today Poręba argues that it was an anti-Polish resolution. Three years ago there was a “list of shame” of MEPs who supported the resolution that empowered certain neo-Nazi group to issue death threats against some of the MEPs back in 2016.

Ryszard Legutko, MEP and co-chairman of the ECR group in the European Parliament, is on fire: “There is a war against PiS, and more importantly against the Polish government. PO politicians have become impotent in Europe” and calls Donald Tusk “a little scout fighting the Polish government“.

The official PiS twitter account quotes Legutko as saying “The stake of these elections is whether the European institutions will be open to everyone or will remain monopolized”. There is the hashtag, too: #BigLie or #WielkieOszustwo.

Et alors

Why politicians lose their mind during the electoral process?

Just the fact check: Poland is growing under PiS and has been growing under PO before. To say by one of the parties otherwise is a pure lie. In 2015 PiS run a campaign under a motto “Poland in ruin”, which was false. The same could be argued today for the European Coalition’s scare tactics – is Poland losing its chance to grow under PiS? Be critical of their social policies, budget deficit, cutting important programs, the teachers strike, etc., but the unemployment is falling and the economic performance is positive. The future might be difficult – but that’s not what the Coalition argues. The Coalition argues with PiS Poland loses a chance to grow. Are they too simplistic or try to scare the electorate?

Mr Hetman might be right that PiS is having a secret agenda. That’s fair to campaign on the issue of Polexit, if someone believes this is a credible threat. Fair enough.

PiS on the other hand is full of lies, once again. The mobility package issue is the issue divisive in many countries and as a European problem it calls for a European regulation. The issue is not settled (yet) and some people are pushing for a fast-tracking of the procedure. As such it is as much in the hands of the Polish government (in the Council) as the MEPs to do their best to block the issue in the Council and/or the Parliament. This is not a done deal yet.

The copyright directive is as divisive in Poland as it is in other EU countries. It seems PiS tries a short-cut to reach out to the Youtubers community failing to communicate its own failings: where is the blocking minority in the Council? It may be noble to lose “for the cause”, but the true standing for someone’s interests is to be effective. The contentious Article 13 of the directive is as much as a failure of the EPP MEPs from Poland who voted the way they voted as of the Polish government which was unable to change the working in the Council. All provided the MEPs do not support the directive as it stands, because there are serious arguments for the directive and its article 13, too, that the PiS politicians conveniently downplay. In either case, this is not a national interest situation. Labelling the issue “EU steals your freedom of expression” is a pure exaggeration.

As for reminding the general public about the allegedly “anti-Polish statements” made in the European Parliament in 2016, the Law and Justice forgets the Parliament is a political and deliberative body, too. The adopted resolution was a political statement, not a legally binding act. As far as democracy and freedom of opinion is concerned, all views are welcome, defending the Polish government and opposing it.

Tadeusz Rydzyk, Mirosław Piotrowski MEP, Zbigniew Ziobro MEP

How PiS tries to lie to the Polish public is clearly manifested in one situation: back in 2012 there was a public hearing in the European Parliament. Speakers included right wing activists and journalists including Jan Pospieszalski and Rafał Ziemkiewicz (video below) who spoke about the situation in Poland criticising the Polish government for wrongdoing. The hosts? Law and Justice MEPs including the current Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro; the guest list include speakers Bronisław Wildstein, Jacek Karnowski, Anita Gardas, Law and Justice MP Beata Kempa and media mogul Tadeusz Rydzyk.

The meeting title: “Freedom of Media in Poland. Case TV Trwam”. The speakers:

List of speakers at a conference in the EP in 2012
Ziemkiewicz is critical about the Polish government in the European Parliament in 2012

So it is OK to be critical of the Polish government in the 2012 European Parliament, but it is not OK to be critical of the Polish government in the 2016 European Parliament. This is a plain double standard, hence a lie.

European Parliament is your Parliament since you elect its Members. It is not “foreign” and there is no “Poland’s delegation” as the PO and PiS like to call the people elected Members of the European Parliament. There is the European Coalition team and the PiS team; some of them will make it to the house in Strasbourg; those who make it have to cooperate this way or another.

The duopoly EC v PiS serves both actors to do well in the upcoming elections. Spring and Kukiz’15 and far-right and far-left are all squeezed out. Only one or two of them have a real shot at the 5% threshold.


First Polish reactions to the Brexit vote

So she lost. May is over, it feels as if it was the longest month ever. Winter is coming.

Now, let’s get serious on the issue. The House of Commons voted down the Withdrawal Agreement tonight by a landslide, 432 against, 202 in favour. Will May finally end tomorrow with the Labour motion of no confidence?

What will happen next? Will Britain stay in the EU? Is the hard Brexit avoidable? Will the European Council postpone the 29 March deadline? Will the British government – led by whomever – call on the Second Referendum, or withdraw the notification on triggering Article 50 of the Union treaties? There are more questions than answers tonight and tomorrow morning. For now all we know is that a 585 pager is a no-go.

The Polish reactions

Poland was a partisan of the Withdrawal Agreement. It fully supported the late compromise negotiated by Michel Barnier. The most important issue for Poland in relation to Brexit are the citizens rights. Polish nationals are the largest group of EU nationals in the UK. Some 1 million of Poles reside in Britain. Ahead of the today’s vote, prime minister Morawiecki announced that the Warsaw government was ready “for the plan B of no-deal”.

Morawiecki in December 2018: “We have a bilateral agreement about mutual treatment of our citizens with full respect of their social and civil conditions”.

Plan B: The Ministry of Interior just laid out their proposal for a law which regulates the presence of British citizens in Poland. Some 6,000 people are concerned. They will have 12 months to legalise their presence in Poland.

The economic impact of hard Brexit on Poland could be big. In September there was a report about how much countries can lose due to Brexit. Impact on Poland is significant; only Ireland is expected to lose out more from among the EU-27. According to the Oxford Economics study from September 2018, the Polish economy could lose out even 0.8% of its GDP until 2020.

Prime minister Morawiecki tweeted: “Hard Brexit is a bad solution for the UK and the EU. Together with our EU partners we will react to the new British proposals. We will do everything possible to ensure maximum of predictability and security for our citizens and companies”.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council took to twitter, too:

Katarzyna Lubnauer, the leader of a small opposition party .Modern (.Nowoczesna, a member of ALDE) tweeted her letter to Jeremy Corbyn  from October backing the Second Referendum.

The Europe minister Konrad Szymański talked to the PAP press agency: “Ordered Brexit is the best solution for the UK and for the EU. After the lost vote in the House of Commons the British government should present a plan of the next steps. We await for the new British proposals on this issue. We will continue to work with the EU partners on the detailed and possibly constructive response to the proposals.”

Szymański outlined a constructive approach, but noted that first the British need to know what they want. The Polish government is preparing for the Plan B. Apart from the above-mentioned legal proposals a few more proposals are in the pipeline and shall be presented soon. Also, the customs and veterinary services receive reinforcements due to the potential hard Brexit.

Et alors?

Actually… we know not much more than before. Prime minister May may survive the no confidence vote tomorrow. Maybe out of three options (the deal, the hard Brexit, the second vote) two are remaining in the game, possibly there are more options and possibilities out there.

Hard Brexit is more likely by the day, but European politics is rich with experiences of last minute deals and twists. The ECJ awhile ago has paved the way for a simple trick: withdraw your notification of 29 March 2017 and consider having the second referendum!

Gowin take on Europe

On Sunday, 13 January 2019, Jarosław Gowin hold the first congress of his small political party, the Agreement of Jarosław Gowin (Porozumienie Jarosława Gowina, P) in the ancient Polish city of Kraków. The party has been given this name after rebranding in 2017 (previous name: Poland Together, Polska Razem, PR). As PR became P, it lost “R” following plenty of re-shuffling of individual politicians between this party, PiS and Solidarna Polska of Zbigniew Ziobro. In 2014 PR campaigned in the European elections under a slogan “Great Poland in a Small Union”. The party fell short of 5% threshold and did not win any seats in the European Parliament. This time it will be different.

Mr Gowin in February 2014: “We want a great Poland in a smaller, but more effective Union“. PR was a party of Euro-realism, not kneeling before the EU, like the Civic Platform (PO), or offended by everybody, like PiS. EU was not an object of “love or hate”, but an instrument one needs to be effective in using to maximise the national interest of the country. “We want the Union of equal opportunities, freedom of action and less bureaucracy. The Union without borders, as a free market, that was a wonderful project. The problem is this idea of Europe is lost, betrayed and perverted by thousands of silly and harmful rules that smother economic freedom“. That’s Gowin back in 2014. His views could easily fit those of ALDE’s Mark Rutte, or ECR. PR fell short of any MEP.

By 2019, P has been in government for three years, alongside PiS and SP (more on Polish political parties). Mr Gowin is Poland’s minister for science and higher education and deputy prime minister. The second government minister of P is Ms Jadwiga Emilewicz responsible for entrepreneurship and technology.

P is a part of the larger United Right under the massive leadership of Jarosław Kaczyński. It has been hardly distinguishable from its partners over the last three years. At best what the P ministers could master was to show a little bit more civility than the other two components of the ruling coalition. How? A little dissatisfaction here and there, calling for unity, but also respect for higher standards in public life. After all, Mr Gowin is a former rector of a private university in Kraków, and has been close to the Catholic Church intellectuals in Poland. No room for brutality in his actions.

In 2019 the P’s first congress was focused on the issues. The policies matter more than the politics. So what P wants from the European Elections and the national elections later this year? First, Mr Gowin presented his philosophy. Mr Gowin in January 2019: “The values Poland and united Europe need today: freedom, tradition, faith, patriotism“. And all of them are represented, according to the speaker, by Kraków, the place they met. He called on the United Right coalition and the government “to be aware of the greed and arrogance of power“.

Jarosław Gowin on Twitter: Some try to limit the economic freedom in the Union. We have to object to such practices. Poland will take over the UK role as the guardian in the EU.

The smog

Second, the issues. Air pollution, or as the problem is known in Poland, the smog. Kraków is the Polish city suffering most of the bad air quality. P wants to go green and has an array of solutions presented by Ms Emilewicz, dressed white, under one logo “Energy+”. She talked green about the renewable energy sources, about lower energy prices, about people becoming energy prosumers (producer and consumer), about subsidies to buy photovoltaic installations. Later on she has clarified, that she was not trying to deny the reality – Polish energy is based on coal – but wants to “speed up the transition”. Well played.

EU is Us

Adam Bielan,the P vice-speaker of the Senate, and also a former MEP (2004-2014), where he served as a vice-president of the house (2007-9), presented the party position on the EU elections. P disagrees with the multi-speed Europe, and wants to keep the Union united. He wants to maintain Poland in the centre of the EU: “EU is us“. At the same time, it is opposed adherence to the Eurozone. Bielan: “Poland has all the economic arguments to remain outside of the Eurozone currently. Thanks to having our own currency we have all the autonomic instruments of the monetary policy that prevent the Polish economy from losing out competitiveness“.

Probably the most interesting was the aspiration pronounced by Mr Gowin in Kraków:

“if the British leave the EU soon, I want to declare that Poland under the United Right rule will take up the role of the guardian of economic freedom in united Europe”.

Decentralisation

The third topic covered was the idea of decentralisation of the Polish state. In short, P wants to send out some of the ministries and central agencies around the country “to free the energy of those cities”, as one speaker nicely presented the idea. This was an important message: one of its main hashtags on the day was #EnergiaMiast (Urban Energy)

Absence of Jarosław Kaczyński

As the United Right is a coalition, Jarosław Kaczyński was not only invited. He was expected at the meeting. Is his absence an offence to Mr Gowin party? Probably not. Kaczyński’s health problems seem to be real; last year he spent months in a hospital. On Sunday, the PiS leader (aged 69) had a cold. Replacement was provided by a former prime minister and current vice-prime minister Beata Szydło, who talked about the need of unity in the ruling coalition.

The Incidents

Despite P being the “civilised” of the three parties, the first incident was about a brutal and vulgar approach of the event security services towards a local photographer. Gazeta Wyborcza reported it was not the first time their employees were attacked in Kraków. Minister Emilewicz and Senator Bielan apologised later for the incident.

Another incident took place earlier. The car Mr Gowin was coming to the event in, had a minor road accident. Fortunately nothing serious happened. Unfortunately for the party public relations, today (Monday, 14 Jan 2019) the most popular message reported from the congress in the popular press is precisely this incident. The take: AGAIN. Since 2015 the government officials had numerous car accidents.

Et alors?

Does it matter? It does. Mr Gowin was unsuccessful back in 2014, but his people will enter the European Parliament in 2019 as part of the larger coalition with PiS – United Right. Will it have a positive impact on PiS in the EU? That’s a promise I doubt. I would, however, bet that the next bunch of MEPs that the United Right brings to the European Parliament will be more committed to the issues they believe in: more renewable energy in the Polish energy mix; cutting of the EU red tape and empowering the smaller member states for whom EU membership is an opportunity to maximise their world presence.

Still, no mention on the rule of law during the congress.