Far-right begins EP campaign with a pro-gun ad

…clearly the electoral campaign has started.

Friday morning I am up, open my computer, turn on Facebook to see how our blog project #Gimme5EUblogs looks like. I am happy to see there are almost 400 followers of the page in a week. Nice.

I am back to Warsaw from Brussels, where we launched the project the day before. The following day I hit the road again. One coffee is not enough to open my eyes… Then I see this:Zrzut ekranu 2019-01-18 o 09.26.01.pngThe campaign is on.

Here is what the ad says: “Potentially world conflict is closer and closer and the Poles are unarmed… Occupation of Poland would be super easy. Read more…”

Before I read more, I am interested why do I see this add. I ask to see more, here is the answer, which is a screen shot from Facebook. Partia Wolność wants to reach men who can bear arms (aged 21-55) who live in Poland. The screen-shot:Zrzut ekranu 2019-01-18 o 09.26.19

There is a part of me who is appalled. If I am the target of their campaign, a campaign calling on people to want to bear arms.

Another sip of coffee and a perspective kicks-in: no way Poles will buy it. Well, we shall see.

Who is Partia Wolność?

All of the ultra-far-right united in elections for the European Parliament smile at me from a poster on their website. I shall not give you the link, you can find them yourselves, if you are interested: the National Movement of MP Winnicki, Partia Wolność of Janusz Korwin-Mikke (former MEP), Grzegorz Braun (a monarchist, who compares EU to the Soviet Union, former candidate for the state presidency with 0,83% support in 2015).

Partia Wolność is a new name for the activity of Janusz Korwin-Mikke. The party has 2 MEPs currently, who can be described as back-bencher MEPs. One is in ENF, another one is non-attached. Not that it matters much for the Euro-politics. It matters in the sense of the financial support for the reactive forces in Poland to run their campaigns.

Some Facebook figures: 194k people follow the Partia Wolność page on FB. Minister Andruszkiewicz who competes with Partia Wolność for Law and Justice, wins: 212k FB followers. His star on the far-right shines!

To put things in perspective: Robert Biedroń, leader of a new party on the left-side of the political spectrum, has 495k FB followers. President Andrzej Duda has 628k FB followers – all of them are or have been using Facebook in their political campaigns. Jarosław Kaczyński does not have a page.

It seems despite calls for death penalty reintroduction and now a new campaign to allow Poles to bear arms, the Law and Justice keeps an upper hand. Let’s see how long their alliance with the ultra-right continues.

The link

The link leads to an article written by the 28-year old Jakub Kulesza, MP of Partia Wolność in Najwyższy Czas paper (It’s the High Time). The author argues in favour of massive bearing arms. He is arguing Poland is vulnerable because the population does not bear arms. There are so many instabilities around the world: Russian intervention in the Kerch Strait, the Chinese-American trade wars… Mr Kulesza: “With the level of disarmament the occupation of our country would be child’s play, because Poles, despite their heroic mentality, would not have any tools to make the occupant’s life difficult”. 

And there is Switzerland. The world points to America to proof that guns are bad, while the Swiss do not have crime and there are guns in Schweiz, says the author. Intrigued with the argument, I’ve consulted Mr. Google. Here’s what came out: A Swiss article about bearing arms. It basically says this: yes, there are guns in Switzerland, but the Swiss heavily regulate bearing arms. There is, however, wrong perception: that the Swiss are thought to be gun-bearing but gun-incidents-free. That is false. There are relatively fewer guns in la Suisse then in the US, but there are fewer accidents than in the US. There are, however, relatively more guns in la Suisse than most of Europe and relatively more incidents with the use of guns. Data after GunPolicy.org in 2018: US has 120.5 guns per 100 people, Switzerland 41.28, while Germany 32 and Poland 2.5. And the data for gun deaths per 100,000? US is first with 11.98, Switzerland with 7.4, Germany follow with 1.01 and Poland 0.24. Somehow the data Mr. Kulesza, member of the Polish parliament, uses does not add up.

Than there is the Romanian argument: a country with no guns and plenty of crime. At least this is what Mr. Kulesza says. Data of GunPolicy.org says otherwise: Romanians have as many guns as Poles (2.5 in Poland, 2.6 in Romania per 100 people) but commit fewer crimes with their weapons (0.24 gun deaths in Poland compared to 0.12 in Romania per 100,000 people). Somehow there is something racist in saying there is a high gun crime in Romania. Even Wikipedia says “Another peculiarity of Romania is that gun violence is exceptionally rare”, and this is a source most popular to check for data.

MP Kulesza finishes his article with a statement that “there is not much more time left” and we need to get weapons. Well, it all sounds like a poor NRA-inspired leaflet than a serious argument, at the end of the day.

Only that, they are running for office. And Gdańsk mayor was just murdered a week ago. Imagine for a moment what would happen if the Gdańsk murderer had a gun in his hand.

When it comes to imagining I prefer to imagine something else.

Et alors?

There should be no room for the ultra-right on the Polish political scene. There should be no room for fake news. There should be no room for ignorance. Imagine a perfect democracy. To paraphrase Popper: if you are a democrat, you cannot tolerate the non-democratic forces. The flirting with ultra-right-wingers that PiS does is beyond democratic imagination: this is flirting with fire.

Karl Popper: In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance (1945)

There is only one way to show the ultra-right-wing where they belong: out of the European Parliament and out of the Sejm. Two elections in 2019. Twice a red card.

I could hope one day there is an institution in Poland that does what the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) does.

A new role for Poland in the Trump’s World

Over a few last days two simultaneous geopolitical events took place. It would be fair to treat them separately, but as they have a rare joint actor, we won’t. First, Mike Pompeo announced that there will be a Middle East conference – Iran being the most important topic – in Warsaw. This triggered an outcry in Tehran against Poland, with whom Poland has had traditionally good relations.

Second, Chinese espionage scandal took place in Poland, hitting Huawei and the Chinese diplomacy in Central Europe. This triggered anti-Chinese repercussions in Poland and Chinese criticism of Poland.

What is going on?

Iran

First the facts. In May 2018 the United States triggered a new conflict with Tehran by withdrawing from the agreement about the Iranian nuclear program supervision. The new American anti-Iranian sanctions were infuriating for the European diplomats, who continue to work on countermeasures. Yet the Europeans do not attempt to withdraw from the agreement with Iran. Mogherini in January 2019 wrote on her blog: “I confirmed the international community’s determination to preserve the deal and its implementation” and “European countries have started preparations to create a mechanism to let our firms continue their legitimate business with Iran“. A little reminder: the European top diplomat never crosses any of EU member states, Poland included.

A year ago Poland entered into a diplomatic controversy with Israel, another country it traditionally kept good relations with. In order to smooth things out, Polish diplomacy rushed to Tel Aviv and Washington. Apparently, the Americans smelled an opening on how to challenge the European unity. In May 2018, Gazeta Wyborcza reports, the minister of foreign affairs received an offer to host a conference in Warsaw about peace and security in the Middle East. Warsaw was already taken into consideration to host the Trump-Kim summit last year. Clearly, Poland under PiS is welcomed in Washington, DC, as a relative ally among allies, that is. North Korea summit took place in Singapore, now the Iran summit is taking place in Warsaw.

Back in December I have heard from multiple Poland’s MFA sources that Poland “plays to be the closest to the Americans among the Europeans without breaking the EU unity”. Iran was to be – and now is – the showcase which illustrates this new situation.

Mike_Pompeo_official_photo
Mike Pompeo. Source: Wikipedia

Poland tries to position itself as a bridge between the Europeans and the Americans on the Middle East problems. It is great to attempt it, but the problems are obvious. Iran reacted with fury: the Polish charge d’affaires was called in, the Iranian minister of foreign affairs called the event “hostile” and some unknown counter-measures have been announced. For now, the festival of Polish movies in Tehran has been cancelled. Better not to plan a trip to Iran if you are a Polish national.

The Polish diplomats play their cards… diplomatically. So closely and so privately, that the news about the Iran event came not from the host, but from the American State Secretary Mike Pompeo. As if it was the Americans, who initiated it. Oh, they are the initiators. Poles are the hosts, not the players between the Americans and the Iranians, but at best between the Americans and the Europeans. As for the Iranians the players are the UN Security Council permanent members (US, Russia, China, France and UK) as well as Germany and the EU.

The event is scheduled now for 13-14 February 2019. Some 70 delegations have been invited, but not the Iranian delegation. The question is this: Poles probably have enough credit with the Americans and the Europeans for the US-EU potential rapprochement on Iran, but will that be at the expense of the Polish relations in the Middle East?

China

The same day another news came: a Huawei employee in Warsaw and a French telecom Orange employee (a Polish national) in Warsaw were arrested on the charges of espionage. The details of the case are well covered here. What came afterwards, was interesting. The Chinese foreign office just calmly called for the investigation to be conducted “justly”. The Chinese newspaper Global Times was more outspoken: “If Poland wants to destroy its relations with China, it will lose much more, because China has trade advantage over the country” (Zhao Junjie, Chinese expert) and “is there anything worth stealing by Huawei in Poland?” (Hu Xijin, the newspaper editor).

The last question is a clear flexing of muscles. “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”, asked Stalin once, and this is the same argument. To put it bluntly: sometimes it is not about the argument of power, sometimes it is about the power of an argument. In situations like this one behind any European state there is the rest of the Union. It is the European Commission who considers steps against the United States because the US has not lifted its visa regime for some of the EU citizens. Unity is a value Europeans respect highly. There might be talk of disunity and populism, but every six months the European Council renews the Russian embargo despite individual voices contrary by some European governments. There was no major European disunity since the Iraq war; the Americans, the Chinese and the Russians were unable to break the Europeans. Minus the Brexit, that is, whoever did this deserves a credit. What can Warsaw do? For starters the Polish intelligence agency recommended to all the government officials not to use Chinese technology. Huawei faces a real threat of being banned from the Polish IT market. As small as it may be, it is a part of a larger European and trans-Atlantic cake. It may be that a Polish cough can turn into a mortal blow to the Chinese giant. Just speculating.

Western media covered the arrest and perceive the action as an element in a larger proxy war between China and the West about the technological espionage. Recently Canadian nationals were detained in China as a follow up to the espionage arrests in Canada. Huawei is probably among the most technologically advanced company in the world when it comes to the implementation of 5G. Extending their standards in Europe and the US could mean a technological edge for the Chinese company over the American companies in the future. True or not, a local Polish analyst took an interesting turn. Krzysztof Bogacki wrote an op-ed in the IT magazine “Chip” with the following quote:

“when we say ‘spying Chinese’ we should also remember about the ‘spying Americans'”.

As the American ambassador in Warsaw has a major impact on the Polish government, for the better of the companies like Uber and Discovery Communications.

There is one more angle here: for about 6 years now there is a format of cooperation between China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe called “16+1”. There was some controversy about it in Western Europe; suddenly a major donor appeared in a region it was previously absent. Instead of sharing experiences of how to deal with the new Chinese presence, the approach was that the Chinese presence constituted a threat and competition to Western European businesses and model. The approach was wrong on two accounts: first, the Chinese investments are welcome anywhere, if they are genuine, and they can be genuine if the local governance system is not corrupt or prone to corruption. And second, Central Europe – the one that is in the EU, at least – is a part of the EU and there is no particular reason to see Central Europe as an area of “competition” for influence of the Chinese and the Western Europeans. This war is artificial; Central Europeans’ exposure towards the Chinese investments and political relationship is just new.

The arrest of the Chinese spies is a proof of strength of the Polish state, that is not prone to political corruption from the Chinese. Not to say there is none; clearly there are attempts. Yet the state works as well as Canada to spot the problem and deal with it.

Robert Lewandowski is a face of Huawei
Robert Lewandowski is Huawei’s Ambassador in Central-Eastern Europe, Baltic and Scandinavia

Et alors?

Why it matters? Contrary to the popular belief, the Polish state is more advanced and more nuanced that many partners give it credit for. The Polish civil society has shown that it is capable of forcing a quasi-totalitarian government to talk and make compromises. The Polish state is able to oppose to unwanted practices of a foreign power, as long as it is not an ally. And the Polish state is willing to engage in a delicate game of international diplomacy.

This “new Poland” is not what many may recognise. Yes, it has its problems and limitations. But it has its aspirations, too. Its current strengths would not be possible without the European integration: the economic growth and the security comfort allowed for maximising not only economic power, but also a diplomatic one.

Somehow today the outlook for the rest of the day is positive.

In my next blog entry this afternoon I shall follow the Brexit vote in London from the Warsaw perspective.

Paweł Adamowicz, RIP. We remember [i][i][i]

Matteo Salvini meets Jarosław Kaczyński

The leader of La Lega met with Jarosław Kaczyński.

Two leaders of two major political parties in two more populous member states. No wonder there was a buzz about this meeting that transcended borders and melted snow outside of the PiS HQ. Even Jarosław Kaczyński noticed Salvini’s popularity in Warsaw: “I see you are very popular, there are so many news people around here!”, he greeted his Italian guest.

What happened?

Mr Salvini arrived in Warsaw on a mission. The mission? To create a new major force in the European elections. What does he want: “Poland and Italy will be part of the new spring of Europe, the renaissance of European values” and “the Europe that will come to form in June will lead us all than the one that exists today and is run by bureaucrats.” Later in the day he said that he wants the new force to be the second, maybe the first in the EU vote.

Deliberately I shall not label Salvini or Kaczyński “Eurosceptic”, as major outlets have done. Let’s listen to their arguments.

The Interior Minister Business

First, Matteo Salvini met his Polish counterpart, the interior minister, Joachim Brudziński.

Brudziński, Polish Interior Minister and interlocutor of Salvini in the EU Council of Ministers: “Poland and Italy are not leaving the European Union. We are an integral part of the EU and we want to have an influence on how our common European house looks like. To those, who would like to see us on the fringe positions, anti-European, we can say only one thing: it’s mission impossible”.

Poland and Italy just don’t like migrants. Brudziński and Salvini agreed, the process of deportation needs to speed up. They also love “the family”. Salvini: “John Paul II talked about Europe that needs to come back to its identity and Judeo-Christian roots, and this is denied in Brussels madly. The family is negated, only other values dominate”.

The Future of Europe

The second meeting of the day – Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki. During this meeting Mr Salvini used the most quoted words about the new “European spring” or a “Warsaw-Rome axis” replacing that of Berlin and Paris. According to Salvini, this European renaissance means recreation of the “true European values, where there will be less finances, less bureaucracy, more jobs and more family, and most of all – more security”.

If Brudziński and Morawiecki were the entrée, it was the Kaczyński meeting that was the main course. Apparently, the Italians have asked for the meeting for months. The Poles like to be courted, and hesitated. Their (PiS) natural instinct is: ALERT, ALERT! After all, their counterpart is all-the-way pro-Russian, Russian sanctions critic, his party is even affiliated with the Putin’s One Russia. As for the Poles – since 2015 no high-ranking visit of a Polish official to Russia or from Russia. When the Polish President Andrzej Duda shook hands with Putin at the UN one year, he was questioned for doing so…

So the Italians requested, courted. Why? La Lega is outside of European mainstream. La Lega is affiliated with ENF, chaired and created by the done-with-the-EU Front National, or whatever its current name is. PiS is very cautious about talking with the Euro-leavers. The Polish opposition accuses the government of a secret Polexit strategy. Salvini also is on the defensive: ever since coming into power he had to defend his positions. Just last December ha had to repeat once again: he does not want a “Brexit all’Italiana” or to leave the Euro. His government complied with the EU Commission about the 2019 budget figures, too.

La Lega is not a fringe party anymore. La Lega dreams big. In Italy and it needs partners.

PiS is not a fringe party, but like La Lega is outside the mainstream.

The two needed to talk.

Mr Salvini visited the Polish leader in the Law and Justice HQ on Nowogrodzka street in Warsaw. They talked for over 1:30 hours. We know little about the meeting, except for what the spin doctors of PiS want us to know, that the Polish leader is happy about the meeting and there will be follow up. There is the invitation for Kaczyński to visit Milan in March, should his health permit. There is a commitment: Salvini will commemorate the Monte Cassino II World War battle memory event, scheduled for 18 May.

They talked about what unites them. They talked about being accused of Euroscepticism, or even anti-Europeanness. They talked about Italian contribution to NATO and Polish-Italian business. They talked about family and religion and migration. Salvini repeated what he said elsewhere: “Because of that [migration] I have many enemies in my country, but the more critical they are, the more support I get among the society”.

They talked politics, too. The context is the European elections comes May. PiS is an orphan following Brexit, as the Tories leave ECR. La Lega wants to step up its participation in European politics from ENF. After all, they run a government now! Meetings about future cooperation will continue, the message stands.

Et alors?

My take is simple, La Lega and PiS made a deal, or are about to make a deal. A Polish politician was already making calculations: La Lega can become the largest national delegation in the European Parliament with some 30 MEPs. PiS’ own expectation – 24. Just those two partners and a simple math: 54 MEPs. This is a solid base to continue to dream.

PiS has one condition: La Lega cannot bring the Front National from ENF with them to their new group. That’s too toxic.

28 years old nationalist appointed minister

A gift from Prime Minister Morawiecki to the Polish’ far-right came late for Christmas.

Adam_Andruszkiewicz_Sejm_2015
Photo: Wikipedia

By the end of the year Adam Andruszkiewicz was appointed a vice-minister of digitalization. Who is this 28 years old minister? He is a former leader of the All-Polish Youth movement (organisation long known for anti-Semitic allegiance). In 2015 he was elected to the Sejm on the electoral list of Kukiz’15; representing then the radical National Movement. He holds anti-European and anti-Western views portraying himself as an isolationist. A native of Białystok he praises neighbouring Lukashenka’s Belarus. Mr Andruszkiewicz has a long list of criticism addressed towards Macron’s France. He is not shy of presenting his anti-Muslim and homophobic views to the world.

Why was he appointed? This action should be viewed as an attempt to attract far-right supporters to Law and Justice. If PiS truly wanted to reach out to the centrist voters this nomination was contradictory to what prime minister Morawiecki offered earlier last month. Clearly it was important to solidify the right-wing flank of Law and Justice before reaching out to the centre.

Mr Andruszkiewicz may be young, but he is resolute, especially on social media. His Facebook public profile is followed by 197 thousand people.

Some direct quotes from Mr Andruszkiewicz, vice-minister of the Polish government:

  • On Europe: “We have to speak with no complexes that we do not want any Europe and immigration here, we want no multiculturalism. We do not want it and that’s it. I see today how cities like Vienna, Brussels, London and Paris look like”.
  • On Belarus: “I think we should culturally, civilizationally and economically get closer with Belarus” and “the European Union tells us to argue against them”.
  • On migration and terrorist attacks: “Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron said we should take in immigrants and then had funerals of people murdered in attacks. It is not that the West is an oracle, God, who sits and says what Mr Timmermans says and we should pray to him, implement peacefully, because this is what he wants”. And in 2017 he added “I think that European politicians like Mrs Merkel or Mr Juncker today have blood on their hands of innocent people”.
  • On the US forces presence in Poland: “There is a geopolitical discussion in Poland what countries should be militarily present. Recently we got rid of the Soviet military. I respond: no military”.
  • On gays in Poland: “The healthiest tissue is in Eastern Poland. Not in any “Warsaw”. Not in any of those queer bars next to the rainbow. In there is no healthy Poland. Here is the healthy Poland”.

Now Mr Andruszkiewicz will be responsible for the relationship of the Polish government with Facebook and other social media.

Di Maio-Kukiz meeting: more direct democracy in Europe!

Luigi Di Maio of 5 Star Movement and Paweł Kukiz of Kukiz’15 just met in the shadow of the Salvini-Kaczyński meeting. The two men met in Brussels 8 Jan 2019 and talked about direct democracy and the idea of referendums in Italy and Poland. Both exchanged their perspectives on the artificial divisions between right and left in Europe and discussed how to accommodate their differences. Di Maio announced the platform for cooperation with the Polish party as well as Croatian Ivan Sincic and Finnish Karolina Kahonen to be based on direct democracy.

This was not the first time Kukiz and di Maio talked. Clearly they negotiate the platform and program ahead of the European Elections this May. Direct democracy is one; Kukiz added on his Facebook profile that what unites them is opposition to the domination of European politics by two nations.  Most likely he meant France and Germany,

The two politicians announced more news to come in the upcoming weeks. The French Gilet-Jaunes movement is expected to join the M5S-led initiative.