Polish President accused of working for ‘Polexit’ by Opposition

President Andrzej Duda in Leżajsk, southeastern Poland. Photo: PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

Rafał Trzaskowski, the Civic Coalition’s candidate for Warsaw mayor has claimed that the Polish President’s actions and statements are opening the door towards Poland’s exit from the EU.

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Mr Trzaskowski, a senior figure within the opposition Civic Platform party, spoke at a press briefing argued that EU membership was essential for local government in Poland. According to him “over 40 percent of all public investments in Warsaw” are from EU funds.

This is why it was “important that those in government and the President took care of what they say, not only for foreign policy but also for local modernization programmes,” he said.

Rafał Trzaskowski went on to say that “this is why, together with the party leader Grzegorz Schetyna, I have appealed to the whole local government community to use their influence on the head of state and the Law and Justice government to rethink their stance, because some of their decisions and statements are placing Poland on the margin of the EU, in consequence leading to our country leaving the EU.”

President Duda’s speech in Leżajsk

Mr Trzaskowski was alluding to a recent speech President Andrzej Duda made in Leżajsk.

During that speech, President Duda mentioned European Commission objections to recent judicial reforms in Poland saying that “Poles are entitled to rule and decide for themselves how they go about repairing decayed public institutions.”

He also said that Poland had a right to concentrate on its own interests rather than those of “an imaginary community”. This was interpreted as the President downplaying the significance of the EU.

According to the President’s chief of staff, Krzysztof Szczerski, the President’s words should be understood as an assertion of Poland’s view that the EU was made up of independent nation states and that these cannot be replaced by an artificial entity.

source: 300polityka.pl, PAP

Comment:

This is not the first time that the liberal opposition is portraying itself as the defender of the European Union and alleging that the current government is leading the country towards “Polexit”.

The opposition is counting upon the fact that the majority of Poles support EU membership, appreciate EU funding and would not favour leaving the EU, even if the same voters do not want the refugee resettlement programme or the introduction of the single European currency, the Euro.

The opposition, when in government, pursued a policy of staying close to Germany and France in order to build Poland’s position in the EU. The current government has pursued a different path. It has tried to build alliances with the Visegrad states and the rest of Central and Eastern European states via the “Three states” initiative.

It has been ready to oppose EU policies such as the policy on resettlement of refugees and it has staunchly defended its judicial reform policies against EC criticism. However, from there to any Polexit is a very, very long way indeed. Law and Justice backed Poland joining the EU back in the referendum of 2003 and, despite reservations, approved the Lisbon Treaty.

Today, despite disagreements over migration and the rule of law, Poland has toed the line inside the EU on the single market, the Brexit negotiations, the Iran deal, sanctions on Russia and not moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Poland’s geopolitical and economic position is such that leaving the EU is not a realistic option. No serious political force in Poland is likely to move for a “Polexit” referendum and trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, as happened in Britain.

Nor is “expelling Poland from the EU” anything more than fantasy. First of all no expulsion mechanism exists. Even Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty proceedings that require total unanimity can only lead to suspension of voting rights and sanctions rather than expulsion. Second, it is inconceivable that Poland’s regional neighbours, including Germany, would want Poland to leave. Too much has been invested in bringing West and East together to give up when the going gets tough.

The opposition’s “project fear” over an imaginary Polexit is therefore election rhetoric. But concern over Poland’s position within the EU ahead of tough budget negotiations and plans to make the Euro zone the driving force inside the EU is legitimate and is something those who govern Poland must address.

Difficulties have surfaced because at a time when some in Brussels and western Europe want the community to integrate at greater speed, via the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty on qualified majority voting, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe which emerged from years of Soviet domination and joined the EU relatively recently are asserting their identity.

Disagreements within a community of so many countries are inevitable. Maybe the community needs to pay heed to the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s view of some decades ago that Europe “needs to move at the pace of its slowest part” in order to stay united.


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