The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) are finding it tough to get their candidates into positions of influence in the European Parliament. Both Zdzisław Krasnodębski and the former Polish PM Beata Szydło have not been elected to senior posts.
Beata Szydło, former Polish PM and now MEP, on Wednesday suffered rejection as a candidate for the post of chair of the Employment Committee. This happened despite an agreement between the parties on the share-out of committee chairmanships between the different European groupings. PiS are a part of the European Conservative Reformers (ECR) grouping.
Socialist MEPs in the committee called for a secret ballot on who should become chair. Despite the fact that Ms Szydło was the only candidate she was rejected in that secret poll by 27 votes to 21. This was the second time that a Polish ECR candidate has been rejected for a senior post in the EP.
Last week, the EP as a whole rejected Zdzisław Krasnodębski MEP for one of the posts of Vice-President of the European Parliament. An independent Italian MEP was elected in his place. This happened as many MEPs from the Socialist group, the EPP and Liberal caucuses refused to vote for the Pole, thereby breaching an agreement reached between the parties on the ECR having one vice-president of the EP.
Revenge for Poland’s stance on Timmermans?
Senior PiS MEP Ryszard Legutko, who leads the ECR grouping, argues that this is revenge. “We are not talking about substantive objections about Beata Szydło and her credentials to be a chair of that committee…. Many parties, especially the socialists, are in shock about what happened in the European Council and that the deal reached in Osaka fell through, largely because of the stance taken by Poland and Central Europe.”.
Another Polish MEP, Beata Mazurek felt that “behind today’s vote is the left and liberal criticism about our refusal to admit refugees” and PiS’s electoral successes. She too saw the vote as payback for the stance Poland took in the Council of Europe on the share-out of top jobs in the EU.
Former FM gets through
However, in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the EP the former Polish FM Witold Waszczykowski was confirmed as its deputy chairman. In this case the ECR candidate wasn’t blocked. He won the vote on his position with 37 votes for, and 24 against.
The ruling party is getting the cold shoulder in the EP. It's a result of the stances its government has taken on the top EU jobs, migration, the rule of law dispute and its social conservatism too.
Both Beata Szydło and Zdzisław Krasnodębski are highly experienced and competent politicians. They did not lose because of who they were, but because they were from PiS.
The fact that it did not join the right-wing grouping put together by Matteo Salvini and stayed in the ECR has not helped it. To the socialists and liberals it has become a target to be hit.
This underlines the problem PiS has in the EU. It is part of the sixth largest grouping that has just become smaller because of the electoral Armageddon suffered in Britain by the Tories. So despite its election victory in Poland, it is now weaker in the EP itself.
All the signs are that this term of the EP will be riven by division and strife. The key cleavage is no longer moderate right vs moderate left with liberals in between. The EP is much more fragmented and beginning to divide along attitudes to further European integration rather than the traditional left vs right divide.
There have been some in PiS who have argued that the party needs to find a berth in the broad church of the EPP. If FIDESZ can be a part of it why can’t PiS. The answer lies in the fact that there are already two Polish parties in the EPP, the Civic Platform (PO) and the Polish People’s Party (PSL), both of which would veto any PiS application to join.
The alternative is to start building alliances with the nationalist right. But here PiS feels uncomfortable about the pro-Russian sentiments of parties such as Marine Le Pen’s party and Matteo Salvini’s “Liga”. Nor would it wish to associate itself with parties that reject the EU altogether, such as the British Brexit Party.
But without allies PiS and the ECR it now dominates may become increasingly marginalised and isolated. However, it is important to remember that the balance of power in the EP does not have to reflect the balance of power in the decision-making European Council. On the European Council the Poland has allies in Central Europe and on some issues is able to work with several west European states too. Return to the top of the page.