Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) and Deputy PM has said that EU institutions are trying to strip Poland of its sovereignty by demanding Poland change its culture and values. In an interview with weekly “Gazeta Polska” published this week he also asserted that Poland will defend its identity and freedom and would not be swayed by financial considerations.
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said on Thursday that statements by European Parliament’s (EP) deputy head Katarina Barley concerning the...see more
The PiS leader was referring to the announcement that the EC would seek to standardize provisions of family law so that same sex couples and their rights to parent children would be recognized across the EU and to the proposals of the European Parliament and the current German presidency of the EU to link payment of EU funds with general rule of law compliance.
Mr Kaczyński said that the EU was proposing an unprecedented assault on Polish sovereignty. He recalled how the USSR’s communist ideology, which was dominant in the Soviet bloc had been resisted by Poland over the existence of private farming and the Catholic Church. This defence of some freedoms and matters of conscience was possible even under a totalitarian regime.
Now the EU’s institutions are, according to the ruling party leader, demanding that Poland should change its culture and values. This demand is “groundless in terms of treaties and contrary to Poland’s declaration of cultural sovereignty which was passed by the Polish Parliament in advance of Poland’s accession to the EU,” he stated. The PiS leader signalled that Poland would not budge over the matter. “We will defend our identity, freedom and sovereignty at any price. We will not succumb to financial blackmail...We will defend Poland’s interests...Veto. Non Possumus will be our answer to any such attempts.”
Mr Kaczyński was here alluding to the recent remarks by the EP’s VP Katarina Barley who said, in the context of both Hungary and Poland, that these countries should be “starved financially” until they comply with the EU's demands on the rule of law. The comment caused a storm in Poland and calls for Ms Barley to resign or be recalled.
The PiS leader also alluded to a remark made by the US ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher who said that on LGBT rights Poland was on the “wrong side of history”. Mr Kaczyński declared that “we are on the right side of history. It is those who want to take away our sovereignty and to enforce their whims who are on the way to falling.”
Signalling a veto
The leader of the ruling party is clearly signalling that Poland will be prepared to veto both the EU budget and the EU recovery fund should EU institutions insist on making the payment of EU funds dependent on compliance with all strictures on the rule of law. This is because it is becoming clear that the issue is not just judicial reform, but also Poland’s legislative provisions on family law and matters of conscience.
Poland’s constitution clearly states that marriage is defined as a union of man and woman. It also stipulates that parents have a right to bring up and educate children in line with their values and beliefs. This means that same sex marriage and adoption of children are unconstitutional and so would be any compulsory LGBT sex education. The only way that could be changed is for Parliament to change the constitution, but a two-thirds majority is required for so doing.
If Poland, with the likely assistance of Hungary, was to veto the EU budget and recovery fund a new chapter in its relations within the EU would open. According to senior MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski Poland and Hungary would not face any serious consequences as budgetary provisions for this year would simply be rolled over to next year, and these are relatively beneficial for Central Europe.
However, there have been rumblings that those EU states in favour of the budget and the rule of law compliance provisions might then proceed to implement most of that budget with inter-state agreements. That would be highly complicated.
Another, far more radical solution, was offered recently by Dutch PM Mark Rutte. He suggested that all the existing member states with the exception of Poland and Hungary could leave the EU and immediately set up a new organisation for which the conditions of entry would be rule of law compliance.
This course of action is most unlikely. Germany does not want either Poland or Hungary out of the EU. And there are several other member states who feel uneasy about linking the payment of EU funds to rule of law compliance.
In the EU some form of compromise is the usual way out. This is why at this stage both sides in the confrontation are ratcheting up the tension to get the best possible outcome for them. EU institutions are, as always, pushing for solutions that give them maximum power. Member states are resisting and where convenient using EU institutions to put pressure on other member states for their own ends.
There can be no doubt that Germany and France are using the rule of law compliance dispute to put pressure on Poland over issues such as the single market, migration and even climate change. Germany also wants Poland to stop egging the US on in the quest to stop the Nord Stream 2 German-Russian gas pipeline. Poland has lost votes in the EU on the posted workers directive and has had to make compromises on climate change.
However, on migration and energy Poland is not going to budge. And it has signalled clearly that attempts to impose legislation relating to its culture and judiciary are not going to be acceptable either. Just as any calls for speedy adoption of the European single currency or a European army would be, but these are not being pushed.