Everyday news is one thing. The Harrold Macmillan words “Events, dear boy, events” rule the politics and the media attention. What grows underneath in the country is not exactly catchy on a specific day. Yet to know why people say what they say is often as important as what they say. Not only the specific context is relevant. The reason, the philosophy is crucial.
In today’s blog post I attempt to present the philosophy of the Law and Justice and its leadership on Europe in the words of the party leaders. Not to inflict “scandal” but to attempt to understand.
What is at stake in European elections come May is the Union’s future and its fate. Before we disagree with the other side one needs to understand why they say what they say. Where do the words come from and why?
It must be that not always the words politicians or political commentators use are cynical and directed only at mischief. There are certain philosophies that are brutally different between two camps in Poland. What is the Law and Justice philosophy, and why?
This weekend Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish prime minister, spoke to Le Figaro in an interview, which was given a title: “La seule solution réaliste est de bâtir une Europe des nations“. The main message is consistent since the beginning of the PiS rule in Poland:
What Europe needs is a Europe of Nations, not of supranational institutions
Morawiecki is disappointed with Western Europe: “Real fatigue has taken over you. For a very long time, each new generation hoped that it would live better than the generation of their parents; today this hope has disappeared.”
The Polish premier on EU elections: “Europe is completely different from what is thought about it in Brussels. Apparently, there will be quite new forces in it, which the bureaucrats in Brussels have a habit of dismissively describing as ‘populist movements’. As for me, these movements are in their roots democratic, and their voice should be heard”.
His vision of Europe is not a federalist one: “European nations have wonderful cultures. Only by preserving our culture can we enrich the European Union. Although there are European values that we all share – there is no such thing as a universal European identity. Besides, we are realists. We believe that there are so many languages and interests on the continent that we will never be able to become the United States of Europe. Such a possibility is too detached from the desires of nations and far-fetched from reality!”
On the accession to the Euro Mr Morawiecki spoke in an interview for the CNBC in January: “First, employees in Poland must start earning money just like people in developed countries in Western Europe”.
We are the beating heart of Europe. We showed it with our courage, determination and honestyMateusz Morawiecki, December 2018
Last summer Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Law and Justice spoke about the judges not protecting Polish citizens in land disputes in former German territory in Northern Poland. He said: “this is oikophobia, as it is called, or reluctance, even hatred for one’s own country, one’s own nation, it is one of the diseases that affected some of the judges and which leads to woes”.
The same September he spoke on Europe: “We should not care. We have to climb up. Poles know the facts and know how it is. Poles are an ambitious nation… We are going up, towards a better Poland, towards a better fate of Poles. More prosperous and – it is very important – more reliable, with a greater impact on reality, safer.”
And here is the credo of Jarosław Kaczyński thinking about Europe: “We’re lifting weights, but that does not mean we have to repeat the mistakes of the West and infect social diseases that prevail there”.
President Andrzej Duda had his infamous faux-pas last summer, when he said of the European integration in a town of Leżajsk: “imaginary community”. More of the same speech from Mr Duda to the locally gathered people: “minimal wages are raised, pensions will be raised, we will try to help you by all means. Why? Because, finally, we manage to bring honesty and order in our country. Someone has been stealing 40 billion zł a year from taxes”. He expressed his fears that the money were transferred abroad, but the process has stopped “thanks to which the 500+ program can be implemented and many other programs which – I hope – will contribute to the quality of life in Poland and the return of those who left abroad for bread, looking for a normal life, normal work, because there was no possibilities here”.
Duda’s Leżajsk speech was important to understand what Europe is for many voters of Law and Justice. Duda: “We want Poland to be a normal country, the same as the rich countries of the European Union, we strive to achieve such a standard of living”. Poles deserve to have the same standard of living as in the West.
Duda’s vox populi: “We will achieve for people not to say that the courts are unjust in Poland and that the judiciary in Poland does not protect the citizen. We do not allow people to say that Poland is an unjust state, a state for the elite in which one does not see normal human being”.
Then the president said that he wanted the citizens to be convinced that someone was thinking about them, not “about some imaginary community from which little results for us. Community is needed here, in Poland, for us – our own, focusing on our matters, because they are the most important matters for us. When our affairs are resolved, we will deal with European affairs. For now, let them leave us alone and let us fix Poland, because this is the most important thing”.
Former interior (1991-92) and defence (2015-18) minister Macierewicz is no dove in any PiS government. This powerful hawk among PiS leaders (he is the party’s vice-chair) wrote about Europe – as he rarely does – for a right-wing magazine Wpis (Note) back in December: “today everything weighs on the scale of international events and choices, today it is decided if Poland is a state at all or shall Poland lose its statehood. Today it is decided if Poland becomes a fragment of another international structure with a liberal-anti-Christian ideology, or will it win the status of an independent state, an independent political actor in the international arena”.
On his disappointment with the EU today: “In the past the EU has appeared to us as a US ally, an organisation that empowered the strength of national independence defenders, a free economy based on private property and justice guaranteed by a strong nation state, Christian values and democratic principles. This world is gone“.
Macierewicz continued: “Of course, there is the European Union and there is Poland, which has its place there defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. The Union, which Poland accepted and for which Poles voted in the 2004 referendum, was a union of sovereign nations and independent states.” He concludes that “Poland is loyal to such a Union and expects reciprocity. But this Union is just going away”
Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells us openly that we are to abandon our independence and national sovereignty. French President Emmanuel Macron announces that a European army to be formed can be used to fight against the US. The Court of Justice becomes the guarantor of a post-communist dictate in the Polish judiciary, and the European Parliament condemns Polish patriotism and wants to force us to abandon Christian values”.Antoni Macierewicz
Macierewicz quotes history lessons. He quotes the Polish geopolitical obsession of being located between Germany and Russia. The traditional choice is with Russia against Germany or with Germany against Russia? Macierewicz quotes and agrees with George Friedman: “In the perspective of the Russian-German alliance, only we [Poland] have the chance to focus the countries and nations of Central and Eastern Europe and create a political space that prevents the construction of the Eurasian empire.”
Mr Waszczykowski is a former foreign minister (2015-18) and a prominent speaker and writer for Law and Justice on international affairs. On the recent Franco-German renewed partnership agreement he wrote a comment for Onet.pl: “Germany and France give a signal that they will not change the character of the Union. They will continue to deepen political integration at the expense of the sovereignty of the Member States.” On Brexit he wrote: “It’s crystal clear, there is a noticeable desire to punish and humiliate the British and to signal to everyone in Europe how expensive it is to leave the Union. There is also noticeable haste to use Brexit to change the balance of power in the Union, to promote federal and protectionist practices.”
Witold Waszczykowski writes in his regular commentary about the Polish foreign policy in 2019: “By entering NATO and the European Union, we were hoping that the sandwich dilemma was solved. We have become part of a Western civilization, safe under the umbrella of NATO and the European Union. In recent years, however, the ghosts of the past have returned. We are confident of the growing threat from revisionist Russia and the uncertainty about the adequate response of the West.
The EU is an uneasy thing for Law and Justice. PiS is in open opposition to the federalist and liberal views of the EU. The leadership of the party is worried about the country’s security due to limited trust towards allies. The party is disappointed with the direction EU took in recent years. Why?
PiS is a party of sovereignists. Not only the party wants a strong, powerful state able to solve centuries-long geopolitical problems, but most of all, to bring the wealth Poles deserve. Poles are proud and do not agree to be paid less for the same work as Germans. They do not want to leave and many feel they were forced to leave the country to work elsewhere, frequently below one’s qualifications but with a salary much better than back home. Here’s an anecdote I heard from one medical doctor: he negotiated a salary for a new job in Toulouse. 8000 zł is roughly 1800 Euro. He said no. The person on the other side asked, WHY? It was 8000 Euro… What kind of doctor can expect to be paid 8000 Euro a month salary in Poland?
Poles want to be equal, not second class members, discriminated against. Working below European average is degrading. They want to “buy Polish” – Polish products in a Polish store and, simply, be Polish. Instead there are no Polish cars on the streets (Morawiecki once promised a Polish electric car; the investment stalled) and weekly shopping is done usually in one of the French or Portuguese-owned shopping chains. They want their country to be independent, sovereign, “ours”.
Not all Poles, but many. Not everybody who is poor wants a “Polish car”. Yet there are people with decent-level salaries who want to “shop Polish, not international”.
The Polish society pride is typical for a country that has produced a major middle class. There is a major middle class in Poland of people making decent money (average of over 1000 Euro before tax), but since there is wealth now, there is a new wave of expectations, too.
PiS fits perfectly those desires of an ambitious, yet tired with waiting nation. The people outside, the foreigners, should not tell us how to live. We should rule ourselves by ourselves. Others should respect this. In a private conversation one professor of EU studies told me that “the ECJ is the one that brakes the European law”… another EU affairs professor at a recent conference said publicly that “in the EU Christians are discriminated against”…
There is bad news to those Poles. The world does not allow for that kind of, classical, sovereignty. The world became an intertwined, globalised place and the economic wealth is a result of how well the countries are able to benefit from the process. Clearly the Poles are doing great, as the country has had an economic non-stop growth for the past 25 years. Yet in this open market economy there is a little nostalgia for the paradise lost. Many nations have their “perfect glory” moment in history, when they were great and powerful. This is most disturbing sometimes – for Hungary for example. In Poland it is a bittersweet feeling. On the one hand the country was strong and powerful in 16th and 17th centuries (“the Golden Age”) but it was a joint Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. You think it is long time ago? Tell this to the Greeks. There is also a lot of pride of the interwar Poland (1918-1939) with all its limitations of power, but unlimited aspirations of the day (there was even a movement back then claiming that Poland deserved a colony in Africa…).
United Kingdom’s openness to globalisation is the confusing element today: Brexiters at the same time want to be more free (“EU standards are limiting UK”) and want to be less integrated with the outside world (being afraid of external migration). There is a similar sentiment in Poland: those who have benefited from globalisation are becoming a little bit tired of that openness. And the new generation that does not know different sometimes is demanding even more loudly – defensively even – for more Polish products in Polish shops.
Another bad news for the society, but even worse for the PiS leadership: Europe has decided that inter-governmentalism does not work. It has done so not because of some hidden federalist agenda. It has done so because the only way to secure lasting peace in Europe was to create bonds so strong that would be unbreakable. Brexit shows us how difficult it is to break those bonds.
Macierewicz is wrong when he says Europe of 2004 was a Europe of sovereign and independent states. Back then and much earlier it was already a Europe of shared sovereignty and interdependent states.
And there is the factual error in the minister text: the EU accession referendum in Poland took place in 2003, and the accession happened in 2004.
To change the way EU is one needs to rewrite the Treaties. Clearly an ambitious party like PiS would like to see that happen.
To answer to some specific worries: Macierewicz and Waszczykowski should not be worried about choosing Russia or Germany. Poland is with Germany, also PiS’ Poland. And any Germany is with Poland, none Germany is with Russia. PiS politicians praise Trump and do not see how the American president undermines the transatlantic unity. In this context comes the worry about Macron and the idea for a European army. Poland’s diplomacy might be hoping – against the odds – to be the bridge between Washington and Brussels. And in a way, Brussels should keep fingers crossed for that, even if likes of Macron, Juncker, Merkel and others have already learned this to be impossible.
It is funny to see Morawiecki to use the economic, not geopolitical or security arguments for the Eurozone accession. He reads the opinion polls; half of Poles do not want the Euro ever. Yet even the economic argument of “catching up” does not hold: poorer or as wealthy nations of Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Portugal and Greece use the common currency. It may well be that there could be an economic path of adopting the Euro which could stimulate the Polish economic growth.
It is impossible to answer the general PiS’ disappointment and occasional fear of the Western societies’ liberalism, multiculturalism and secularism. One may only point into the natural tendency of societies to evolve. PiS represents part of today’s Poland – not the entire country – and there are many tendencies within the party that are nostalgic about the glorious past, even if it is not clear what exactly they are pointing to. There are very few – if any – fractions of PiS that would like to see any evolution happen. This is very telling, especially in the context of LGBT rights. In many Western countries the LGBT issues became the issues of the conservative parties, sometimes even the populist right-wingers are pro-LGBT. In those cases it is a result of a certain confrontation between the options of an Islamic religious wave on the one hand and an open and tolerant Western society. PiS rejects both; this alternative is alien to them.
Is PiS secretly pro-Polexit? Not today, but their disappointment with the EU as it is seems so great and there is only one argument today that keeps PiS in the pro-EU camp: the single market argument. For the geopolitics and the security Warsaw looks to Washington. Not even the money transfers are as important any more.
There is however a certain criticism of the Brussels central institutions I would consider agreeing with. The argument is this: the Commission has become detached from the problems of the Member States. It may well be that the “ever closer Union” simply requires a re-definition. Staying true to the European convictions, one could ponder that it is necessary to have the three million Poles, who think like PiS, and their political representation – the party itself – convinced that Europe of today is theirs, too.
For that to happen one would need a certain degree of trust between the Law and Justice and the liberal Western Europeans. The trust is absent. The “Ever closer Union” implies evolution. PiS does not see much room for the society evolution. Against those odds, it is in the interest of the Polish pro-European opposition and the Union institutions to engage with the sovereignist part of the Polish nation.
To answer to the philosophy I turn to the classical quotes from the famous European, Jean Monnet. Monnet was the man behind the concept of the community method and pooled sovereignty. Monnet said on sovereignty: “There is no real peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on a basis of national sovereignty. They must have larger markets. Their prosperity is impossible, unless the States of Europe form themselves in a European Federation.“
On EU institutions: Nothing is possible without men, but nothing lasts without institutionsJean Monnet
Monnet many years ago even responded to Morawiecki: “Europe never existed. One must genuinely create Europe” – it takes effort to built solutions, not to complain Europe lacks them. It takes the experience of the first and second world war to come to this conclusion:
There is no future for the people of Europe other than in union.Jean Monnet