Poland’s dilemma: stay or leave the EU

Most Poles are supporters of the EU. But the ruling party is pursuing a policy that could lead Poland to leave the European Union. Donald Tusk is trying to prevent this by uniting the opposition.

Poles, who for centuries have been a link between East and West, a nation that admires Europe … For the majority of Poland’s inhabitants, even in the difficult times of communist rule, the West was a cherished dream and a desired goal.

Belonging to the Soviet zone of influence after 1945 has always been perceived by the Poles as an artificial separation from their true political and cultural roots. Therefore, they celebrated the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 as “a return to Europe.”

The pro-European policy of the leadership after the democratic changes that took place found wide support in Polish society. In 2003, three quarters of Poles (77.45 percent) voted in a referendum for joining the EU.

Even then, anti-European forces on the right political flank tried unsuccessfully to stir up fears that Poland would lose its own agriculture after joining the EU and opening the European agrarian market.

EU remains popular

The number of EU supporters in Poland over the past two decades has not only not decreased, but has grown significantly.

According to a poll conducted by the IPSOS Institute for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and the Internet portal Oko.press, published on October 5, 2021, 88 percent of respondents were in favor of Poland remaining in the European community. This trend is evidenced by the results of other surveys.

Under the motto “We will stay in Europe” 10 October almost 100,000 people went to Warsaw on street actions… Throughout Poland, more people took part in the demonstration than in protests against the abortion law or restrictions on the independence of the courts.

The high number of demonstrators shows that the pro-European forces in Poland have not weakened and are in no way willing to surrender.

But at the same time, the main question remains open: can the ruling coalition of right-wing forces in Poland, the United Right, based on the Law and Justice Party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, bring the country to the exit from the EU?

Polish national conservatives say the accusation that the government wants to pull Poland out of the EU is a grave reproach that the opposition uses for propaganda purposes against the ruling party. The leadership of the PiS party in mid-September adopted a decree that excludes Poland’s exit from the EU.

Leaving the EU would be political suicide

The Polish right knows that a public rejection of the EU would be tantamount to political suicide. At the same time, the number of conflicts with Brussels is growing, one of which – around the decision of the Polish Constitutional Court on the rule of national law – has reached its highest point.

The tactic of the government camp is to present Poland as a real Europe, and stigmatize Western Europe as a stronghold of evil, as a left neo-Marxist entity, which is on the wrong path with its ideas of marriage for homosexuals.

According to this narrative, Poland, with its Catholic faith and traditional values ​​of family and marriage, is saving Europe from decay.

“After much hesitation, the leadership of the ruling party chose a confrontation with Brussels,” wrote publicist Justyna Dobrosh-Orach in the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper. In her opinion, the PiS party is convinced that it can twist ropes from the European Commission, but this time it failed. “The decision of Brussels unpleasantly surprised the government,” says the journalist.

Many politicians from this party would like to publicly declare that Poland does not need money from the aid fund to fight the pandemic. In reality, the party is in a panic, writes Dobrosh-Orach.

Anti-European rhetoric – a political maneuver?

Some commentators view the anti-European rhetoric of the Polish government as a tactical maneuver in order to pacify the extreme right flank of the United Right electoral bloc – first of all, the Solidarity Poland party of Justice Minister Zbigniew Zebro.

Others warn that Poland could unwittingly find itself in a situation where it, like the UK, will have to leave the EU.

Meanwhile, Donald Tusk has great potential for mobilizing pro-European supporters, as recent demonstrations in Poland have shown.

The politician who has spent the last six years in Brussels – including as head of the European Council – has been trying with an iron fist to restore the ability to rule the country to his Civic Platform party since the summer of this year. Polls show that a united opposition could triumph over PiS in parliamentary elections.

The opposition is divided

However, the problem with Poland’s democratic opposition is that it is fragmented. The square in Warsaw lacked key figures from various opposition parties. Tusk’s aspiration to lead the opposition is questionable by many. It seems to them that his personal ambition prevails over the desire to defeat PiS.

Parliamentary elections in Poland will be held in 2023, but many observers do not rule out holding early elections next spring. And what will be their outcome, no one undertakes to predict.

“A large group of Poles remains apolitical – they support the EU, enjoy the well-being with PiS and are glad that they can easily spend a cheap vacation in Croatia. A political struggle in Poland will unfold around this group,” says Agnieszka Lada, deputy director of the think tank Germano -polish institute in Darmstadt.

Why, inspired by European ideas, Poles in 2015 chose a party that was skeptical of the EU? And why did the national conservatives receive a mandate for power again two years ago?

Many Poles take Poland’s membership in the EU for granted. The decisive ones in the elections were such topics as social policy and national identity.

A source: Russian service DW

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