EUROPEANIZATION WITH POLAND’S POLITICAL ACTORS

upa-admin 10 Ekim 2023 423 Okunma 0
EUROPEANIZATION WITH POLAND’S POLITICAL ACTORS

It can be said that this type of behaviour stands out when defining the attitudes of political parties towards the EU: such as, Europhilia, Euroscepticism, and European pragmatism. Anti-European parties do not support the idea of European integration and the EU. A European profile consisting of independent nation states is a condition that these parties expect. European pragmatist parties, on the other hand, are not against the idea of European integration. They support the EU to the extent that it benefits their own countries.[1] Parties that are fans of Europe adopt the idea and goals of European integration and accept the EU as the institutionalizer of this idea and goals. Although skeptical parties support the general ideas and aims of European integration, they are pessimistic about the EU’s ability to implement them. They argue that European integration should be promoted with an intergovernmental vision.[2] When the political party structures of Eastern European countries are analysed, the competition between liberal parties that support the market economy and authoritarian parties that oppose the liberal economic model is striking.[3]

In Eastern Europe in general and Poland in particular, one aspect that can be taken into account is the communist past. This past has led to the formation of a fragmented social profile and a weakly institutionalised party system in the region and thus in Poland. This has led to instabilities and sensitivities in the political structure. It has become easier to associate social conflicts with cultural issues. Conservative voters started to be mobilised through these issues. The conservative electorate has become defensive against the internal enemy associated with ethnic differences and the external enemy associated with the idea that the national economy is being exploited by international actors. European integration has become a factor feeding this defence. In Poland, the Law and Justice Party reflects such a defence in the current circumstances.[4]

Poles tend to see the European integration process as an excellent opportunity, a formidable challenge, and integration with the Roman Catholic Church.[5] . Until the end of the 1990s, political parties in the country were able to reach a consensus on the goal of integration. Progress in EU negotiations and membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was achieved in the 1990s.[6] Considering the anti-EU faction that emerged as a result of the differentiation in Polish politics in the run-up to and after the 2000s with the influence of new parties, it can be stated that the necessary reconciliation environment was not easily achieved.[7]

The anti-EU Polish political parties are nationalist, rural, populist, conservative and liberal conservative, i.e. on the right of the political spectrum. In the parliamentary elections of September 1997, the Catholic nationalist Christian National Union Party won a majority of the votes and became the senior partner in the coalition government. The Polish Peasant Party was the junior coalition partner between 1993 and 1997. Both of these examples have been sceptical, if not violent, towards integration and have gained support for it.[8]

The extent to which Poles’ attitudes towards the EU were reflected in their political preferences in the run-up to full membership has revealed a different picture. In the September 2001 elections, the supporters of EU candidacy constituted a majority among the electorate. League of Polish Families, Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland and the Peasants’ Party are the exceptions to this general picture in parliament, with anti-EU rates of 52, 29 and 25 per cent respectively. Out of 458 seats in the Polish Parliament, the first party won 38 seats, the second party 53 seats and the third party 42 seats. Both the Law and Justice Party and the Polish Peasants’ Party did not attend the signing ceremony of the European Pact, an attempt to achieve an all-party consensus for EU membership during the election campaign. In fact, both parties emphasized the importance of the government developing a resilient negotiation strategy against the EU. The underlying message is that the EU risks exploiting Poland’s resources and exploiting its priorities.[9]

The Law and Justice Party has also reflected a change of attitude towards the EU, and although support for EU membership was prominent in the party congress held in early 2005, the party was also dominated by those opposed to membership. In addition, by supporting the re-adoption of the death penalty, it has been able to reflect a vision incompatible with EU policies. Before that, the European Parliament elections in 2004 reflected the debates in Polish politics from the front. In fact, these elections coincided with the political crisis in the country. The newly inaugurated government tried to bear the heavy burden of domestic politics. In the meantime, tensions arose between Poland and France and Germany over the EU constitutional debates, and Poland’s objections to changes in the voting rights in the constitutional debates were criticised by these countries. Although such disagreements did not lead to an absolute anti-EU stance in Poland, they did hinder the mobilisation to support the EU even more. Only a few days before the elections to the European Parliament, the Law and Justice Party issued a statement publicising its opposition to the creation of a federal Europe or a super-European state. The Civic Platform, although it has a more pro-European stance, has shown a lack of interest in the context of these elections. Overall, in these elections, Polish political parties emphasised the sensitivity of protecting the national interests of the country and positioned the EU as a source of more funding. Parliamentarians in favour of renegotiating the conditions of EU accession or even leaving the EU have also shown themselves in this electoral process.[10]

In terms of the euro, the Civic Platform has been supportive of EU integration and the adoption of the euro in 2009. The Law and Justice Party accepted the EU as an integration of powerful countries and urged not to rush the transition to the Euro. Alliance of the Democratic Left points to a federal Europe and envisaged a transition to a common currency within 4-5 years. The Polish Social Democrats, on the other hand, favored a federal and social Europe, emphasizing the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and supported joining the euro in the 2010s. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, advocated further integration with the EU, even supporting Ukraine’s full membership, and thought that the common currency could be introduced in 2009 and beyond. Self-Defence and the League of Polish Families chose to stay out of the Eurozone. According to them, the EU is eroding Polish values, culture and national identity. The Polish Peasants’ Party has foreseen not taking part in the Eurozone in the near future.[11]

The European Parliament elections in 2014 had a symbolic meaning for Poland. The 2014 elections coincided with the tenth anniversary of Poland’s EU membership, the third EU-related election in the country and the first after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.[12] During this period, the Civic Platform and the Democratic Left Alliance focused on EU-related issues and how the EU affects the country’s domestic politics, law and energy security. EU energy policy became an issue they opposed. Right-wing populist parties also continued to criticize EU policies based on the priorities of Poles.[13]

Different factors have also been at the root of the growing reluctance and declining enthusiasm for EU membership at the societal level in Poland. Skepticism towards integration has been fueled by the unquestioning commitment of ruling political parties, groups and elites to EU membership and its centrality to the country’s foreign policy, and by the ability of such parties and groups to overestimate public support for EU membership. The debates on EU membership have not been oriented towards a healthy examination of what individuals would gain or not gain, what the benefits and costs would be. The fact that the debates mainly consisted of sloganized general discourses such as “return to Europe” and “the end of the East-West division of Europe in the post-war period” was seen as a serious deficiency.[14] Judging by Polish President Andrzej Duda, he at the Economic Forum in Krynica insisted that the EU remain a union of “free” and “equal” nations. Otherwise, he expressed this thought by saying that “the union risks breaking up”.[15]

In the current circumstances, Polish public opinion has become more critical of the EU as the membership debate has been left behind. A survey conducted in 2019 revealed that nearly 60 % of Poles think that the EU will collapse in the next 10-20 years. It was also found that one third of Poles think that a war could break out in Europe.[16] In another opinion poll in 2018, Poland considered that the EU faces the most pressing challenges in health, social security, migration and terrorism.[17] In 2019, in the comprehensive Eurobarometer opinion poll conducted at EU level, 49 % of respondents said that the EU is trustworthy. The rate of those who did not trust was 37 %. Those with a positive attitude towards the EU remained at 50 %, while 40 % expressed a neutral attitude towards integration.  This picture reveals that trust in the EU is on a downward trend in Poland. In the survey, 56 % of Poles think that their voice is heard in the EU, compared to 38 % who think the opposite. Opposition to European economic and monetary union is also at 51 %. Apart from this negative picture, the fact that the rate of Poles who feel themselves to be EU citizens has reached 81 % shows that the benefits of integration for citizens are appreciated in Poland.[18] In these cases, different views about Poland and the EU based on the social dimension emerge.

To make a general assessment with reference to some recent developments, with the coming to power of the right-wing populist Law and Justice Party in 2015, Poland has seen a political transformation in line with the tendency of the ruling party. This transformation was characterized by a move away from the principle of separation of powers necessary for the functioning of liberal democracy, and an undermining of the independence of the Constitutional Court. In 2017, a new reform package, which was argued to overshadow the independence of the judiciary, was attempted to be implemented, but due to public outcry, President Duda, who is close to the ruling party, had to veto two of the three bills submitted by the government. These developments have put Poland at odds with the EU, and anti-Western propaganda has been prominent in the country’s media under the influence of the government. Poland’s domestic and foreign policy underwent a process of de-Europeanization. As a result, it can be stated that Poland has presented a profile that is far from the Westernized or Europeanized image it displayed during its transition from communism to liberal democracy. Despite this profile, there has been no political or social actor, including the ruling party, that has been in absolute opposition to Poland’s EU membership. In other words, there has not been a dynamic in Polish public opinion and political parties to question and end the country’s EU membership. Rather, to stay away from pressure from prominent EU members such as Germany and to maintain sovereignty the emphasis on protecting their rights has been prominent.[19]

Policy Areas in Poland and the EU Divergence

Poland has been part of the Schengen area since 2007. It has 51 parliamentarians in the European Parliament. It has 21 representatives in the European Economic and Social Committee and 14 in the European Committee of the Regions. As of 2018, the EU spends €16.350 billion on Poland. This expenditure corresponded to 3.43 % of the Polish economy. Poland’s contribution to the EU budget amounted to €3.983 billion. This corresponded to 0.84% of the country’s economy.[20] Poland is also a contributor to EU military missions and operations.[21] Therefore, the requirements of integration between Poland and the EU have been met to a certain extent. However, these measures have not been sufficient to prevent the differentiation of relations between the parties. In the context of differentiated members, Poland is a non-euro area member. At the same time, Poland is a country with a Eurosceptic government.[22]

With the international crises and the break with the trend of European integration from the 1990s to the 2000s, Poland, in the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015, displayed the profile of a country that attaches importance to cohesion among the Central and Eastern European countries and, through this, has a strong sensitivity to protect its sovereignty and national interests. According to this profile, an EU centered on non-Christian and liberal values, reflecting a country’s economic dominance and enforcing unpopular immigration and refugee policies should be resisted.[23]

Poland’s foreign policy oriented towards Western institutions in the 1990s, with the dynamism generated by the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, changed in the 2015 elections when Duda became President and the Law and Justice Party led by Kaczynski came to power. The new government argued that the US should play an active role in European security, emphasized a nation-state oriented EU rather than a supranational one, and internally reacted against German influence in European integration. During the period of this government, efforts were made to create a “Central and Eastern European center” within the EU by highlighting Poland as a regional actor through the regional cooperation model called the “Three Seas Initiative” extending from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic and the Black Sea. In this way, it was envisaged that it would be easier for the countries of the region to reach common interests.[24] The Three Seas Initiative, which brought together 12 EU members in 2016, aimed to increase cooperation to strengthen energy infrastructure along the North-South axis. With this initiative, Poland planned to end its energy dependence on Russia and establish itself as an energy hub for Central and Eastern Europe. The Three Seas Initiative was instrumentalized to balance the power of Germany, which has a strong central role in the EU, and to further improve its relations with the US.[25]

To summarize, Poland, after its liberation from the oppression of communism and the Soviet Union, has displayed a profile that, on the one hand, tries to return to Western Europe and strives to be included in the world’s largest integration system, and, on the other hand, nurtures negative attitudes towards this integration. Relations between Poland and the EU have been affected by both economic differences and national identity. In addition, there have also been differences between them, such as being outside the Euro area. The divergence between Poland and the EU examined the common policies, attitudes and principles of the EU, such as the CAP, immigration policy and the protection of the rule of law, and the country’s tendency to move away from them pointed to legal differentiation.

                                                                                                                       Sümer Esin ŞENYURT

 

END NOTES

[1] Benjamin Leruth (2015), “Operationalizing National Preferences on Europe and Differentiated Integration”, Journal of European Public Policy, 22(6), pp. 819-820.

[2] Thomas Winzen (2020), “Government Euroscepticism and differentiated integration”, Journal of European Public Policy, 27(3), p. 2.

[3] Paul Webb & Paul G. Lewis (1998), “The lessons of comparative politics: Russian political parties as independent variables?”, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 14(1-2), p. 260.

[4] Swen Hutter & Hanspeter Kriesi (2019), “Politicizing Europe in times of crisis”, Journal of European Public Policy, 26(7), p. 1003.

[5] Elzbieta Stadtmüller (2000), “Polish Perception of the European Union 1990”, Poland and the European Union, Eds. by Karl Cordell, London: Routledge, p. 36.

[6] Karen Henderson & Neil Robinson (1997), Post-Communist Politics: An Introduction, Prentice Hall Europe, p. 367.

[7] Sezgin Mercan (2020), “Polonya’nın İkilemi Olarak Avrupa Birliği ve Farklılaştırılmış Avrupa Bütünleşmesi”, Marmara University Institute of European Studies, Journal of European Studies, 28(2), p. 298.

[8] Paul Taggart & Aleks Szczerbiak (2001), “Parties, Positions and Europe: Euroscepticism in the EU Candidate States of Central and Eastern Europe”, Sussex European Institute Working Paper, no: 46, pp. 18-21.

[9] Aleks Szczerbiak (2002), “After the Election, Nearing the Endgame: The Polish Euro-Debate in the Run Up to the 2003 EU Accession Referendum”, Sussex European Institute Working Paper, no: 53, pp. 13-18.

[10] Frances Millard (2010), Democratic Elections in Poland, 1991–2007, New York: Routledge, pp. 121-124.

[11] Ibid., p. 134.

[12] Bartlomiej Lodzki & Anna Paluch (2017), “Intermedia Agenda-Setting During the European Parliament Elections in Poland”, in Ruxandra Boicu, Silvia Branea and Adriana Stefanel (eds.), Political Communication and European Parliamentary Elections in Times of Crisis, London: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 43.

[13] Sezgin Mercan (2020), “Polonya’nın İkilemi Olarak Avrupa Birliği ve Farklılaştırılmış Avrupa Bütünleşmesi”, p. 301.

[14] Aleks Szczerbiak (2000), “Public Opinion and Eastward Enlargement Explaining Declining Support for EU Membership in Poland”, Sussex European Institute Working Paper, no: 34, pp. 8-9.

[15] Euronews (2017), “Poland, a two-speed EU and the future of the bloc in Central Europe”, 13.09.2017, https://www.euronews.com/next/2017/09/13/poland-a-two-speed-eu-and-the-future-of-the-bloc-in-central-europe, (Accessed date: 17.05.2023).

[16] BBC (2019), “AB vatandaşların çoğu, AB’nin 10-20 yıl içinde dağılabileceğine inanıyor”, 16.05.1019, https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-48293768, (Accessed date: 17.05.2023).

[17] Anthony Wells (2018), “YouGov data reveals what Europeans think are the most important issues facing the EU”, 11.05.2018, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2018/05/11/yougov-data-reveals-what-europeans-think-are-most-, (Accessed date: 17.05.2023).

[18] European Commission,  “Public opinion in the European Union”, Standard Eurobarometer 92, https://europa.eu/eurobarometer/surveys/detail/2255  (Accessed date: 17.05.2023).

[19] Piotr Buras (2017), “Europe and Its Discontents: Poland’s Collision Course with the European Union”,
European Council on Foreign Relations, pp. 1-3.

[20] European Union (2020), “Poland: Overview”, https://european-union.europa.eu/principles-countries-history/country-profiles/poland_en, (Accessed date: 17.05.2023).

[21] Ministry of National Defence, “European Union missions and operations”, https://www.gov.pl/web/national-defence/eu-missions-and-operations, (Accessed date: 17.05.2023).

[22] Frank Schimmelfennig (2017), “Differentiation and Self-determination in European Integration”, Euborders Working Paper 01, pp. 8-12.

[23] Kamil Zwolski (2017), “Poland’s Foreign-Policy Turn”, Survival, 59(4), pp. 167-170.

[24] Ibid., pp. 171-173.

[25] Piotr Buras (2017), “Europe and Its Discontents: Poland’s Collision Course with the European Union”, p. 8.

Leave A Response »

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.