Poland’s love-hate relationship with the EU

Tuula Koponen has a very interesting account of Poland’s troubled relationship with the European Union in Diplomaatia.ee. It seems like a love-hate relationship where Poland is in opposition to almost everything that the EU stands for, yet the EU is extremely popular among Poles with an 88 percent approval rating.

Kaczyński’s policy in Poland is based on the same values as Orbán’s in Hungary. Family, faith and fatherland are important. Both swear allegiance to democracy, but both find liberal democracy and multiculturalism as abhorrent as repressive communist power.

Poland thinks, like Hungary, that it is fighting foreign dominance. And, just like Hungary, Poland also wants to become a model state that the rest of Europe can learn from.

It is said that Orbán’s “illiberal democracy” has the same origin as Vladimir Putin’s in Russia. Even though the Polish model may look the same from outside, it is never acknowledged. Russia is now a strategic partner for Hungary, but Poland’s main enemy. Polish identity is based on opposition to Russia.

On the surface this has little to do with defense politics, but in the long term it is dangerous for the alliance cohesion if Poland has dramatically different values from the other NATO countries in the Baltic region.

4 thoughts on “Poland’s love-hate relationship with the EU”

  1. It is good to see some analysis on Poland – but I must admit most of the points are not only missed, but also incorrect. For the spirit of reporting responsibility, let me pinch in with the realistic picture (not ideological one as presented).

    Polish stand in NATO has never been stronger. Regional Commands (Multinational Corps North East, new Multinational Divison Command in Elbląg) have been boosted by 400% in manpower, US battalion is stationed in Orzysz as part of Enhanced Forward Presence and the last NATO Summit took place in Warsaw. Commitment to NATO is reflected by participation in campaign against ISIS and raising defence spending (Poland is one of the five countries which spend the required 2% GDP).

    The politics are largely complicated – but not the most complicated in EU. Germany still has not formed a government, Spain is going through Catalonia unrests etc. Poland has chosen not to support EU decisions on illegal crossings of the external borders, but those decisions(regarding migrant quotas) are already revoked. You might venture the statement that it is not Poland that is the problem in this situation.

    As for the public support, EU concept is indisputably supported. What is not supported is the new ideas of EU institutions, which do not pertain to the initially agreed freedom of movement and shared market. And, above all, the political games against national governments chosen by majority of citizens. This indeed looks like foreign influence on internal elections. Democracy in Poland will be defended by Polish people, not EU bureaucrats who think they know better.

    Both public and political support for NATO is at its peak, so the alliance cohesion is guaranteed on the Polish side and reflected in strengthened structures and vigorous cooperation. Last but not least, the biggest NATO exercise takes place in Poland every year. The challenge in this case is not losing focus on the real threats, which is territorial integrity and population safety. By OSCE assessment Poland was the safest country in Europe in 2016, so Poles excelled in their work. If you stick to the facts instead of narrative, you get the full picture.

    1. Thank you for the very thorough reply. You make a good case.

      You are very right, Poland is an outstanding NATO partner. I wish my own country would contribute as much. From a defense perspective my concern is that if the Poland-EU controversies continue to develop, then it will at some point lead to a break that can hurt the alliance cohesion. I think it would be detrimental, for example, if EU were to trigger Article 7.

      The analysis that I link to is written by a Finnish journalist who lives in Hungary. It fits nicely with the news coverage that we have in Denmark about Poland, but I found it in an Estonian magazine. My point is that the arguments in the analysis are very common in other countries, so they do to a large extend represent how foreigners look at Poland.

      That doesn’t mean that the foreigners are right, but I think Poland should address the concerns as legitimate. For example, Poland needs to explain how the moves to revoke some of the checks and balances of government (i.e. restrain the courts) are not poison to the long-term health of the democratic system. That can be considered foreign influence on internal elections, but it is in fact what the EU is about and a part of the package that Poland signed up for.

      Again, it may well be that there are some good arguments, and I think that it is really great if this site can help nuance the debate in other countries.

      1. It might be the case that the repeated narrative becomes a perspective. That’s why it is good to counter it with facts.
        I would urge again to prioritize real defense over perceived desired state. The democracies are not the same and they will change. The political and judicial system in Poland has been inherited after the communist regime and much has to be removed, adjusted, restructured. This is not the case for EU commission, it is the prerogative of the society. And one thing you can be sure of, is that Polish people will react/protest/change government if they are not satisfied.

        I also perceive NATO and EU as two different alliances (despite membership duality of most states). I would see EU as the economic union and NATO as security provider. The security dimension has been largely a sleeping beauty until recent establishment of PESCO. EU does have two battlegroups, but they have never been operational. The real question is then how to optimally use EU and NATO. I see EU predominant role against hybrid/economic etc. measures and NATO as the security backbone.

        I would hope that your website grows with shared knowledge over the Baltic security topics. The one trap I see is to divide perception and factual state, which seldom happens in political debate. I’d be happy to pitch in with the counter-arguments (or a new thesis).

        1. That sounds interesting. If you want to write a guest post, send me an email to anders@romeosquared.eu. Or else you are of course more than welcome to add counter-arguments in the comments sections.

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