The Polish problem in Europe

20 06 2007

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza, June 18th 2007 – debate section –
Author: Jacek Pawlicki
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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Defending the square root system the Kaczynskis stand in defence of the European balance. Which the Constitutional Treaty threatens to disturb, shifting the point of gravity to Germany.

The recent EU Parliament speaker Hans Gert Pöttering’s mission on euroconstitution has failed. Also the French president Nicolas Sarkozy did not make it to convince Poland to accept the double majority. Meeting with Spain’s prime-minister José Luis Zapatero and dinner with Angela Merkel were fruitless as well. It is too late for convincing now. EU summit commences on Thursday. Jarosław Kaczyński did not declare this war for the square root to surrender in the eve of the battle.

Kaczynskis’ jump onto Europe

Regardless of how this square root row end, Poland has at least profited on it in the sense, that is has positioned herself – for better and for worse – in the most important European debate’s proper. We are not EU decorations, unlike many other countries. We do not sit quietly, although for the interest of the whole EU maybe it would have been better for us not to start a row in this case.

Unfortunately, we jumped into this most important EU debate not being entirely prepared. With a government that doesn’t have much credibility in Europe, suspected of euroscepticism, and supported by the former opponents of Poland’s EU entry. We jumped into it not having major allies, and in a bad time – when almost everyone agrees EU can not allow itself one more crisis.

That is why the whole thing with the square root reminds of the mythical uhlan charge on German tanks in 1939. With the difference, that this time the tanks stand calmly in their bases, and it are the uhlans attacking. There’s a lot of heroism in this, but also a lot of Don Kichote.

We do not know the price we will have to pay for this charge. In Berlin and Brussels one can hear voices speaking louder and louder about Poland’s fault of the crisis, isolating Poland, Europe of two velocities. European media portrait us as rowdies. Not many people want to understand the “Polish problem”.

Do not change anything please!

And the “Polish problem” has its root in the fact that we have entered European Union 50 years too late. All the furniture in European house were already placed, everyone having its room and role.

When in 2003 the institutional system of the EU was being decided upon, Poland was not yet EU’s member. Our representatives were included in the Convention that drafted the constitution, but they couldn’t do much. After months of academic discussions, then and again indeed fascinating, Convention’s chairman Valéry Giscard d’Estaing completed the draft for the future Constitution for Europe.

The draft however did not reflect the conclusions of these discussions. It refelcted the French-German agreement on the division of their influences in the EU. Some call it a plot, coined by the two most powerful countries. Although at that time the plot was advantageous – it improved EU’s institutional spine, strained with the great enlargement. The voting system proposed by Giscard d’Estaing, straightening the position of the largest countries: Germany, France, Italy and United Kingdom, survived all sorts of political storms and was included in the Treaty signed in autumn 2004 by the 25 countries, including Poland.

If it was not the French and Dutch “NO” in 2005 referenda, euroconstitution would come into effect in 2009. It’s a paradox, that the French have stopped the French concept of Europe. And yet in 2007 everyone says that it is too late for refurbishing Europe, and the system, rejected not by the Poles or Czechs but by Giscard d’Estaing nationals, has to remain unchanged.

Even those, who have the courage to publicly praise the square root system, regarded in Europe as an antic, warn that the intervention is late. – ‘I think this is a very intelligent system, and very interesting, but it was submitted far too late’ said French MEP Jean-Louis Bourlanges interviewed recently by Gazeta Wyborcza. – ‘You have to distinguish the sheer intellectual attractiveness of this idea from the political attractiveness. It is too late, because 25 of 27 [current EU members] have already agreed for a different system, that isn’t bad either’.

Natolinski / Kaczynski ?

Today, when Poland is perceived as Europe’s black sheep, lets don’t put the whole blame on the Kaczynskis. Poland had had problem with euroconstitution from the start. Lets don’t forget it were the left-wing prime-ministers Leszek Miller and Marek Belka and the Foreign Office Minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz who effortlessly tried to put a halt to the Giscardian order in Europe. It were the Democratic Left Alliance government’s representatives travelling around Europe to “give a chance to Nice Treaty”, and then promote the so called Jagiellonian system, which was the base for square root concept of “equal influence”.

I was never a supporter of the Law and Justice (PiS) party’s foreign policy. I have criticised it many times, and I have written many times that it doesn’t even exist. But when we speak about the pursuits to strengthen the position of Poland in the EU, we are outside the PiS policy. As the architects of equal influence system are not people from this party. It is Jacek Saryusz-Wolski of Citizens’ Platform (PO) and two negotiators associated with it: Ewa Ośniecka-Tamecka and Marek Cichocki, whom I would call “the Natolin wing”, due to their ties to the European Centre in Natolin.

Saryusz-Wolski has many times expressed his dream that Poland plays in the EU champions’ league. He called for Poland to firmly fight for her interests. When the Kaczynskis came into power, ready to wrestle with the EU, Saryusz-Wolski felt this is his moment.

Prime-minister Kaczynski adopted the “Natolin wing” logic as his own, while the wing felt the support of prime-ministers strong position in the country and his determination. Saryusz-Wolski, Ośniecka-Tamecka and Cichocki knew, that if Kaczynski gets excited to the concept of strengthening Poland’s position, he will not give up. Prime-minister is not afraid of bad press in Europe, he will not surrender to pressure, and will not pull out just to avoid accusations of being the impediment of EU development.

Lesson learned?

The EU is not a perfect creation, it’s members are not perfect either. It is true that the language of fight and accusations that the Polish leaders use, scares the supporters of old school integration. The Polish concept of using veto, also goes far beyond European standards – until now veto was treated as nuclear bomb, which you can threaten other with, but which you don’t actually use.

You can disagree with Kaczynskis logic, but it is worth to understand it. It’s based on a conviction that the EU is not an altruistic club. And that every country has to elbow its way to keep the balance in the European Community’s life.

Natolin wing believes that euroconstitution disturbs this balance, ans shifts the point of gravity to Germany. As one of the influential PiS politicians puts it, it is for the best interest of the EU that all the countries again have the feeling that they have equal influence on what is going on.

As a paradox, the Kaczynskis – the supporters of Europe of nations – due to the fear of Germany have stood in favour of the the concept aiming to prevent forming a strong directorate of member states (to which they were even invited by Sarkozy).

It is hard not to learn the lesson from the square root war. This campaign will probably convince Polish authorities to be more active in the EU, and this will, sooner or later, result in better understanding of what is the nature of the Community. And in addition, if the current authorities feel that they have influence on what is going on in Europe, holding a great co-responsibility at the same time, the Polish problem in Europe will end, like the European problem with Poland.

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If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 

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8 responses

25 06 2007
T-Rex

Poland is a vital member of the EU – if you ask me.
Poland should always have it’s say.
The square root would be the more sophisticated mathematical system as it supports a more federate approach to voting.
A federation of european states would be desirable – but does poland want to be a part of such a club ?
Should europe allow countries like england and poland that seem not to know entirely if they want to be full scale members to have increased political weight in votings ?
Is it relevant for poland what voting system is actually decided on if in the end poland fails to convince anyone in europe and so fails in every voting system ?

25 06 2007
blazej

Well… I think the focus now is on minor things. I personally find it disgusting that a treaty that was previously rejected in referenda in Holland and France (and would have been rejected in Britain) will be introduced in almost exactly the same form. This is wrong. This is deciding over the heads of citizens. If ordinary people won’t feel they have control over EU, that they don;t agree with it, EU WILL eventually collapse.

The EU is not democratic enough – and that is its main problem. People don’t agree with what is being done there. That was the main argument before Dutch referendum.

The EU is a burreaucratic monster, a monster that is continuously growing. In my opinion the question is not HOW TO HAVE MORE EUROPE? But WHAT TO DO TO HAVE HIGHER QUALITY OF LIFE OF EUROPEANS. This should be the aim, not federation for the federation’s sake.

I personally don’t mind federation, but again, why should Germany hold majority of power? Merkel, unlike other persidencies, was not going to have compromise, but to get the best result for her country, with all possible means. And again, federation works only when everyone agrees.

25 06 2007
blazej

btw. square root is not very sophisticated, it’s pretty simple. It’s just a square root from the population number. And that would be the number of votes.

Square root is simple mathematics. For what? – 11-year-olds?

16 07 2007
Lars H.

A really interesting article, especially due to its detalied insight on Poland’s role in the EU and why it prefered the old voting system over the new one. I would like to recommend an article to you that appeared today on the Atlantic Community.

Wes Mitchell argues that not only is Poland “not EU decorations”, as you put it, but it has a change to actively participate after a successful reconciliation with Germany. The two then might even team up and confront Russia in terms of energy policy, thus also stengthening Poland vis-à-vis its much feared Russian neighbour (whose latest foreign policy decisions have been rather controversial, e.g. the much-discussed leaving of the treaty). Check it out:

The Case for German-Polish Rapprochement

11 09 2007
subsea

The real problem is that the Eurocrats are trying to push everyone into a Federation without being clear about it. This raises suspicions and hence the NO votes in Holland and France. Europe must be about democracy,democracy and democracy again. The fact that Poland joined late (not through any fault of its own, 1939 and all that delayed the process) is another opportunity to fully discuss openly where Europe is going. So what if the process takes another 20 years? In the history of Europe that is nothing, and to get the European constitution right it is no price at all. Europe should now concentrate to free up the markets and agree a common international startegy, the shananigans with the constitution should take a back seat and allow a decent debated to happen first.

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