The very name “polexit” immediately suggests that it must be something similar, almost identical to Brexit, that is, the UK leaving the European Union within a few years of the referendum. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Poland’s exit from the European Union may have many faces, it may even last for years, writes Jacek Stawiski, the host of the “Horizon” program on TVN24 BiS for tvn24.pl.
Unexpected drift towards “polexit” one resolution of a party or a group calling itself the right-wing may not be stopped if the emotions among politicians from this party have long been tilted towards dislike or hostility towards the European Union. “Polexit” seems absurd, also probably from the point of view of the ruling right-wing camp. Nonsense, yes. But the history of politics, including international politics, provides plenty of examples that even if something looks preposterous, it is still to be feared.
The return of “Polexit”
Despite Poles’ strong support for the European Union, despite the enormous benefits of participating in the European Union, the subject of “polexit” returns not for the first time in several years. What actually happened at that time? Why is it coming back? First of all, the slogans about leaving the European Union have entered the mainstream of Polish politics for good and the mainstream media stream that dominates today, ie the “right-wing” current. I have always thought and emphasized that various people and diverse environments who consciously, out of deep personal conviction, at the time of Poland’s accession to the EU in 2003-2004, opposed the Polish presence in the Union, deserve respect. It made sense to question this presence, based on deep personal reflection, if it was supported by civic reflection, and if it was genuine and sincere.
Today it is difficult to attribute such authenticity, honesty and civic care to politicians who, in a few seconds’ speech, the so-called soundbites, equate the German and Soviet occupation with the presence of Poland in the European Union. This is primarily an expression of a caricatured populism that downplays the memory of the millions of victims of the crimes of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. At the same time, it is a manifestation of a complete misunderstanding of the question marks facing the Polish state and the European Union. Fortunately, today, and probably for a long time, the use of such comparisons more discredits than promotes “polexit”. But the damage remains. They are magnified even more by fierce online battles and trolling campaigns.
The absurd words about the Brussels occupation and the hybrid war by the EU against Poland unfortunately have a very specific task and a very specific goal. It is about gradual taming of Poles with a view to cutting themselves off from the EU. When talking about a hybrid war on the part of the EU and about the occupation, the image of the Union as an organization completely external to Poland is quite thick. And this is the authentic dimension of this seemingly only absurd auction of anti-EU slogans. It is about showing, step by step, the European Union as a structure of states that is next to us, is dangerous, foreign and external.
Of all the international organizations that the modern world knows and to which Poland belongs, just two are ours, they are internal like no other. It is in a special way the Atlantic Alliance and in an even stronger way the European Union. One can talk about the UN, OSCE, UNESCO, WTO, etc. as “international” structures to which Poland somehow belongs. But the European Union is an organization that cannot be called external. One of the main meanings of its existence is to introduce the Union to the everyday life of citizens of all Member States. Each of us is both a citizen of the Republic of Poland and a citizen of the Union. “Polexit” promoters they are aware of this, which is why they have been building the image of the EU as an external force for some time. The more they consolidate it, the easier it will be to leave the Union.
The focal point of “polexit”, imaginary and absurd – today, although we will see what will happen in the future – is the attitude towards Germany. The fall of communism brought two key Copernican upheavals in geopolitics around Poland. It enabled us to build an alliance with America and enabled us to build a community of interests between Poland and Germany. Nobody announced that the interests of Poland and Germany would always be identical. But the set of common goals is far larger than the set of discrepancies. Without a developed Polish-German allied neighborhood, there will never be a fully developed Polish membership in the European Union. Without the European Union, managing the few but significant differences between Poland and Germany will be much more difficult, and perhaps even impossible at all.
That is why the promoters of “polexit” consistently criticize the Polish-German partnership and exaggerate the differences in the interests of both countries and nations. Modern Germany is described step by step as a hostile state, derived directly from the Third Reich. This consistent anti-German line of “polexitists” persuades citizens that the states of Central and Eastern Europe, from the Czech Republic to Romania and from Estonia to Slovenia, under the leadership of Poland, will build an anti-German sanitary cordon in Europe. This is real absurdity. Nobody in Prague, Bratislava, Bucharest, Ljubljana, even in model Hungary, is in no hurry to embark on an anti-German crusade. I would like to invite interested parties to read the history of the relations of the peoples of Central Europe with Germany and also with Austria, let’s say in the last 200 years. Let me just add that this story is far from the simplified schemas that are served in Poland today.
Exit with no exit
Numerous representatives of the so-called right-wing camp make a reservation that there is no question of leaving the EU, it is only about a fundamental reform of the European Union through cooperation with parties that in their countries are situated on the right or on the extreme right. These include the Austrian Freedom Party and the French National Assembly, until recently the National Front. The roots of the activities of these parties should arouse anxiety in every Polish citizen.
The Freedom Party is a grouping which gathered former NSDAP officials in Austria, supporters of the Third Reich. Today, for biological reasons, there are no former brown officers there anymore, but until recently libertarians did not want Poland in the EU. Their now deceased, popular leader Jörg Haider spoke contemptuously about Slavs, especially Poles. The FPÖ Freedom Party still wants to limit the labor law for Poles in Europe, wants to limit the right to travel and settle freely in the EU. And above all, it strongly supports the Kremlin’s anti-NATO and anti-American course, recognizing the right to Russian domination in Ukraine. Prominent FPÖ activists are involved in entwining Austria and Europe with Russian influence.
A twin party for Austrian libertarians is the AfD Alternative for Germany, which sometimes glorifies the Third Reich and the “achievements” of the Wehrmacht. Politicians and supporters of the right-wing camp in Poland swear that they do not want to cooperate with the AfD, but on the European forum it is precisely Alternative for Germany, together with the French National Assembly Marine Le Pen, that constitute the core of this allegedly reformist, right-wing and extreme-right bloc.
From the very beginning, the Le Pen party has been consistently anti-NATO, strongly anti-American and pro-Russian, while in EU policy it demands significant restrictions on the freedom of work and settlement for Europeans from the east of the Union and the abolition of privileges for posted workers. Today Marine Le Pen distances himself from his father, who, when establishing the National Front, proclaimed that the Third Reich did not organize the extermination of the Jews. May this new political line of the daughter of the Front’s founder be permanent. Today it looks like this, but it is still worth remembering that the roots of the Marine Le Pen formation are views that are extremely contrary to the historical policy of the Polish state, regardless of the political color of the current governments in Warsaw.
The National Assembly and Marine Le Pen personally no longer proclaim Frexit, i.e. France’s exit from the European Union. But here’s an important caveat: Le Pen does not want to scare the French with a sudden British-style exit. He proposes an exit spread over several or several years, which would consist in the withdrawal of France from activity in the European Union in specific, important areas. Such an exit would lead to a situation in which France’s membership in the EU would be pointless. The withdrawal of France from various areas of the functioning of the European Union would in all probability mean the end of the Union and a return to Europe known approximately from the interwar period. Such a full Europe of states and homelands does not have to be more friendly to the Polish state than the present-day Europe. We would rather quickly miss some form of a European community or a European union of states.
Brussels – enemy number one
“Polexitowcy” accuse the European Union of lack of democratic support. Union commissioners are actually invaders from Mars. Poland’s worst enemy is supposed to be the Brussels bureaucracy, etc. This is a constant element of the propaganda of hostility towards the EU.
I am not going to defend either excess bureaucracy or over-regulation in the Union. The ills of the EU and other influential international organizations, including the United Nations, are known and recognized. The European Commission is made up of commissioners who are reported by national governments. Nobody had a better idea. The European Parliament comes from popular elections. It used to be a façade body, today it has much more power, although it does not replace national parliaments. Saying that the European Parliament is about to replace the parliaments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania or Poland, for example, is a fairy tale about an iron wolf. Another thing is that it is easy to fall into isolation in the European Parliament. By denying others democratic legitimacy, by denying the right-wing positions of, for example, the Christian Democrat-Conservative group to the name of conservatives and Christian Democrats, pointing out that the real right is Le Pen and the Freedom Party, one can expect very soon isolation and a decline in importance.
“Polexitowcy” argue that nation states are losing importance in the EU. And that they only call for the defense of the sovereignty and separateness of states. It is difficult to agree with this, even looking only at the last 20 years of the Union’s functioning. The states and peoples of Europe, with various political systems, economic models, social systems, languages, cultures, religions, historical memories, have always been, are and will be the essence of the European Union, and the European Council, bringing together heads of state and government, is in fact the strongest authority in the Union. It is there that European policy is finally forged, there are disputes about the direction of the functioning of the EU society. It is also there that it is easy to fall into isolation, becoming a hostage to your own rhetoric.
When the leaders of the EU countries close themselves in the debating hall, talk without the audience, the European game begins in full swing. The screams of occupation and exit add little weight to this boxing ring. Not only do they add no weight, but they certainly take away your seriousness. The circle is closed.
Main photo source: facts