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Europa News: Poland’s role in the EU: Is the Polexite threatening?
As part of the Europa Aktuell series, the European Information Centre invites to the online event Poland’s Role in the EU: Is the Polexite threatening? The event will take place on 01. It was held from 19.30-21.00 hrs. Developments in individual EU Member States, especially in Hungary, but also in our eastern neighbour Poland, have shown: Democracy and the rule of law in Europe need a new push. The great Member State in the heart of Europe, Poland, is a divided society. Polarisation between national conservative and liberal social groups has increased sharply in recent years. Is the country also divided between city and country, west and east? What place can and does Poland want to take in Europe? What about fundamental rights and the rule of law in our neighbouring country? And how can we develop a better understanding of the causes of rising rejection of European and Western fundamental values in parts of Poland and other Eastern EU Member States? Malgorszata Burek, who is close to the Polish opposition and the political scientist Siebo Janssen, discuss this. We look forward to hearing from you — live or chat. The Conference on the Future of Europe, launched on 9 May 2021, enables citizens to contribute their ideas. The outcome of the debate will therefore be included in the conference: https://futureu.europa.eu Please register by 29.11.2021 by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org You will receive the access data to the online event on the day before the event.
Event reportKatrin Reich, come on. Head of EIZ and ED Lower Saxony took over the welcome of the moderator, the expert and the participants. The event took place in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Since May, citizens have been invited to contribute their ideas and opinions on a total of 10 topics on the future of Europe. The various points of discussion of this evening will also be introduced on this platform and have been set up and made public in advance under the headings Values and Rights, Rule of Law and Security. The occasion for this event is the current developments in individual EU Member States, especially in Hungary, but also in our eastern neighbour Poland. De-mocracy and the rule of law are no longer self-evident and need a new “push” in Europe. The freelance translator and board member of the association “Mitte 21” Malgorzata Bu-rek, who knows both Germany and Poland well, and the political scientist and historian Siebo M. H. Janssen discussed complex issues related to Poland’s role in the EU and a possible threat of Polexit. This online event was moderated by Jochen Leyhe. One point of discussion was the current conflict situation at the border between Poland and Belarus, which has created a new problem. Siebo M.H. Janssen pointed out that migrants and refugees were taken from Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. with the promise that they could go to the EU and apply for asylum. In doing so, Lukashenko wants to put pressure on the EU to ease sanctions. The refugees live under low conditions in a kind of no-man’s land between Poland and Belarus and are pushed back with so-called “push backs”. The EU has clearly stood behind Poland on this issue of provocation. Nevertheless, there was relatively little criticism from the Member States and the Heads of Government of the “push backs”. Asylum and refugee policy is very reluctant to look at in most Member States of the European Union. Apart from Frontex as a defensive measure, there is no common acceptance. On the one hand, the European Union has practised solidarity with Poland on the refugee issue, but on the other hand, the critical debate on the rule of law, freedom of the press and democratic development remains, according to Siebo M.H. Janssen. Another issue raised was that polarisation between national conservative and liberal social groups in Poland has increased sharply in recent years. Poland is a divided society. Malgorzata Burek pointed out that after the PIS took power, many people, like themselves, who had nothing to do with politics before, began to engage. Many Polish citizens were not aware of the changes brought about by the political upheaval. Especially with the rapid and ruthless implementation. In Poland, points of discussion such as abortion and the relationship with the EU have been a major issue ever since. These themes polarise and divide society and encourage people to engage in politics, said Malgorzata Burek. On fundamental rights and the rule of law, Siebo M.H. explained that the PIS has completely rebuilt the legal system in Poland or is in the process of rebuilding it. The Constitutional Court and its independence have been significantly weakened and, in addition, PIS-faithful lawyers have been appointed in the lower judicial levels. But there is also resistance. Not all of them can be “equalised”, but the pressure is enormous. In this context, a newly established chamber is supposed to oversee and speak this “prepared” law and judgment. Moreover, the Polish Constitutional Court no longer recognises that European law automatically applies as a matter of priority before Polish law. Not even in areas where competences have been clearly transferred to the EU. Thus, the Polexite has not actually been carried out, but in the legal sense, according to Siebo M. H. Janssen. In parts of Eastern European states, forms of domination that have been democratically elected but which are more reminiscent of authoritarianism than liberal values. However, for countries wishing to join the European Union, there are the Copenhagen criteria based on the rule of law, democracy, human rights. These three core values are always called into question by some EU Member States. The Netherlands recently called for Poland to receive funds only if the rule of law is respected in the country. However, the hardness that has been shown has quickly returned to a compromise. The European Commission acted too reluctantly against the legal violations of Poland and Hungary. The European Parliament then sued the European Commission to the European Court of Justice in October 2021 for failing to apply a new rule of law in EU states. One expects a more consistent action and implementation of what was said on the subject of the rule of law in the plenary debate. Meanwhile, the European Commission did not want to take action until the ECJ had ruled on the case brought by Poland and Hungary. Another point of discussion was that Poland is already a strongly divided nation in city and country and in the west and east. Malgorzata Burek mentioned that citizens in the country are grateful for additional payments. Many had also emigrated because of financial prob-lems. There are other problems in the city and the oppositions are strongly represented there. Siebo M. H. Janssen added in this respect that there are funds and structural funds which go only to the Member States themselves. So-called regional funds tend to go to the regions. In Brussels, it is considered that the funds should be channelled to regions that are critically concerned with the government. This would support the oppositions or regions with high opposition shares, but the PIS government would certainly criticise it and say that the EU would only support those who took them. The question is whether it makes sense to make the division in the country even greater. This would lead to an even stronger drift of Polish society, said Siebo M.H. Janssen. For the future, it is important to clarify which place Poland can and wants to take in Europe. Mal-gorzata Burek argued that about 79 % of citizens would not support withdrawal from the EU or Polexit. The relationship with Germany or other European countries would be good at the human level. A referendum like in Britain on Brexit would therefore be rather unlikely in Poland. The Member States cannot, in principle, be excluded from the EU simply. The Polish government would have to decide whether to leave, but it would also mean that Poland would no longer receive funds from the EU. Jochen Leyhe asked Siebo M.H. Janssen about the role of NATO, which remains important in the area of security in Europe. Siebo M.H. explained that the West’s confidence in Russia is clearly shaken and that the mood between the West and Russia has never been as bad as it has been in the past 40 years. In terms of defence and security policy, the Weimar Triangle could again play a stronger role in Europe, as the newly elected Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock would like to intensify talks with France and Poland again. Malgorzata Burek concluded by answering the question where she sees Poland in about 5, 10 or 15 years that she will look optimistic about the future and Poland will continue to be positioned in the EU and in Euro-pa. The present conflicts and problems would then be regarded as history. During the panel discussion, there were always intermediate questions about the chat, which the moderator Jochen Leyhe brought into the conversation. Here is a summary of the points raised. With regard to the Polish government, one participant wanted to know what substantive criticisms one had about Donald Tusk. Siebo M.H. Janssen explained here that the criticisms on the one hand are of an economic policy nature. The PIS tries to win voters very strongly with social or family policy positions. On the other hand, he would be accused of being a listener to Brussels. Social policy achievements, of course, offer voters a valid argument to vote for this party, and the PIS, of course, knows very well that it can only distribute the gels to its voters because it receives them from the European Union. But their crucial issues, such as the rule of law, democratic culture, etc., also revert to the background. Another question was whether the protest movement, especially women, has a democratic self-image that goes beyond the concrete political cause. Malgorzata Burek replied that the topic of abortion plays a major role in Poland. In the Sejm and the Polish Parliament, it was said in December 2021 whether it will be completely abolished. This topic is very polarising and has enormous social resonance. One participant was interested in the roles the German-Polish town twinnings could play in the future. Siebo M.H. Janssen replied that German-Polish town twinning and other institutions can foster exchanges and help develop a better understanding of each other. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, these contacts have also come to an end. The talks with mayors and cities, however, do not solve the fundamental problems and exchange and cooperation would take place only at municipal level, but not at political level. Interest was also received as to how the media representation of the EU’s (jur.) conflicts with Poland in general looks like in Germany and neighbouring countries. Siebo M.H. Janssen stated that the ‘equilibrium’ was more advanced, for example, in Hungary than in Poland. In France, the Netherlands and Great Britain there was a lot of coverage. In general, there is a broad position, ranging from non-interference to a demand for restraint to the desire for more action, against attempts to reduce the rule of law. Following the discussion, moderator Jochen Leyhe thanked the participants for their interest and attention to this online event as well as for their active participation in intermediate questions. As a conclusion, Jochen Leyhe concluded that, in his view, a Polexite is not likely for the time being, but the problems raised require a common solution from the EU and Poland.
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