Poland’s ultra-conservative government is trying to reconcile its traditionalist approach with EU values. The rift between liberal and the ultra-conservative forces in Europe has grown ever deeper, putting the stability of the block at risk, especially in the context of Brexit.
The temptation for both sides to radicalize their respective political stances only becomes stronger as the May 2019 European elections draw nearer.
That vote is increasingly looking as if it will be a live or die confrontation between two opposite visions of the European Union.
The nation state versus the suprastate
The Polish, Hungarian and Italian governments are staunch supporters of stronger nation states at the expense of the Brussels supranational approach, whereas the opposite camp, pro-EU à la Macron and Merkel, wants at least to maintain the status quo when it comes to the role of the European institutions.
Too many migrants?
Migration is a major cause of dispute between ultra-conservatives and pro-EU progressives and liberals.
The Visegrad group (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) plus Austria and Italy want a drastic solution to reduce the number of people coming to Europe, and possibly block them altogether.
The Polish Deputy Prime Minister, Piotr Glinski, told Euronews: “we have a lot of migrants here in Poland. A lot of Poles are migrants abroad, but we need some civilized standards. We have to check those people: we have to have some patterns of allocation, some patterns of integration with the society. As politicians, we are responsible, so our values are much more connected to ethics of responsibility than to free opinions and feeling.”
Look for what we hold in common
However, Mr Glinski does admit that in today’s EU there is an ongoing conflict of values, and that the harsh dialectic not only pits member states against each other, but also divides society within each country.
According to the Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture, member states should look for common values, instead of clashing on areas of conflict: “We should look for those values that are really common and that are really constructive for our future. I mean individual entrepreneurship; I mean respect for other people; I mean communities built by the people, like the local community or the national community”.
The independence of the justice system, restrictions on abortion, and same-sex family rights, are all questions that set Poland and Hungary against the EU.
But, according to Mr Glinski, many EU policies and political positions are taken in order to serve the interests of the big countries, such as France and Germany: “Their national interests are in huge conflict with our interests, like North Stream 2. There is no economic reason for this kind of project. Why are we building the second North Stream pipeline? Why? Do you know the answer? For political reasons, not for economic reasons. And these political reasons are very dangerous for Poland”.
Warsaw has accused Germany of pursuing its own political interests with Russia, at the expense of Poland. North Stream 2 will be the second pipeline bringing Russian gas to Germany, by-passing Poland and Ukraine. There was also a plan to construct of a South Stream pipeline, to link Russia to the Balkans and Italy, but the EU decided to abandon it. For Mr Glinski this is evidence of double standards in the EU’s policies, which systematically support the interests of France and Germany.