Analysis: What if Poland Leaves the EU?
Reinhard Weser in a comment for "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung"
Recently, Polish MEP Patrick Jaki presented a report that had to prove that Poland has lost almost 120 billion euros since 2004 in addition to its EU membership. This would be more than the annual budget of the Polish state and much more than the value of the popular social programs, thanks to which the national-conservative party "Law and Justice" has already won the parliamentary elections twice. The state television, which has become a mouthpiece for the ruling party, has paid close attention to these allegations - without subjecting them to much scrutiny or criticism. Who is lying and why?
However, statistics from the Polish Ministry of Finance from July show otherwise: the financial benefits of Poland's EU membership since 2004 have been large, even significantly exceeding the above figure. In addition, membership in the community has a high political benefit, on which there is a consensus among the parties. Poland's membership in the EU and NATO is considered part of the country's foundations, even if only in terms of security.
In this respect, in fact, nothing has changed - as Law and Justice recently solemnly emphasized. But there is a widening gap between these statements and the party's daily rhetoric. In statements by leading politicians from the ruling camp, the EU increasingly stylized itself as an enemy of Poland, carrying out "hybrid attacks" against the country and portraying itself as an "occupier" alongside the National Socialists and the USSR.
The ruling Law and Justice Party is ready to take the risk of Polexit in order to retain its power at all costs.
This verbal anger has not yet affected public opinion. EU approval in the polls is stable - 80 percent. One of the main reasons for this is the funds from the European budget, the benefits of which are tangible for many citizens. That is why these same politicians, relying on anti-European rhetoric, describe as malicious slander the criticism coming from the opposition that they could lead the country to Polexit (similar to Brexit), ie. until Poland leaves the union.
The government is not tired of trumpeting that if Poland is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the EU's recovery funds from the coronavirus crisis, it is due to its firm stance in the negotiations with Brussels - or more precisely: it could be due to that reason. Because as a result of the confrontational course with the EC in the rule of law dispute, there is a real danger that Poland will not receive many billions of euros. Failure to comply with European rules comes at a price that can do a lot of damage to "Law and Justice".
That is why the party is now beginning to question the financial benefits of European membership. It is characteristic of this government that in situations like this it does not look for ways to reduce the damage to the country, but further exacerbates the confrontation, although in this situation the main interests of the Polish state may be threatened.
This is not a dispute between Poland and the EU
Most likely, Law and Justice does not want to take Poland out of the EU. But the party is ready to take the growing risk of Polexit, as it puts above all its views on an authoritarian state and on retaining power at all costs. This is at the heart of the rule of law dispute with the EU. The restructuring of the Polish judiciary in recent years aims at its degradation to a government body. And the EU is the biggest obstacle along the way.
The repeated postponement of the Constitutional Court's decision, which should give national law priority over EU law, shows that Warsaw is still undecided to take the final step. There are enough experts in the government who can calculate what the loss of European funds would mean for Poland. That is why it is important for the EC to remain firm in its disputes with the Polish government. In this respect, the "blame" lies with the vast majority of pro-European Poles.
But there is something in this dispute that should not be overlooked - it is not a dispute between Poland and the EU. Brussels is in conflict with a government that has come to power in a democratic way, but it wants to repeal the rules of democracy - burdening both Polish citizens and all Europeans.
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