Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło wrote a curiously desperate letter of last resort to the European Union to prevent the re-election of her Eurocrat predecessor, Donald Tusk. She appealed to democracy and national sovereignty. This must have sounded like a joke to the Eurocratic team that decided whom to choose. But all was in vain. Poland alone cast the dissenting vote. Representatives of twenty-seven other EU countries voted for the reelection of Tusk.
By Marek Jan Chodakiewicz l March 22, 2017
Poland’s former liberal prime minister Donald Tusk of the Civic Platform (PO) party has just been reelected as the president of the European Council (EC). The election has occurred against the explicit wishes of Poland’s current populist government of the Law and Justice Party (PiS). On the one hand, Tusk’s victory has triggered much gloating in the Europhoric, globalist, and German circles. On the other hand, it has prompted confused fury and embarrassment in the Polish ruling circles.
The imbroglio occurred because the PiS profoundly misunderstands the nature not just of the European Council, but of the European Union itself. The Poles believe that the EU is “Europe of the motherlands,” or “Europe of nations,” as Charles de Gaulle christened it. Instead, it is a centralized superstate of the Eurocrats who increasingly speak German.
The idea of the “Europe of nations” stems from a sensible belief that democracy is a grassroots phenomenon which should impact the EU at every level. It reflects the will of the people in each country differently, accounting for their cultural, economic, social, and political varieties and quirks.
According to the adherents of this idea, all institutions should reflect the will of the people as expressed through democratic elections. National vote brings forth politicians who implement the desires of the electorate nationally and internationally. Each nation then should be able to project its opinions onto the supranational stage as in the EU. Thus, if the left wins in a national election, its preferences shall be felt at the EU level. When the rightists prevail nationally, their voices will be heard at Brussels. Their guys represent their respective nations at various European institutions.
Nonsense, say the Eurocrats. The ideas of nationalism and sovereignty are silly. The EU project is an elitist one and must be built from above. They brook no opposition from below.
Instead, they follow the Monet method. One of the leading founders of the EU, Jean Monet, believed in incrementalism. He worked to unveil only individual planks of the EU project, ultimately aiming at a superstate, lest the grassroots became alarmed that too much power accrued to Brussels.
After each plank, the hoi polloi were assured that the project was now completed until, of course, the next plank would be unveiled. Then all, in sequence, would be joined together like so many LEGO blocks.
And thus the EU project crept surreptitiously from the Coal and Steel Community and Common Agricultural Policy through the Common Market and the Maastrich Treaty as well as the Expansion East and the Lisbon Treaty – all the way up to the present day.
Taciturn initially, after each victory the Eurocrats rejoiced less silently. At each turn, in particular if deterred by a crisis, they would call for the “deepening of the European Union,” which is a byword for more centralization and less sovereignty of the member states. And the Eurocrats doggedly pushed on. They acted similarly with the regards to the elections to the presidency of the European Council (EC), where the leading candidate was Donald Tusk.
The Polish government would have none of that. First, the doyen of the PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński, indicated that he would no longer support Tusk for the post as “Poland’s representative.” Second, the PiS government embraced another liberal politician, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, as its candidate for the presidency of the EC. Third, the Polish Prime Minister, Beata Szydło, wrote a curiously desperate letter of last resort to the European Union to prevent the re-election of her predecessor. She appealed to democracy and national sovereignty. This must have sounded like a joke to the Eurocratic team that decided whom to choose. All was in vain. Poland alone cast the dissenting vote. Representatives of twenty-seven countries voted for the reelection of Tusk.
The poor Polish government paid for sticking to the idea of the “Europe of nations” and refusing to recognize the nature of the beast. One is afraid, however, that the refusal to recognize the reality of the European Union meted out to Poland its stinging slap on the face. Donald Tusk has been elected because his non-Polish sponsors wished so. There is not even pretense that an election to an important EU institution is based on any national parity. This humiliating affair has plainly demonstrated that the Poles arrived in Brussels to play volleyball, while everyone else understood that the Eurocrats were having a game of musical chairs. In other words, the leadership of the PiS, in particular its foreign affairs team, came unprepared.
To be sure, the accusations about the incompetence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) have dogged the Law and Justice from the very beginning when it won a national election in October 2015. Much of it originated from the maliciousness of the sour loosers of the liberal Civic Platform party (PO).
Sympathetic media at home and abroad amplified the message of the PiS incompetence. A few serious mistakes of the Polish MFA fed the narrative handily, for example, an inexplicable decision to seek outside verdict from the EU’s Venice Commission on constitutional law regarding an internal matter of Polish constitutional arrangements. Now the MFA stands to answer for the Brussels debacle. Heads should roll. And Poland’s role and membership in the EU ought to be reassessed. Indeed, Brexit did happen for a very good reason.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is a Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, A Graduate School of National Security and International Affairs in Washington, DC, where he holds the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies. Professor Chodakiewicz is author of Intermarium: The Land between the Black and Baltic Seas and teaches a seminar on the history of the Muslim world at Patrick Henry College. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the Online-Conservative-Journalism Center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.