Saturday, 05 November 2011 01:15

Polish election part II

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Two European topics have dominated the Polish election. The first was the next EU budget – the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 which will be a key factor in modernising the Polish infrastructure in coming years. A topic which of course also shimmered on the Poles' TV screens. The second, somehow suggesting itself and linked to the previous one, is how Poland should react to the current financial crisis in the EU and the dynamics which it has catalysed. It is clear that the fact that Poland is currently presiding over the European Council right now has urged a greater focus on European considerations in this campaign.

Not wanting to interfere too much in the politicians' joyous film making that I talked about earlier I preferred to talk to a few young political and social scientists to get some answers about the role of the European questions in the ongoing Polish parliamentary campaign.

The people I talked to generally agreed that “European topics” were important (or even "crucial") in the national parliamentary election campaigns. However, when it came to defining those questions, answers began to differ. Some respondents underlined the matter of the acquis – "European topics are important because a lot of the current legislation actually comes from the EU" - while others claim that the issues are important as we need “to get money from the EU institutions”. One speaker put it very graphically – "as long we need the EU funds as post-war Germany needed the Marshall Plan, we have to keep European matters in mind even in the less important local elections – not to mention that as a more and more important member state we have to take greater responsibility for the whole community."

The social scientists I talked to agreed that even though European topics were "quantitatively well exploited" – the quality of debates was rather low and "limited to slogans and watchwords". Perhaps because of that my interlocutors in general considered "internal issues" to be the priority, but definitely not only - "when there's no money people don't ask themselves questions about the banking crisis in Spain." But there were also voices that argued that despite the national-internal character of the election, the young international relations expert "would never vote for an opponent of European integration." This seems to prove the general Polish pro-Europeanism. This is a somewhat extraordinary situation across the whole EU, in that actually a young gentleman could have problems finding any Nigel Farage-type guy on the voting lists. To be honest, there is no serious "anti-European" political power on the political scene in contemporary Poland.

The most diverse opinions gathered around the level of understanding that Polish politicians had of the EU and its dynamics. Most of the people I asked agreed that "even if politicians understand it, they don't know how to react." However, what was especially interesting was that some blamed Polish politicians for considering EU topics from an overtly national perspective – "just as a beneficiary [and] not as a full member who takes responsibility." In contrast, others criticised politicians for "forgetting about Polish interests," "sticking to some imaginary European interests in a period when the states don't support any common initiatives." In fact, although these answers may look initially contradictory, both groups somewhat agreed that Poland's role in the EU suffers from a lack of national interest – the differences are in defining what that should mean in practice.

To sum up, I would ask whether in fact the European topics were used as a handy ersatz for real political disputes. For the governing Civic Platform it was easy to show their enthusiastic attitude to the EU, because supposedly in voters' eyes it makes a good contrast with the seemingly less enthusiastic opposition. Nevertheless, no serious common European problem was even touched on in the campaign. Therefore, the EU topics for most of Polish politicians still seem to confine to "winning 300 billion zloty" from the Cohesion Fund while when some troubles or complications occur it's better not to torment the voters and move to some more attractive themes. But probably this is not an exclusively Polish ailment.

P.S. For more news and comments on the post-election Poland – see the European Student Think Tank website.

Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2011 11:28
Ziemowit Jóźwik

Ziemowit Jóźwik is 23. Coming from Bieliny, a small village in the Holy Cross Mountains (Poland), he is now based in the more well known city of Krakow. Having written for Europe & Me since Issue 5 he will now take on the challenge of expanding our knowledge of the eastern borders of the European landscape. His blog will explore how European issues are understood 'under Eastern eyes.'

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