Text resize: A A
Change contrast

Germany, France, Poland and the future of the European Union

Numerous tensions, deepened by Russia’s war with Ukraine, high inflation and the energy crisis, generate our anxiety about the future of the European project. Especially as the proposals that are put forward may actually lead to a greater fragmentation and further “unsealing” of the European Union. This, in turn, can only impede its further development.

March 9, 2023 - Eugeniusz Smolar - Analysis

Entrance to the European Parliament in Brussels. Photo: Bjorn Beheydt / Shutterstock

To analyse the proposed changes in the EU we should adopt a long-term perspective. This is because governments change, while the implementation of the reforms proposed by France and Germany are calculated for at least a few decades. This long-term perspective should be adopted to particularly evaluate the policies of the EU’s “French-German engine”, as the two states that are indeed indispensable for EU integration.

France, meaning “us” and “you”

France, which has its affectionate place in Polish historical memory, has had problems finding its role in the enlarged European Union. Unlike Germany, it has not developed any strategy towards our region, believing, we can assume, that regardless of the circumstances and their consequences, we will be simply following the path that was once established by the “old EU”.

Thus, several initiatives proposed by France have surprised us with their lack of realism.

Let me point to a few:

  • 2008: The Union for the Mediterranean, a dead concept from the beginning, which was meant to be an EU union with 14 states which are often hostile towards each other. Initially, it included no northern European countries which also explains an indifference towards the Eastern Partnership (2009);
  • 2011: Together with the United Kingdom, France attacked Libya, which was a huge surprise given the country’s earlier opposition to the US-led military assault on Iraq;
  • 2019: President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative to strengthen Germany’s security by French nuclear deterrence forces surprised the government in Berlin that had no prior knowledge about French plans.

These initiatives first generated intense discussions, but quickly died a natural death. Similarly, Macron’s idea of establishing a European Political Community was again proposed without prior consultations with partners. Ukraine feared that the new platform could replace its EU integration process, while the UK refused to talk about its interest with Ukraine, Turkey or other numerous small countries that are aspiring to join the EU around.[1]

Several French presidents did not find consultations with partners in the EU prior to major events “helpful”. We still remember the infamous words by Jacques Chirac who in 2003 said that “the East European states missed a good opportunity to keep quiet”. President François Hollande attempted to open up a new chapter in relations with Poland, which ended in 2016 once the procurement of the French Caracal helicopters to the Polish Army was abruptly called off by Warsaw. Irritated by that fiasco, Hollande cancelled a planned visit to Poland, and a year later addressed Poland’s prime minister with the following words: “You have principles, we have structural funds.” It did not matter that at that time the office of Polish prime minister was held by Beata Szydło who represented the Law and Justice (PiS) party and held hostile feelings towards Donald Tusk, the then candidate for the President of the European Council for a second term. What mattered was the idea of “us – the European Union” with its declared values and goals had disappeared and was replaced by “us”, the old Union with all its money, and “you” – Poland and other countries in the EU’s East.

Equally concerning was Macron’s unclear tactic used since before the start of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine in February 2022, as well as after. Obviously attempts to stop the war by persuading the Kremlin should not be criticised, but admittedly it was difficult not to be shocked when after hideous Russian war crimes were revealed the French president still uttered ambiguous words about the need for “Putin to save his face” or to give Russia “security guarantees”.

As a matter of fact, France has been increasingly providing Ukraine with assistance. However, when its huge economic and military potential is taken into account, it becomes clear that the scale of this assistance is limited, especially when we consider Macron’s opinion of those EU and NATO countries that are doing much as “warmongers”. Such words uttered by the allegedly most pro-European president, and the fact that this opinion is shared not only in France, deepen the lack of trust and do not help with the process of developing shared policies.

By writing the above I am far from expressing some Polish complexes towards the West, but rather draw the readers’ attention to France’s long-term policy which can be described as desinteressement imperiale towards our region. That is why many think tanks, also in western countries, including France, interpret numerous policies pursued by Paris as undertaken in French national interest and as attempts to strengthen France’s position vis-à-vis the “Anglo-Saxons” and Germany, although covered with EU rhetoric. This also explains the privileged relations that France tried to cultivate with Russia, and before with the Soviet Union. This, in turn, raises objections not only with the PiS government’s supporters, but also with a large part of the Polish society. Needless to say, such a position of the French government only strengthens the nationalistic and populistic sentiments in Poland and elsewhere. It certainly does not deepen trust which could help strengthen integration, especially in the area of foreign and security policy.

Germany – illusions lost too late

The example of France is less painful than the experience with Germany and its eastern policy (Ostpolitik) which in Poland was met with concern and disappointment, regardless of internal political divisions, which – keep in mind – is rare in the current political situation. To put it bluntly, while illusions about Putin’s intentions could possibly be understood following Russia’s aggression in Georgia in 2008, they should no longer exist since that moment on, and even more so since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the start of the war in Donbas. However, under the pressure of Berlin, Paris and a few other European capitals, the reaction of the EU towards changes to Ukraine’s borders was minimal.

It was only thanks to the pressure of the Allies that the shipment of the modern Mistral ships to Russia, worth 1.2 billion euros, was hindered in 2015. Yet, despite an EU embargo, Russia continued purchasing military or double-use equipment both from France (where it paid 152 billion euros) and from Germany (for 122 billion euros).

The past is never the past

The late Madeleine Albright made an observation which reminds us that in the post-Mein Kampf times we should be carefully listening to publically expressed aggressive objectives of authoritarian leaders. Such, for example, was Putin’s speech delivered at the 2007 Munich Security Conference. With this in mind, we cannot avoid the question as to why Berlin and Paris were ignoring Putin’s expansionist statements, including those made during the 2008 NATO-Russia Summit in Bucharest, that Ukraine is not an independent state, that Ukrainians are merely a minor Russian tribe who must be re-educated and their national aspirations stifled?

A great majority of leading German politicians are now seeing the failure of Ostpolitik based on trade cooperation (Wandel durch Handel) as well as the obstinate commitment to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. It seems that it had to take the brutal reality of Russian aggression, including the crimes that the Russian army committed against the civilian population, for Germany to change its policy towards Moscow and gradually, very gradually, start increasing assistance towards Ukraine. This does not change the fact that the shift in policy was not a result of an internal critical discussion, but rather a response to a brutal reality check – one that is now being paid by Ukrainians in blood, the whole Europe by a loss of sense of security and an energy crisis, as well as by the prospects of a food crisis in numerous countries around the globe.

Until the last moment, subsequent coalition governments, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, were convinced that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was a good project and were refusing to admit that it had a dangerous geopolitical dimension, which could not be limited to a solely a commercial project. Polish arguments that a second, third, fourth or even fifth stream could be added to the Yamal gas pipeline, and that transit prices could be negotiated, were all rejected in Berlin, even though they were much better for the security of transits and natural environment than placing pipes at the bottom of the shallow Baltic Sea.

From our perspective, Nord Stream 2 has become a symbol of the lack of solidarity, a refusal of loyal cooperation and an example of priority-giving to German (and Russian) interests over the internal cohesion of the EU and NATO. This hurt not only the interests and sense of security in Poland, the Baltic states, NATO allies and in the EU after all, but was also damaging to the EU common energy policy. Instead, we would get mixed and changing justifications for Nord Stream 2 from Berlin and see its refusal to recognise the project’s geopolitical dimension. Not to mention blindness to the fact that through Nord Stream 2 Russia was gaining a powerful instrument to pressure the EU, or that Germany too could fall victim to energy blackmail. Regardless of everything, in 2015 Berlin opposed the EU Commission’s proposal of shared gas purchases, thereby lowering the chance to create an energy union.

Since leaving office, Angela Merkel has made a few statements in which she confirmed her belief that her Nord Stream 2 policy was right. The context of this decision was provided by Christopher Heusgen, Merkel’s foreign policy advisor for 12 years, who said: “She always kept in mind what Russia can tolerate.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz finally blocked the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, thereby limiting justification for the 2022 aggression in Ukraine. It had to take over a month of war, and especially the revelation of Russian crimes in Bucha, Iripin and other places, for Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to stop his and the SPD’s support for Nord Stream 2, by saying: “Now not only this multi-billion project has failed, but also our behaviour resulted in the loss of trust among our Eastern European partners.”

These true words do not change the fact that German governments, political parties and business circles, while pursuing narrow German interests, allowed Russia to move on with its aggressive plans thanks to the continued “dialogue”, which in fact was deprived of any verifiable progress. They were doing it conversely to the voices of numerous German analysts and calls for policy change made by Germany’s former president Joachim Gauck and the former minister of foreign affairs, Joschka Fischer.

Promises, announcements, evasions and assistance

In Poland we should particularly appreciate Germany’s post-war pacifist tradition which puts negotiations above the use of force. However, the limitations of this approach in the new strategic context was adequately presented by Radosław Sikorski, the former Polish minister of foreign affairs, who in 2011 in Berlin said the following words: “I fear Germany’s power less than her lethargy”. We can all now feel the dramatic consequences of this conceptual and political lack of reactions towards Russia’s aggressive policies, which was the result of the outdated Ostpolitik and pursuit of Germany’s own interests. Thus, we appreciated the German reaction to Russian aggression as Scholz’s Zeitenwende marked a fundamental shift in relations with Moscow, and which translated into a very serious increase in military spending in Germany and in assistance to Ukraine.

We also appreciate the fact that both Berlin and Paris supported the establishment of the European Instrument for Peace which now has the budget of over three billion euros and which now supports Ukraine, also in weapons’ provisions. All said, the sad fact is that Germany has lost its credibility in the region, which is a result of the lack of determination and the feeling of it not being entirely committed. This is most visible in Germany’s slowness in providing weapons to Ukraine – directly or through NATO – as well as their months-long refusal to agree to send German-produced tanks, owned by other countries, to Ukraine.

Eventually, after months of a pathetic spectacle, pressure from the allies and coalition partners in the German government, Ukraine is to receive … 14 Leopard tanks in the spring (with a promise of some subsequent number in the future). Other states are also to receive Berlin’s permission to provide Ukraine with their Leopards. Noticeably, this military aid makes an impression of a forced one (forced upon Scholz).

After the US, Germany is the largest provider of military, humanitarian and financial assistance to Ukraine. Yet, the size of this assistance, especially when compared to the country’s GDP per capita, is below Germany’s capacity and much lower than what is offered by other smaller states, such as Poland, Estonia or Lithuania. That is why Germany’s current assistance and pledge to take part in Ukraine’s reconstruction will not bring much, should Russia win the conflict by freezing it and cementing its territorial gains, as it did in 2014.

Chancellor Scholz refuses to provide Ukraine with the necessary heavy weapons, justifying his decision with numerous arguments, including: Ukrainian soldiers lack adequate training; weapons are not ready to be delivered to Ukraine; provision of weapons would weaken the German army; or Germany cannot provide weapons without consultations with allies.

Quite indicative of this is when Scholz said, “our country bears responsibility for peace and security throughout Europe … We must do everything possible to avoid a direct military confrontation between NATO and a highly-armed superpower like Russia, a nuclear power. I am doing everything I can to prevent an escalation that would lead to a third world war. There cannot be a nuclear war.”

We could thus say that Scholz speaks like a responsible statesman. That would be true, should there be no consequences to the chancellor’s belief that escalation could be a result of Ukraine’s successes at the frontline, which would be facilitated by the provision of German weapons. Consequently, if faced with failure, Putin could decide to escalate the conflict. That is why prevention of escalation means not sending Ukraine weapons it needs for victory, which – in Scholz’s mind – would be dangerous for peace in Europe.

We cannot avoid a reflection on these words which could be interpreted in the following way: Since Poland and other states in Central and Eastern Europe became frontline states, could we be convinced that as Germany’s allies in NATO and the EU, Berlin would come to help us in times of need, and support us with the delivery of weapons and ammunition? Unconditionally and right away?! And we would not hear that Germany would not rush with such deliveries because the “country bears the responsibility for peace and security throughout Europe…”

Timothy Snyder, a well-known American historian specialising in Eastern Europe, responded to Germany with following words: “If Ukraine loses this war, it might well be because others used bad history to give themselves bad reasons to waste time during the weeks that will define the decades to come.” Slowness in assistance and ambiguous words uttered in such a dramatic situation are not helping to build trust, credibility and unity. Instead, they leave Ukraine without adequate military assistance and with allies disagreeing publicly with each other. This in turn demonstrates to Moscow, Beijing and to others, who do not wish us well, the divisions and weaknesses within the West and strengthens disintegration tendencies within the EU and NATO.

These tensions are exacerbated by the different definition of the goals of the war by the cautious United States and restrained Western European states on the one hand, and by Ukraine and its most devoted allies in Central and Eastern Europe on the other. Surveys show that a full victory for Ukraine over a quick peace is the most important to the Polish government and a majority of Poles, as well as those in the Baltic states. Yet, in Europe this attitude remains the exception. Despite declarations about the importance of NATO and the alliance with the United States, Berlin (but also Paris) are seemingly unconvinced that Ukrainians are not only fighting for their own independence but also for European security. That is why, we do not see shared goals, strategies and policies with the United States, which have an effect on Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself.

Majority voting – not only a matter for Poland

The issue of trust and credibility must be resolved absolutely and unequivocally before we embark, as Paris and Berlin are proposing, on the path of majority voting in matters of the EU’s foreign and security policy. Already in June 2021, Germany’s then minister of foreign affairs, Heiko Mass, called for this voting method after a significant group of states, including Poland, had blocked the surprising and diplomatically unprepared initiative put forward by Merkel and Macron in 2021. It involved engaging in direct talks at the EU Summit with Putin, although after the disrespectful, even insulting treatment of Josep Borrell in Moscow in February of that year, it became clear that Russia does not recognise the EU as a partner.

Heiko Mass also criticised Budapest’s vetoes Mass also criticised Budapest’s vetoes in the following way: “We can’t let ourselves be held hostage by the people who hobble European foreign policy with their vetoes. What is at stake is Europe’s ability to act. If you do that, then sooner or later you are risking the cohesion of Europe. The veto has to go, even if that means we (Germany) can be outvoted”.

Drawing from Mass’s words, one does not know how Germany would react, but it remains doubtful whether France would agree to be outvoted on issues of such vital importance as its foreign and defence policy. This was not an expression of intent dictated by momentary emotion if on December 20th 2021 in Rome, during a meeting with prime minister Mario Draghi, the new chancellor Olaf Scholz suggested that in “certain situations decisions should be made by a qualified majority”. Draghi responded to these words with scepticism: “If you reflect about what it means to renounce on the unanimity when you need to take the decision to send your soldiers in a battlefield, you realise that it’s pretty complex”.

Undoubtedly, the introduction of qualified majority voting, which is a change with far-reaching consequences, would require a change in treaties. That is why it is worth noticing the position of 13 out of 27 member states: “We do not support unconsidered and premature attempts to launch a process towards treaty change”, stated Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden.

Paris and Berlin took a note of their opposition and recently both governments softened its content, pointing to the possibility to use the already existing mechanisms stipulated in the treaties, such as enhanced cooperation:[2] “For the short term, we need to widen the fields where qualified majority voting applies in the Council to overcome the deadlocks that have been observed, such as on certain areas of Common Foreign and Security Policy and taxation. To this end, we advocate the use of the respective passerelle clauses and constructive abstention as possible ways forward within the framework of the existing treaties. Occasionally, enhanced cooperation might be a useful instrument, while not undermining the European Union’s achievements and being open to all Member States.”

Who is to fight? Who is to command?

The war in Ukraine has weakened, but not eliminated, differences among Europeans. However, they will return with full force when, for example, Russia (or Ukraine) gain an advantage in military combat or if Donald Trump (or somebody like him) becomes president of the United States. Regardless of the existing differences, the attempts by an even much smaller number of states to establish a European Defence Community and European army (1952) failed. Not many even remember the Western European Union (1955-2010) with its commitment to provide immediate and unconditional military assistance in the case of aggression against one of the members. The WEU clause was thus even stronger than Article Five of the Washington Treaty which states that: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

Nevertheless, none of the past endeavours to complement the EU treaty which stipulated tasks and obligations with a military component have ever succeeded. This includes the Strategic Compass for the EU. As in the past, EU member states have simply been unable to agree on decision-making and operational roles which derive from two fundamental questions: (1) Who should make a decision to use European military forces? and (2) Who will carry out operational activities?

In several member states, coalition governments are dependent on an unstable and changing parliamentary majority. Therefore, let us add one more question here: should our security really depend on the ambitions of some small political party in one of EU member states, acting in the name of its own popularity?

Despite many years of attempts, apart from effective execution of trade and industry standards and international aid policies, there is still no common foreign and security policy in the European Union, which – not by accident – requires unanimity, as stated in the treaties. However, considering the different histories of the 27 member states, their political traditions, security cultures and threat perceptions, it is clear that majority voting in foreign and security policy will not solve the problem and only might contribute to increased tensions and divisions which will consequently only weaken the EU.

Let us thus ask some fundamental questions:

  • What goals are we to implement together in the EU using majority voting in foreign and security policy which would meet the expectations of the large majority of states?
  • What goals could we reach with the existing decision-making system, if there was a political will among interested parties – meaning all or a group of states?
  • Who would determine such objectives and how to provide the sense of security to all member states?

This for sure will not take place if they will be outvoted on issues they consider to be of existential importance to their security or interests.

We are a community of values while everyone has its own interests

Assistance to Ukraine has highlighted something absurd, namely the use of over a dozen types of tanks in Europe. That is why there are repeated calls, mainly in Berlin and Paris, to integrate the European military industry. Without a doubt there should be standardisation of military equipment, both because of the interoperability of European military forces and costs. Why then were France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium or Spain not able to do it in the past, not needing and without waiting for the consent from other member states? They could use a mechanism of “deepened cooperation” which would allow a group of states to implement projects which are not agreed on by all.

Yet, this has not happened, as all member states, including France and Germany, among the largest arms exporters, jealously protect their independence, production capacity and jobs in

this strategically important field. In addition, military purchases are subject not only to military or industry rationality, but also to a political one. It is thus not an accident that both Poland and Germany decided to purchase American F-35 fighter jets and not the newest Eurofighter Typhoon.

The pro-European rhetoric clashes with member states’ policies pursued in their national interest. It is nothing new, as governments have always acted this way in every field, while not losing sight, which is important to add, of the common EU interest. Even though we should not be disappointed by this reality, it is clear that pushing policies detached from reality hurts European unity and helps nationalistic populists who can then loudly proclaim that they act in the name of sovereignty and patriotism. At the same time, such situations prop up conspiracy theories among the voters who believe that the real interests of member states are hidden from the public. For example, supporters of the current Polish government proclaim that the true German aspiration is for hegemony in Europe.

One of the most crucial problems in the sphere of security is cooperation between the EU and the transatlantic NATO. The EU should be more strongly engaged in cooperation with NATO, while this process is now being slowed by some EU member states who fear US domination. As Finland and Sweden (previously neutral) join NATO, the argument of difficulties in implementing a common defence policy has weakened. On the agenda is the acute problem of increased defence expenditure, including the necessary technological leap forward to ensure effective interoperations of European and American military forces. The EU can play a fundamental role here – for its own security and to deepen cooperation with the US.

Power through cooperation through diversity 

The above slogan should drive us within the EU and in relations with both the US and NATO. Opting in the current situation for majority voting, not to mention the creation of a federal Europe, is an expression of a peculiar political blindness. It is not only unrealistic, but also harmful to the delicate balance between the member states. It is also exploited by those who push for sovereignty, be it in France, Italy, Spain, Germany or Poland. Counteracting the threats of aggressive nationalists, even if their sources are a result of fears and are of defensive nature, should not remove from our perspective the need to strengthen the functional model of deepening integration through diversity. What is more, before introducing majority voting in the area of foreign and security, building a federal Europe or even establishing a European defence industry, should we not expect implementation of seemingly less ambitious steps, which would strengthen the EU also in regards to external threats?

Let me point to a few:

  1. Completing reforms in the eurozone, such as common management of the economy and finance, which is not impossible without the harmonisation of policies within the Fiscal Union and Social Union;
  2. Completing the creation of the European single market, also in the area of services;
  3. Creating conditions to decrease development differences between Europe’s North and South, also to weaken social tensions which put the cohesion of the whole Union at risk.

For many years now, progress in these areas has been halted by eurozone states, which protect their own workplaces and industries. In the face of numerous threats, we should deepen integration in all areas which helps all but also – which is particularly important – strengthen the conviction among European citizens about the usefulness and effectiveness of common action within the EU. It is their support which gives the democratic mandate to the whole European Union. With an uncertain future in mind, we should definitely support the concept of economic and technological European autonomy, and not to get pushed off to the peripheries, also not only in regards to the hostile of Russia or China, but also the uncertainty regarding future political developments in the United States.

Concepts have meanings: autonomy can be achieved by a serious increase in spending on economic development and defence. Sovereignty yet requires both high military expenditure and a unified command with appropriate executive powers to which all EU members would have to agree on. This type of a quasi-state executive power would indeed require a creation of federal European Union, which is something the EU member states are not ready for now, and we do not know if they will ever be ready. Thus, we have to do the maximum today to strengthen the EU in all possible areas, including the resilience of its economies, state structures and societies, for today’s security, for the future of the EU, but also as an effective NATO partner.

The unanimity of the whole EU is of course very important, also symbolically. Yet, in the face of the energy crisis and the dangerous economic and social consequences of the war in Ukraine in many member states, the concrete decisions to strengthen the EU, NATO and Ukraine, as well as to weaken Russia, are of the greatest importance. For this we need the political will not only in Berlin, Paris, Rome or Madrid, but also of the governments and parliaments of other member states. A lot can be achieved by means of a pragmatic mechanism of increased cooperation of a group of states.

Pushing one’s own visions against the reality in the security policy of member states can only lead to catastrophe. This is what Germany has now been experiencing, mainly in relations with Russia, but also in relations with other EU and NATO member states, as Berlin’s policy change was not driven by internal self-reflection and criticism of Ostpolitik, but by Russian bombs and rockets which fell on Ukraine as well as by Russian war crimes committed there.

The EU’s integration has always been based on a process.

That is why now, more than ever, we need a process of adjusting to the new situation by means of a constructive and loyal cooperation of everybody with everybody in the implementation of concrete projects that are meant to serve us all. Aware that all the ambitious goals – economic, social, climate-related, in defence and many more – which are only growing in importance due to the new threats – are to be implemented for a mere one per cent of member states’ GDP.

Poles are continuously pro-EU, even Law and Justice party supporters

Since 2015 Poland has been governed by the United Right coalition which has been attacking the rule of law, including judicial independence, colonising almost all public institutions and attacking women’s and minority rights. Those who are in power are only paying lip service to the country’s sovereignty; as the only sovereignty they care about is that of their own power within the country. Their conflict with EU institutions is a result of the EU’s treaties and rules that prevent state capture.

The Law and Justice party (PiS) with its coalition partners deeply distrust the EU and accuse it of being subordinate to German and French national interests that supposedly fear Poland’s more dynamic development. In practice, they break EU treaties and fundamental values and principles. It is not an exaggeration to compare their worldview to Putin’s rhetoric of Western Europe as being decadent, weakened by migration, “leftish” multi-culturalism, LGBTQ+ rights, secularism, pacifism, and being ready to “sell out” everything and everyone for their own economic benefits.

At the same time the European elite, especially German, is – in their view – planning to create a federal European state under Germany’s control which would eliminate nation states. In this sick vision, Poland is not only to become suppressed by the German-French hegemony, it will even cease to exist. They thus show an extreme lack of realism, as they are convinced that weakening of Germany and Brussels will only strengthen Poland.

PiS has been instrumentalising historical memory to run its aggressive anti-German policy based on references to German crimes against Poles during the Second World War. The German successive governments have been restrained in their reactions to such vitriolic policies and has not reacted to the offensive speeches of Jarosław Kaczyński and his followers. Several EU governments lack of enthusiasm towards close cooperation with the governments in Warsaw and Budapest is not surprising, given their record of breaking EU fundamental rules of loyal cooperation. Law and Justice cannot accept the fact that the rulings of the EU Court of Justice or the positions taken by the European Commission and the European Parliament are not aimed at, as PiS claims, overthrowing its government, but to protect the EU’s fundamental principles and internal cohesion. With Poland or without it.

I refuse to accept the Law and Justice party’s nationalistic and sovereigntist perspective, and complexes of its leaders and supporters in regards to Western Europe. I reject the assumptions and implementation of its ineffective foreign policy which are aimed against Germany, France or Brussels. I observe its consequences with great concern, seeing how they are leading to Poland’s weakened position and actions. Aware of the level of positive interdependence of our economies, states and societies, I refuse to accept the PiS propaganda and its omnipresent schadenfreude rhetoric towards Germany, which is now struggling with an energy crisis and a potential recession.

The critics are evidently not noticing that the consequences of these difficulties will also have a direct impact on the Polish economy. Numerous analyses indicate that the presence of German industry in Poland, and we are not talking here only about large corporations but also about thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises, was one of the sources of our phenomenal development after we joined the EU. It translated into a dynamic level of development and employment, tax revenues, know-how absorption, organisation of production and work, etc. Importantly, in the last three decades numerous forms of cooperation have been established between Poland and German, be it at the state, local government or people-to people level, which has been to some degree damaged by the anti-German and anti-EU policy of the United Right.

Despite aggressive propaganda, over 80 per cent (!!!) of Poles support their country’s membership in the EU, among them are PiS supporters as well. Also, a majority of Poles trust EU institutions more than they trust their own government. This is a very positive point of reference for the thinking about Poland’s place in the future EU. If only all of us in the European Union, mutually loyal to each other, would come down to earth and deal with what is truly needed and possible in the current conditions.

All the more so since the European Union, having to deal with so many threats and challenges to its development, position and role in the world, functions as an economic and political union, but still lacks what is needed – as evidenced by the conflicts between national interests and by the scale of the of aid to Ukraine – to become a union of shared risks.

This is an updated and expanded version of the article “Here’s why trust in Germany has weakened. Eugeniusz Smolar’s open letter to Minister Annalena Baerbock,” first published in Gazeta Wyborcza, 18.08.2022.

Eugeniusz Smolar is a foreign and security policy analyst at the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw. Under communism, he was a member of the democratic opposition, political prisoner and émigré. He also worked as a journalist and former Director of the Polish Section of the BBC World Service in London for many years. Following his return to Poland, he became the deputy chairman of the Management Board of Polish Radio. He is also a member of New Eastern Europe’s editorial board.

[1] Thanks to the professional diplomacy of the Czech Republic, holding the EU presidency, expectations were made more realistic and the British government changed its position by attending the first conference of the European Political Community in Prague on October 6th 2022.

[2] Joint Declaration – Franco-German Council of Ministers – 22 January 2023

I would also like to thank Prof. Jan Barcz for pointing out the existing mechanisms for increasing the effectiveness of EU action without changing the treaties. Cf. Jan Barcz: “Liberum veto or qualified majority – how to decide on EU matters?” Monitor Konstytucyjny 1.09.2022 

Please support New Eastern Europe's crowdfunding campaign. Donate by clicking on the button below.


, , , , ,


Terms of Use | Cookie policy | Copyryight 2024 Kolegium Europy Wschodniej im. Jana Nowaka-Jeziorańskiego 31-153 Kraków
Agencja digital: hauerpower studio krakow.
We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. View more
Cookies settings
Privacy & Cookie policy
Privacy & Cookies policy
Cookie name Active
Poniższa Polityka Prywatności – klauzule informacyjne dotyczące przetwarzania danych osobowych w związku z korzystaniem z serwisu internetowego https://neweasterneurope.eu/ lub usług dostępnych za jego pośrednictwem Polityka Prywatności zawiera informacje wymagane przez przepisy Rozporządzenia Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady 2016/679 w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (RODO). Całość do przeczytania pod tym linkiem
Save settings
Cookies settings