What is the attitude of Poles towards the European Union? Has the Law and Justice government already turned us from a nation of Euro-enthusiasts into Euro-skeptics?
Some time ago, the alarming information spread to the media signalling that Poles’ trust in the EU has decreased. “For years, Poland was among those countries which was enthusiastic about the United Europe. Now, it has changed” wrote the Fakt daily.
“The latest edition of the Eurobarometer shows that only 50% of Poles ‘trust’ the EU, 38% have an opposite view, and 12% have no opinion. This is hardly better than the average. Nevertheless, Poland is far behind enthusiastic Portugal (78% trust the EU), Ireland (74%), or Lithuania (70%)”, alerted the Rzeczpospolita daily.
“Since last year, the indicator of confidence in the EU has fallen in our country by 6 percentage points, thus the most of the entire community”, warned Fakty TVN, a popular news program. Could this be right?
Poles’ attitude towards the EU is much more complex than the results of this poll. On the one hand, the notable decrease in trust in comparison with the summer of 2020 may cause some concern. On the other hand, the result is still slightly higher than the EU average.
Moreover, as the Polityka weekly pointed out, it is higher by one percentage point than the one reported during the last year’s winter, when 49% of respondents declared trust in the EU. The same article also recalls that, according to the CBOS survey (a Polish opinion polling institute), about 8 out of 10 Poles have considered EU membership a good thing for many years.
Furthermore, in November, Fakty TVN commissioned a poll asking whether Poland should remain in the EU. As many as 87% of respondents were in favor of remaining in the EU while only 8% were against.
In addition, the EU ranked third in the ranking of trust in various institutions. Consequently, the EU was behind the military and NATO but well ahead of, among others, the police, the Polish “Constitutional Tribunal” under Julia Przyłębska, and the Catholic Church. While 55.4% of those surveyed said they trust the EU and 25.7% distrusted it, the corresponding figures for the Church were 40% and 42%.
Last June, the European Council on Foreign Relations asked citizens of nine EU countries how had the COVID-19 pandemic changed their attitudes toward the EU. On average, 63% responded that it “showed a greater need for cooperation at the European level”.
Only 18% believed that “European integration has gone too far.” Once again, Poland was above the average as 7 out of 10 respondents felt that we need to work together more closely.
However, it does not mean that the supporters of Poland’s presence in the European community can sleep soundly. It is also important to ask not only whether Poles want to be in the EU, but what the EU should be like in order to answer the current needs.
“The Conference on the Future of Europe” is intended to serve this purpose. It is a series of debates between European institutions and citizens, in which specific plans for EU reforms are to be presented. However, it is not about the general declarations but coherent demands.
Should there be an EU-led military unit? Should the EU create a collaborative research agency to better compete with China and the United States on the latest technologies? Should the tax for global corporations, which are now successfully avoiding taxation, go to Member States or directly to the EU budget? Should the income from this tax be spent on the development of new technologies?
Should the decisions on foreign policy be taken as they are now (that is unanimously) or by majority vote, in order to make action swifter and more effective? Should Frontex, the agency that guards the EU’s borders, have greater powers? The answers to these questions will affect our daily lives.
I share my opinion of the majority of the respondents. I believe the pandemic has shown us the necessity for closer integration and better cooperation at the European level. In addition to the pandemic, this necessity has also been shown by the migration crisis, Donald Trump’s presidency, Russia’s aggressive policy towards our eastern neighbors, China’s growing ambitions, and many other factors.
The creation of the EU Recovery Fund by the European Parliament and the European Council, from which Poland may receive up to PLN 200 billion, is a step in the right direction. But it is not enough.
Europe must not only rebuild after the pandemic, but also adapt to the changing world. It must shoulder more responsibility. Additional cash transfers are not enough to achieve this. Institutional changes are also needed.
The greatest benefit of Poland’s presence in the EU does not lie only in consuming subsidies. What is even more important for the Polish economy is the access to the EU market, as a result of which Poland has also access to common legal regulations.
Moreover, the relationship with the international institution is also essential as it helps strengthen Poland’s voice in relation with other countries. Even if, after some time, Poland starts to pay more into the EU budget than it receives from it, European membership will still be the Polish raison d’être. We are stronger together.
This should be constantly reminded along with paying attention to what is said about the EU by the propagandist media of the Law and Justice. The “public” television, which is under control of Jacek Kurski, regularly convinces its viewers that the EU is ruled by Germany. Furthermore, it ignores any unsuitable events, such as the unwillingness to ratify the agreement with China, which Angela Merkel has wanted. This propaganda, repeated over the years, eventually led to Brexit.
The EU itself, however, must constantly change, so that its citizens can be sure that it represents their interests. “The Conference on the Future of Europe” is the first step towards this necessary change.
I will be taking an active part in it as a representative of Polish parties belonging to the European People’s Party – the largest grouping in the European Parliament. In the EPP, we are of the opinion that the Conference should put forward proposals for serious reforms to deepen integration.
This is what is required today by the challenges we are facing as Europeans. And this is where Poland’s interest lie.
The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/unia-europejska-musi-poglebiac-integracje/
Translated by Natalia Banaś