Boston University

The Polish threat to the integrity of the European Union by Aram Martirosyan

                The rise in the number of right wing nationalist governments over the recent years has not inspired an optimistic outlook on the prospect of the world affairs as it stands. The ever-growing roster of states that have succumbed to ultimately and militantly anti-democratic appeals or at least have given indications of validating those sentiments significantly more than usual now include Hungary, Sweden, Brazil, France, Philippines, the United States, etc. The last one is often perceived as the trigger, the turning point for the rollback of liberal politics internationally, and by far the most significant of the domestic political shifts of this nature. Considering, however, the current attentiveness and the sensitivity of the modern left and moderate conservatism to similar developments, Poland has been seemingly left out of the fray of observation and critique, all the while PiS (Law and Justice), which overtook both houses of parliament and the presidency in the 2015 elections – before president Trump was elected, now threatens the stability of the European Union and the probability of its expansion eastward. The former Soviet bloc nation has struggled with recollections of communist supervision and interference for the longest time – a sentiment which the party looks to exploit, crafting evocative analogies of European masters under the EU.

                The party rose to prominence and took the entire legislative and executive branches immediately after former prime minister Tusk left in 2014 to head the European council, leaving his coalition bitterly divided and unable to display electoral competence and unity against PiS. With only the judiciary remaining independent, the party leadership lined the constitutional court with loyal justices and forced at least a third of the supreme court judges out. Media non-interference privileges were disregarded, even when the coverage was not necessarily negative, but rather topical, such as that of protests against the national parliament in 2016, for the coverage of which TVN24, one of the major networks, was fined in the amount of $415,000. The current government is not beyond utilizing state-influenced channels of media output to fling baseless allegations and smears against unfavorable figures or candidates, aligning themselves with and endorsing radical neo-nationalist organizations and activities.

                A peculiar alliance that the state has seemingly forged in the wake of its democratic regression is Hungary. Such alignment has sprung not out of benefit of economic or other kind, but is rather culturally and historically reasoned.  

                The Polish state is compromising its own eligibility to participate in the European affairs as part of the Euro Union as part of the government activity comes in fairly explicit violation of Article 7, which permits the council to suspend voting rights  of offender states and even revoke membership in case of a serious breach of seemingly primitive prerequisites. The backsliding also threatens to undo the reputability of the union as a whole as a league of states that do not tolerate anti-democratic compromise or allusions to authoritarianism.

Photo by Pixabay, Creative Commons Zero License.

2 Comments

  1. Heather Marshall

    February 17, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    Aram,
    The title and first sentence of this blog really grabbed my attention and I was looking forward to reading about Poland and the EU. I thought that you gave a great analysis of the history and context of the issue, supporting your claims with hyperlink evidence. Your breakdown of the political system in Poland relying on only the autonomy of the judiciary is reminiscent of Pippa Norris’ claims in “Is Western Democracy Backsliding? Diagnosing the Risks”. Norris argues that one of the hints of democratic backsliding is constitutional, which seems to be suggested by your claims. I wish you had expanded more on the final two paragraphs which really seem to be aimed at the core issue rather than surrounding context. In what ways do you believe that the alignment between Hungary and Poland is majorly based in cultural history as opposed to economic gain or political favor? In the final paragraph, you bring back the title and address the concerns with the European Union. I wish there was more to read on this as it was included in the title of the blog. While the context of the dispute is necessary, it seemed to overshadow the core issue of the relationship between Poland and the EU, particularly in relation to democratic backsliding. Overall, I thought this was a well-written post and I enjoyed reading it!

  2. Conor Gleeson

    May 7, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    Similar to Heather, your title really caught my attention and made me think long and hard about the place of the EU in this resurgence of populism and anti-democratic politics. The bloc itself is still economically powerful, but is fracturing politically because of Brexit and the European Council’s perpetual worry about still comparatively unstable nations like Spain, Greece, and Italy which joined the EU later than other Western European powers but Poland is an interstice case. Unlike the latter three nations, the EU isn’t worried about Poland leaving for economic reasons, it’s maintained a consistently strong economy even throughout the 2008 recession and sits at a prime place to facilitate trade between Eastern and Western Europe, making a pretty penny from EU restrictions on non-EU members or bribes to avoid said restrictions. Poland’s danger lies in the judiciary realm, as you said, as Law and Justice has done enough damage that fellow EU member states do not view its justice system as compatible enough with their own to render citizens across the borders for trial. (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/eu-court-backs-irish-judge-s-right-to-query-polish-justice-system-1.3576242) While the European Court of Justice and the European Commission have made threats about withdrawal of economic aid or Polish national votes in determining the EU agenda, both of those don’t strike me as terribly likely because in such a wobbly time for the EU bloc as a whole, Brussels doesn’t want to be seen interfering in the judicial system of one of its member states. As a result, I think for the time being the Eu and the Law and Justice government in {Poland will simply agree to disagree, though public international pressure may limit Poland’s more obvious and excessive judicial rigging, though I have no doubt attempts to do so will still work their way through the Polish legislature. What do you think the EU will do in the future about Poland?

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