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The Corner

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Poland’s Democracy: Signs of Life



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One of the more depressing spectacles of the last year or so has been the slightly nutty and very creepy EUphilia of sections of Poland’s political elite. Membership of the EU has indeed helped anchor this much-abused country in “the West” (those generous EU subsidies are nice too), but that does not mean that it has to throw away what remains of its hard-won sovereignty or, for that matter, embrace the insanity that is the euro zone.

So it’s good to see this in EU Referendum (based partly on an article from Die Welt)

After an “extraordinary debate on the issues”, the [Polish] parliament has postponed until February a vote on Poland’s accession to the European fiscal pact, after it lost confidence in its ability to win it. The opposition, which had threatened to boycott the vote, claimed that the pact was “harmful to Poland, for Polish entrepreneurs and unconstitutional”.

As to the euro, prime minister Donald Tusk had warned parliament in December that : “In front of us is the decision whether to be a part of this heart of Europe … or whether we are a marginal state its own currency”. The country must determine in the coming months its line of approach, he said, “otherwise the train leaves without us.”

Thus we see the same old rhetoric, which seems to have international application. The Polish propaganda is no more imaginative than that served up by [British] europhiles.

Die Welt, however, observes that the Polish “euro-date” is getting to be like a mirage. When the country joined the EU in 2004, there was talk of 2009. Then, in 2008, prime minister Tusk postponed the date to 2011. Then along came the eurozone crisis, alongside the remarkable success of the Polish economy and the strength of the zloty.

 Leader of the opposition party PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, criticises the decision to seek entry to the eurozone and a spokesman for the national conservatives says: “If a house is on fire, you don’t go rushing into it”. He adds that the EU is also presenting member states with other projects, “which would mean an almost complete loss of economic sovereignty”. Poland was in danger of “losing something we have won recently. There was no reason to give it up”.

PiS MEP Krzysztof Szczerski emphasises that the Poles voted in 2003 to join the EU, but not on the accession to “a quasi-federal organism to which is now the euro zone”.

“Only when we are able to compete with the EU countries, would the introduction of the euro be good for us” says the foreign policy expert Leszek Balcerowicz, and that could take a while. It could take 20 years for Poland to reach the standard of living in Germany.

Kaczynski gets it. Szczerski gets it. Balcerowicz (the father, not so incidentally, of Poland’s impressive economic transformation) gets it, but only partly. He’s right to argue that, despite the gains of the last two decades, Poland’s economy is still not strong enough to cope with Brussels’s vampire currency, but even if it was, and even if the euro zone had resolved its wider dysfunction in a satisfactory manner, the implications for the country’s democracy of junking the zloty for the euro would be utterly disastrous. Just say nie . . .

It is, I should add, rather dispiriting to read that only 56 percent of Poles oppose the introduction of the single currency. What is wrong with the other 44 percent?



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