AuthorWierzbicki, Andrew
PositionLetter to the editor


Stuart McMillan is to be congratulated for his article on Poland in the last issue of the NZIR (vol 42, no 5).

He draws attention to a series of disturbing polices being promoted by the Polish Law and Justice (PiS) Party government, which will undermine Poland's hard won post-communism democracy as well as the ideals to which Poland signed up when it joined the European Union. Whether it be in manipulation of the political process, the undermining of the judicial system, politicising the public service or interference in the freedom of the press, the trends are indeed worrying.

When Poland emerged from under the Soviet yolk led by Lech Walesa, it was a beacon of hope for Europe. Here was one of the largest and most populous nations of Europe tying itself firmly to the other European democracies and becoming an important member of the European Union as well as of NATO. As McMillan points out in his article, Poland has benefited significantly from its EU membership with it now being the largest recipient of EU funding. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of mainly young Poles have benefitted from the policy of free movement of people within the European Union's borders. The United Kingdom in particular has been a major beneficiary of their labour. Is all this to be jeopardised by Poland because it wants to go down a road of nationalistic and self-centred polices? Has it forgotten its own history?

The European Union is now grappling with what it does about the Polish march backwards from democracy. McMillan suggests that that grouping 'has every intention of restraining the PiS' and of 'disciplining]' Poland. This is as it should be. The irony of this is that leading the EU response will be the European Council president, who happens to be a Pole--former Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Given he is in the mould of Lech Walesa, he must be looking askance at what is happening in his homeland.

Poland cannot expect to be treated as if nothing has happened when it is undermining key principles on which the European Union exists. At a time when some other EU members, such as Hungary, Austria and Slovakia, are acting similarly to Poland and the United Kingdom's intended departure is testing the cohesiveness of the European Union, appeasing Poland is not the answer.

Poland seems to have forgotten that with benefits come obligations. Poland's obligation to the European Union is to be a strong, vibrant functioning democracy. Anything less is a renunciation...

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