If we do not want to fall into the margins of the European Union in the new deal, we should cooperate with the center parties in the European Parliament and start trying to join the eurozone.

For decades, the European Union has seemed an immovable goal of our aspirations. We were approaching and adapting to the great ideal that was the European norm in our eyes, and when we finally became part of the EU, we began to note with concern that nothing – including Europe – is standing still.

Internal Outsider

Five years ago nobody could yet imagine the effects of the presence of nationalistic hypocrites in the European Parliament. People like Nigel Farage built a bridgehead in Europe for an anti-European offensive, and before anyone figured it out, they ensure tragicomic Brexit to Europe. The United Kingdom, although it still remains a member of the European Union and even participates in elections to the European Parliament, has condemned itself to isolation and allowed that strategic decisions on the Union will be made without its participation.

Poland may face the same – it can stand and watch the development of events from the position of the outsider or it can strongly seek for solutions that will be beneficial to us. But the last option requires alliances with the mainstream parties.

Brexit Did Not Set a Trend

The choice Poland takes now will be of particular importance. With the upcoming elections to the European Parliament, the Union will take a course for change, many of which will bring a whole new dynamic. Therefore, we can not repeat the frequent mistake of the past, when we did not take seriously thinking about the future in Poland, hoping that “somehow it will be”. This unpleasant heritage of the decades of subjection made us adapting, in the first instinct, to the so-called “historical currents”.

Moreover, against expectations, Brexit did not become a historical trend. It has even strengthened the Union and if the last polls are trustworthy, the British probably will drive the hypocrites out.

Only a year ago Farage admitted in the Guardian that he had already provided his two children with German education and passports, and his wife is a German citizen. Unlike their supporters, who the next day after the referendum began to feverishly check on the Internet what the consequences of their decisions will be, political leaders have known for a long time how to insure themselves.

A Threatening Vision of Macron

Therefore, it turned out, that a stable future could not be guaranteed by eurosceptics and hopes should be placed in the Union, although many challenges still lie ahead. From the Polish perspective, one of them is the vision of the “European Renaissance” presented by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron.

This vision is coherent and elegant, and at the same time very dangerous for Poland and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, based on the exclusive integration principle, in which countries outside the eurozone will be relegated to the periphery of the EU, without equal access to EU funds and without access to the decision-making process.

France has never been an advocate of EU enlargement, and the vision of the invasion of Polish plumbers is returning from time to time in French domestic politics. That is why one should take into account that Paris will take every opportunity to reverse the consequences of enlargement and return to the exclusive EU formula, in which French dominates the decision table.

In the current political system, Macron’s vision has not gained a majority in the EU, mainly due to Germany’s reluctance. But this puzzle will soon change as a result of the elections, after which the European Parliament will be more divided than ever. Most likely the center-right coalition (EPP) with the center-left (S&D) will lose their majority. It means that the pro-European coalition will have to co-opt liberals (ALDE) and perhaps the Greens. Such a new coalition would have shifted the center of gravity to the left, closer to the vision of Emmanuel Macron with a similar view of the rule of law as the socialists.

Synergies between liberals and socialists may become a vehicle for binding payments from the EU budget to the assessment of the rule of law.

The current European Parliament has already adopted such a position, but it has not yet had legal value. Further steps in this direction mean specific and painful costs for Poland, Hungary and most probably Romania. What’s more, if the group of Macron really gets a lot of power in the next Parliament, then we should expect closer European integration within the eurozone and relegate Poland to the periphery of the EU.

We Should Adopt Euro

Poland, if it does not want to fall into the second or third EU league, must seriously consider starting efforts to adopt the euro. We can not wait until the prosperity index of Poland reaches the level of Germany (Kaczyński’s declaration), which had never happened in over 1000 years of relationship between our nations. Currently, PiS plays the reluctance to the European currency card and this game is, firstly, irresponsible (we did not fight for the EU membership to deprive ourselves of having an influence on it now), and secondly, completely unnecessary and strategically ill-conceived.

Slovakia celebrates entry to the euro area

For the PiS electorate, the issue of accepting or rejecting the euro is marginal. On the other hand, possible efforts to adopt the euro by the PiS government would take the wind out of the sails of the current government critics in the country and abroad (which seems to be understood by Prime Minister Morawiecki). Accusations of anti-Europeanism and a desire to lead Poland out of the EU would lose credibility.

The argument that the PiS uses that the consequences of euro adoption will be harmful to the economy can not stand criticism. In his tirade against the euro, President Kaczyński references to Slovakia were evidently misleading.

Slovakia is currently one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, and the support for the single currency is higher today than it was when the euro was adopted.

Both the Czech Republic and Hungary have silently begun to adopt the single currency. Romania has even given the date of adoption of the euro. In a few years, it may turn out that we are the only country in the region without the single currency and, consequently, the only one left out of the circle of decision making.

PiS in the Union Will Be Marginalized

Polls suggest that eurosceptic groups will not break the bank of votes in the upcoming elections, but there is a risk that they will get from 25 to 30 per cent. The European Foreign Affairs Council even estimates a total of 35%. It is important to notice that the result of over 30% means so-called a “blocking minority”.

ENF press conference

Small snag – eurosceptics are divided themselves. Some of them belong to the group of European Conservatives and Reformers, in which until now the Tories set the rules with PiS.

MP Zdzisław Krasnodębski argued, most recently, in an interview for Onet, that PiS among other radicals is the object of desire like a bachelorette, but many parties with a clearly anti-Islamic programme would find it difficult to enter a group that five years ago wanted Sajjad Karim, a practising Muslim, became the President of the European Parliament.

A much more serious breakthrough in the ideological line dividing various eurosceptic parties are relations with Russia.

The head of the Italian eurosceptics, Matteo Salvini, and the leader of the French radical right, Marine Le Pen, set up a new coalition and travel around Europe, collecting declarations from potential smaller partners.

Nevertheless, they can not count on the support of PiS, because their financial ties to the Kremlin are too obvious and mean they favour Putin’s geopolitical plans.

On the other hand, it is likely that Viktor Orbán will join the group, whose voters began to accept the pro-Russian policy of the Hungarian Prime Minister. For Jarosław Kaczyński, however, such a step would be inconsistent with the current party line and politically very risky, especially before the national elections in autumn.

Poland Can Not Afford Weakness

The Union is awaiting many changes in the coming years. The determination with which it conducted negotiations with the United Kingdom has turned a new leaf for many European politicians. Although it seemed that Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP, would become the future head of the European Commission, there are many indications that his colleague from the same faction, the EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier from the French Republican party, will have a much better chance for it.

Determination with which the EU – the second economy in the world today – defended itself against the pressure of eurosceptics has already changed a lot and will change even more. Another demonstration of pro-European force will be a quick announcement of the composition of the future European Commission, probably in June, before the forces of the radicals are counted and organized. The next one will be the introduction of the regulations regarding the rule of law and linking them with the distribution of EU funds.

In this game, the strength is measured by the number of votes and affiliation to the political factions. Poland can not afford the luxury of taking a weak position in negotiations about the future shape of the institution or staying outside of any of the integration circles.

Marcin Zaborowski and Wojciech Przybylski

Central European Futures

Over the past several years, it has become ever more apparent that the post-Cold War era of democratic reform, socio-economic development and Western integration in Central Europe is coming to an end.

Visegrad Insight is published by the Res Publica Foundation. This special edition has been prepared in cooperation with the German-Marshall Fund of the U.S..

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