2011: the year of Polish leadership in the EU

18th December, 2011 12:04 pm

If last week was the week of Cameron’s walk out, this week has been the week of recriminations, with newspaper column inches full of talk of Nick Clegg involved in spats with Tories and France. While in some way it is good that EU politics is front page news, I am nevertheless tired of these tactical manoeuvrings and negative outlook.

So my aim this week is to bring a bit of vision and optimism instead. So where, you ask, do you find something positive in these dark times? The answer – perhaps surprisingly – is to look to Poland.

22 years on since the fall of Communism and 7 years since its entry into the European Union, Poland finally seems to have found its role. Just three years after its entry into the EU – around 2007 – Poland was even more unpopular than the UK in the corridors of power in Brussels, with the hardline traditionalist Kaczyński brothers as both Prime Minister and President. There was even a time when President Lech Kaczyński would pitch up at EU summits essentially to keep an eye on Donald Tusk who had meanwhile ousted his brother as Prime Minister.

Yet is it Tusk, fresh from re-election in Poland’s general election this autumn, his Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski (Twitter: @sikorskiradek), and outgoing President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek (Twitter: @jerzybuzek) who simultaneously personify a new confidence in Poland’s role, yet within the European Union and not at odds to it.

Tusk set the tone for Poland’s 6 month Presidency of the Council of the European Union with a speech strongly at odds with the negative mood in EU national capitals and in Brussels. The most startling lines were: “The European Union is great. It is the best place on Earth to be born and to live your life.” Think about that for a moment, and ask yourself where in the world the vast majority of citizens would be better off? There’s more analysis of his speech from The Guardian and Nosemonkey’s blog.

While Tusk offered vision, Sikorski trumped him last month with a speech of extraordinary bravery delivered in Berlin (full text, analysis from The Economist). The most famous lines are these:

I demand of Germany that, for your sake and for ours, you help [the euro zone] survive and prosper. You know full well that nobody else can do it. I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.

Can you imagine any French, British or Italian politician using those words? Rather predictably back in Warsaw Kaczyński branded him a traitor and wants him brought before a state tribunal.

Last but not least, this week marked the final plenary session of the European Parliament with Jerzy Buzek presiding. The position of President of the European Parliament is largely ceremonial – not too dissimilar to the role of Speaker in the House of Commons – but Buzek has occupied the position with honour. Using his background in Solidarność and position of elder statesman in the EP, Buzek has dared to speak out on democracy and human rights issues that the heads of other EU institutions have not dared touch – this tweet about Ai Weiwei a case in point. Firebrand German social democrat Martin Schulz is his likely replacement in January.

Oh for a few more politicians in the EU to show the determination and optimism of these three Poles in 2012.

Photo Credits: Tusk/Buzek and Sikorski. Both Creative Commons Sharealike Licensed from Flickr.

  • Sd

    Good reminder of one Of the few bright spots this year, but i guess i was mislead by the twitter links, promising sg on the “why”
    So fellow eu netizens why is pl the only bright spot? Is it a brigh spot at all (talk is cheap when u dont have influence), Is it alone (sw, dk etc have been encouraging, and even the media law ridden hungarian presidency has done quite a lot for europe in the background), and most importantly, whats the difference that makes this possible from pl but not from cz, hu, uk or others?
    ObviOus questions perhaps but the answers could tell us sg interesting about the state of eu societies today….

Latest

  • Comment Why we’ve launched ‘The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness’

    Why we’ve launched ‘The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness’

    This article is written by Sam Stopp and Dr Martin Edobor  The last Labour government achieved a great deal for disadvantaged people. That is something all Labour members should be able to agree on, regardless of where in our movement we place ourselves. Whether you call yourself a Blairite or a Corbynista, you cannot seriously deny that between 1997 and 2010, Labour changed millions of lives for the better. But for all the many schools and hospitals we built, and the […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Jeremy Corbyn slams Government’s devolution promise as a “cruel deception” as he unveils plans for the North

    Jeremy Corbyn slams Government’s devolution promise as a “cruel deception” as he unveils plans for the North

    Jeremy Corbyn has criticised George Osborne’s devolution plans as a “cruel deception”, as he has unveils his public investment policies. The leadership contender is today beginning to outline his’ Vision for Britain 2020′ in Leeds, where he will explain what Britain would look like under his stewardship. Corbyn has explained that he would shift the base of the economy with new programmes to build affordable housing, create high-skilled jobs and apprenticeships, launch innovative methods of tackling climate change and take […]

    Read more →
  • Comment If the Labour leadership listens, it can learn from the party in local government

    If the Labour leadership listens, it can learn from the party in local government

    It is right that local government has featured prominently in the Labour leadership debate. All four candidates are courting councillors as a constituency that matters, with Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall all laying out their stalls for local government in a series of pitches the LGA Labour Group has published today. I was struck by how much consensus there was between the four contenders at the local government hustings held in Harrogate a month ago. They […]

    Read more →
  • News Andy Burnham to promise cheaper rail travel for part-time workers

    Andy Burnham to promise cheaper rail travel for part-time workers

    Andy Burnham will promise cheaper rail season tickets for parents who only travel part of the week, as he launches his manifesto on Wednesday. The Labour leadership candidate will say that under his plans parents who work part-time will be able to save thousands each year. Burnham will explain that these commuters would only pay for days they travel and “no longer pay seven-day fees for a three-day job”. His team have said this is one announcement in a number […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured We’ve already tried Jeremy Corbyn’s alternative electoral strategy and it didn’t work

    We’ve already tried Jeremy Corbyn’s alternative electoral strategy and it didn’t work

    I’m going to start by listing a bunch of things that I believe to be self-evident truths: The distribution of political opinions in the British electorate is basically like a bell-curve: a few outliers sit at either end on the right or left, but most are clustered around the middle with centre-left or centre-right opinions. That’s because British voters are basically sensible, pragmatic and (as any Marxist materialist analysis would predict) self-interested. They want governments that combine sound management of […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit