In recent times, the European Union (EU) seems to have an issue with Polish national sovereignty. Whether it is pressure to change domestic law courts, or demands to accept forced immigrant quotas, the EU appears intent to undermine the legitimacy of the democratically elected, and accountable, Polish government.
These efforts are entirely misguided. The PiS (Law and Justice Party) – who were elected to power in Poland with a substantial majority in 2015 – are working to deliver legal changes, including child benefit reforms, and carefully manage the intake of immigrants, because they were elected on a platform that pledged to do just that.
Regardless of whether Brussels likes that platform or not, it is a platform that represents the interests of Polish people. It’s the platform a majority of Polish people voted for. Yet Brussels has the audacity to try and meddle with it.
As a result of such indifference to national democracy, a real schism is beginning to open up between the EU and Poland. It’s a schism that appears to be widening every day. Poland has been threatened with everything from fines to the removal of European Parliamentary voting rights.
These are bully boy tactics, and, if there is one country that will stand up to such tactics, it is Poland. There is no other country in Europe that personifies the fight for freedom from outside interference as strongly.
Fought over and occupied during the Second World War during which time many cities were destroyed and millions were killed, and then run into the ground by Communism, Poland has overcome so much in a relatively short space of time.
It is in some ways – even today – still in the final throes of recovery.
Yet some seem forget this, or they simply choose to forget this.
The Guardian recently published an article — curiously, written by a Conservative Party member — alleging Poles did nothing to save Jews during the war. This is just not true.
Poland was the only country where the punishment for hiding Jews was the death penalty for the helper, and his or her entire family. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Poles were killed by the Nazi’s for aiding Jews.
My own Great Uncle, Jan Kawczynski, was brutally murdered with his wife and young daughter after he was caught hiding Jews in his farm. Such journalism deliberately forgets that Poland has a long history of fighting for independence and freedom within its own borders. Including fighting for Jewish people to save them from barbarous acts of murder.
The very same Guardian article — authored by Kate Maltby of the ‘Bright Blue’ think tank — also unforgivably dismisses the importance of commemorating the ‘Warsaw Rising’. This I find disgusting.
The Rising – which was the largest single resistance movement of the Second World War – resulted in the loss of thousands of lives. The Polish resistance inside the city had expected support from advancing Soviet troops – but the support stopped short, leaving them to fight the Nazi’s alone. Maltby believes such stark, yet tragic, martyrdom is being exploited as a political tool of the current Polish government. They dismiss it as ‘doomed from the beginning’ – and a moot point in history, therefore.
This is as wrong as it is ignorant.
The Resistance is commemorated by all those with Warsaw origins (Varsovians) on 1st of August at the “W” hour, which is at 5pm each year. It is not commemorated as part of a political stunt for the benefit of the current Polish government.
It is commemorated to remember the suffering – and murder – of those involved. Those who fought for the freedom of Warsaw. It is commemorated not just by those who voted for the current PiS Government, but by all Varsovians.
It’s one of the reasons the British Royal Family visited Poland earlier this month. To show solidarity with all Varsovians, and other Polish people, who take the time to remember such an atrocity. That’s no political stunt – it’s just the right thing to do out of respect for the UK’s/our ally.
Like the Royal Family, in recent years I have had an opportunity to meet Polish Ministers and leading Eurorealist MPs in the Polish Parliament to share, explain and explore our ideas on national sovereignty.
It’s an idea that most in Poland – in part due to the country’s history – are bound to. Almost always, our discussions turn to EU interference in that very national sovereignty. We have many shared concerns.
And — although organised Euroscepticism is only in its embryonic stages in Poland — I strongly believe that most Poles would prefer the European Union to be mostly a trade entity, rather than an increasingly creeping super-state intent on exercising the will of remote, unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.
PiS seems to agree. The Party believes in the independence of the Polish state, and that a nation is strongest when its cultural values and sovereign decision making capacity are upheld. This belief formed a fundamental part of the platform they were elected to power on.
In truth, it is in the interest of Brussels to at least try and accept, or understand, this, although I won’t hold my breath.
The more the EU chooses to meddle with the national sovereignty of nations, the more they will add to the – already substantial – disillusionment with the purpose, and aims, of the EU that exists amongst the people of those nations. People who have voted for national governments to represent them, like in Poland.
The more that disillusionment grows, the more the EU must prepare for its own demise. Which – at the current rate of growth across Europe – could be sometime in the next decade.
Daniel Kawczynski is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury and Atcham and tweets at @DKShrewsbury