What changes to expect in post-election PolandOct 26th, 2011 | By Shalva Dzidziguri | Tags: Eastern Partnership, elections, EU, Euro crisis, Poland, Tusk
In his blog entitled “Why Poland’s new old government is good news for the EU” David Grodzki set forth a handful of prognoses foretelling the future drifts of Polish political-economic affairs domestically as well as on international arena.
In essence, I share the overall optimistic spirit of the article and fully agree on the estimation that the Polish electorate made a clear choice “between more Europe and less Europe” by giving its majority vote of confidence to the incumbent Prime Minister’s political party and his allies.
And, truly enough, Europe’s “Enfant terrible”, Jaroslaw Kaczynski made a surprisingly short-sighted pre-election offensive against Germany by issuing statements insinuating that Angela Merkel’s ascension to the Chancellorship had been linked to the helping hand of the East Germany’s secret police, which gravely decreased the chances of the Law and Justice party to win the 9 October elections. Also, Kaczynski’s ultra-nationalist statements, denouncing Germany’s “imperialist politics” towards Poland and accusing the Silesians’ irredentist aspiration undermining his country’s independence, largely predetermined his failure. Along the way, he traditionally kept hard-line anti-Russian stance over the Smolensk tragedy claiming his brother’s life, among other political elite, and ensuing controversial Russian investigation of the case, which yielded him zero political dividends.
Nevertheless, the blog left me concerned about the feebleness of some arguments provided, which are in an obvious need of further evidence or plea for better marshalling. Now, I will bring only two of them to the readers’ attention.
Will Poland keep enlargement alive ?
Poland acts as a guardian angel of its self-initiated project of May 2009 – the Eastern Partnership – and thereafter, has been vigorously striving to make it a top item of the EU’s foreign policy agenda. However, with a sole exception of Germany, all leading EU member-states have committed scanty enthusiasm to deepen relationship with their eastern neighbors. Accordingly and quite understandably, the recent EU summit in Warsaw fell short to achieve tangible results on the Belarusian issue. Ukraine, Moldova and all South Caucasian states unanimously stepped off to join the declaration aiming to impose more restrictive measures on Belarus’ pariah president. Concurrently, the Yulia Timoshenko case strained a relationship with another neighbor, Ukraine, resulting in a cancellation of the EU–Ukrainian Summit scheduled on October 20th.
It is noteworthy to remember, that Poland also failed trying to include a membership perspective in the Eastern Partnership EaP at its initiation process, which substantially downgraded attractiveness and future effectiveness of this project. Cautiously, but stubbornly Poland still raises an issue of absence of membership opportunity on various EU forums to give a second birth to the EaP, but other member-states constantly turn their deaf ears to the plea.
If Poland cannot achieve success during its EU presidency, it is hard to foresee a breakthrough in the EaP in coming years. This in turn is likely to increase frustration among EaP participating states and prompt them to seek alternative by reverting – for example to the Russian orbit (Russia’s Prime Minister and soon-to-be (again) president, Vladimir Putin, recently voiced his ambitious plan to create the EU-like free trade zone in the space of former Soviet Union).
Surely, integration process eastward will not be fully extinguished. However, obviously enough, its pace will fall far behind from the pre-2004 expansion level. More important, Poland will likely contribute its intra-EU and outside diplomatic clout and will waste energy only to keep the EaP alive and revitalized, at least to save own political prestige. It should hope that the EU economic peril as well as the Arab revolutionary storm will blow off sooner than later and the other member-states will finally spare a warranted attention to care more about its eastern neighborhood. And, this is where my position defers from David Grodzki’s, who states, “Poland will play a crucial role to ensure that the EU will continue to grow” – an overly optimistic forecast to me.
Continued support for common currency and closer ties with EU ?
Apart from the Katzynski’s irrational pre-election campaign, a tremendous role in Donald Tusk’s victory played his government’s splendid economic policy outshining all the EU member states by keeping annual 4% economic growth.
Economists argue one of the key reasons why Poland averted severe global recession is that it does not belong to the euro zone, thus has not been inflicted by the long-standing external economic-financial turbulence from default-prone countries like Greece. For this reason, against the background of the euro zone crisis the Polish newly elected government will likely be forced to slow down deeper integration process within the EU and delay Euro adoption, slated for 2015, for long. Besides, recent public opinion polls also demonstrated reticence and lukewarm attitude of the polish citizens towards a planned replacement of the Zloty and possible vulnerabilities emanating from that change.
At the same moment, the Zloty is also devoid of stability and undergoes fluctuating high inflation. The top economists of the Tusk’s government are under increasing pressure to develop such an effective monetary policy, which will ensure the continuation of the country’s economic growth. Quite a daunting task to fulfill! The mounting challenges implying to consider any measurements to balance the inflation should not impact the consumer basket, which will inevitably lead to the immediate down-rush of population’s support to the government, makes the task even harder!
While making prognoses on the economic development trends in 2012, Andrzej Bratkowski, member of the Polish Monetary Policy Council, evinced Poland’s cautious reflection on Euro-adoption as quoted in the Guardian: “So I expect a gradual, though not too strong strengthening of the zloty (…) though, taking into account that the euro zone is under great pressure, we cannot rule out moves in the opposite direction”.
Given all this, it does not appear feasible and reinforces my view that drastic changes should not be expected in the context of the EU–Polish relationships after the elections.
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