Commentary V4

Opinion: Von der Leyen may be an asset to Poland

Despite not being partial to the changes in the judiciary introduced by Law and Justice, Ursula von der Leyen may be an asset to the Polish government, writes Michał Szułdrzyński.

Writing for Rzeczpospolita, Michał Szułdrzyński explains why stopping Frans Timmermans was a fight about the future of the EU.

The greatest risk according to the Polish delegation was the candidacy of Frans Timmermans for the position of the President of the European Council. Paradoxically, this opposition was not due to the issue of rule of law, since the supported by Poland Leyen is not an enthusiast of the changes to the judiciary introduced by PiS and has publicly supported the opposition.

This was more about the future of the European Union. The Poles decided that Timmermans’ vision of the EU was not compatible with Polish interests. Timmermans turned the issue of rule of law and combating both real and imagined populism and supporters of illiberal democracy, into a tool for political warfare. Polish diplomats decided that Poland is not the target here, but Hungary who are a part of the European Christian Democrat faction. 

They decided that Poland is only the appetizer in the ideological strike at European conservatives from different factions, by using the EC. This is why PM Morawiecki did everything in his power to stop Timmermans’ nomination.

The choice of von der Leyen has a few assets for PiS. Her vision of Europe is much more important than her opinions concerning the rule of law in Poland. The German politician is closer to Poland (both PiS and PO) than to the Dutch socialists. When it comes to the future of the Single European Market, security policies, NATO cooperation and approach to Russia are in Warsaw’s favor.

By supporting her, Morawiecki invested in good relations with the new President of the EC, which would’ve been impossible in the case of Timmermans. This also allows for a new dynamic in relations with Germany.

Angela Merkel’s party is starting to realize that PiS will most likely still be in power after the Fall elections, so even though they disagree with Kaczyński or Morawiecki on many issues, they decided that it’s worth opening new lines of contact with their largest Eastern neighbor.

Morawiecki’s investment in relations with von der Leyen is a kind of restart in relations with Germany.

The PM also strengthened his position in the eyes of Kaczyński. Some claimed that the PiS leader had no need for Morawiecki after the EP elections, but Kaczyński has just received a strong argument, that on the international arena the investment in the PM was worthwhile. 

Given the role the EU plays in the minds of Poles, a PM who is a shrewd negotiator is a great resource.

PiS’ situation in the EU is not ideal right now, however, as their faction had been omitted in the distribution of the most important positions. No one from the new EU leaders comes from our region, which is another problem. Tusk’s successor, Belgian PM Charles Michel or the head of EU diplomacy Joseph Borell are PiS’ political opposites.


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