Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Germany on Monday to deliver a lecture at Heidelberg University titled “Europe at a historic turning point” in which he addressed his vision of a future Europe and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
He told attendees that Poland wanted to build a strong Europe but conceded the system of decision-making within the EU was increasingly less transparent.
This is why he argued there is a need to create a “Europe that was built on the strength of its nation-states, not a Europe built on their demise,” and claimed the strength of the European economy and culture is derived from its roots that are nurtured by the nation-states. The alternative to this is some form of “technocratic utopia” or “neo-imperialism,” Morawiecki warned, adding that the struggle for the freedom of nation-states did not end in 1989 “which is evidenced by what is happening beyond Poland’s eastern border.”
Morawiecki said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had fallen prey to believing in his own version of the world and had failed to acknowledge that Ukrainians are a nation and that they have their own nation-state, “maybe one that is weak but one they are prepared to give their lives for.”
The Polish prime minister reminded his audience of the “Russian propaganda’s assertion that there is no separate Ukrainian nation.” This led to Putin’s denial of Ukrainians’ right to their national self-identity.
Morawiecki stated his belief that “Ukrainians are today reminding us what Europe should be — a continent of free peoples and free nations” with every European being guaranteed their personal freedom and security and every nation given the right of self-determination on its territory. He warned that “today Ukrainians are not fighting just for their own freedom” but are fighting on behalf of the whole of Europe. He asserted that the fate of this war will determine Europe’s future.
“A defeat for Ukraine will be a disaster for the West, far more so than Vietnam was.” A defeat would mean that Russia would go further and make the world a more dangerous place, and “a defeat for the free world can only embolden Putin like appeasement emboldened Adolf Hitler” he added.
The Polish prime minister also raised the matter of German war reparations, reminding his audience that Poland today is still suffering from what happened during World War II when it lost its independence, freedom, and 5 million of its citizens. Polish cities were destroyed, and after the war the country could not develop because of the imposition of communist rule. He said he did not want the issue to dominate the lecture he was giving, but the fact that Poland did not receive any reparations from Germany for the crimes of World War II has made the full reconciliation between the two nations much harder. He believed that with Europe at a “turning point,” reconciliation was more important than ever to enable Europe to face the enormous challenges before it in unison.