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“I do not see the risk”

Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of Poland, explains why concerns about reforms in Poland are ungrounded

Körber-Stiftung: Prime Minister Morawiecki, why do the Poles have a more favourable view of the EU than all other EU citizens?

Morawiecki: Poland was part of the Soviet sphere of influence, but Europe was our promised land. Therefore, we wanted to be a part of the European Union. Many Poles migrated to Western Europe during the darkest days of communism, which has left scars.

Körber-Stiftung: Does the past nourish the Poles’ pro-European attitudes more than the present?

Morawiecki: Both play a significant role. We are a part of Europe and we have always felt a part of it.

Körber-Stiftung: Why, of all member states, is Poland then the first-ever country to face an infringement procedure under Article 7 of the Treaty of the EU?

Morawiecki: These are two different aspects. Europe is the symbol of our aspirations, but at the same time, we have to rebuild the post-communist society. We never underwent a deep vetting process of our judiciary system 1990, as happened in Germany for example. Berlin kept after very few of its judges and prosecutors. In Poland, the communist apparatchiks remained in charge for many years, and this should have been changed a long time ago. This is why I believe we will manage to explain to the European Commission that our reforms will not make our judicial system less independent or less objective.

Körber-Stiftung: Is the infringement procedure merely a misunderstanding between Poland and the EU Commission about the importance of Article 2?

Morawiecki: Fighting for democracy and freedom has been Poland’s motto for centuries. Therefore, we are aware of the importance of Article 2. Some people try to call our judicial reform a risk to the rule of law, but I do not see the risk. I am convinced that the reformed judiciary system will provide more justice, more objectivity, and more transparency.

Körber-Stiftung: Let us turn to the future of the EU. If the EU were pefect in 2030, what would it be like?

Morawiecki: The perfect EU would contain a fully implemented single market, where the freedom of movement applies not only to goods, people and capital, but also to services. There would be more convergence with respect to wealth and income across countries, and stronger cohesion. In other words, Central Europe would have caught up with Western Europe. And the perfect EU would be proud of a strong common defence system that is integrated into NATO.

Körber-Stiftung: In one sentence: deeper integration in economic governance and defence?

Morawiecki: Absolutely.

Körber-Stiftung: Which fields should be less integrated?

Morawiecki: There are no particular fields where we would like to see less integration, as long as there is no intrusion into necessary domestic reforms. Can EU officials from Brussels properly judge what is best for the Polish judiciary system? I would look forward to more integration in 70 % of the areas and less misunderstanding in 30 % of the areas by 2030.

Körber-Stiftung: In contrast, what is your dystopian vision for the EU?

Morawiecki: We still have a very dangerous Eastern neighbour. Russia is trying to disintegrate the EU by stirring uneasiness and anxieties in European societies. We must address this threat, for example by avoiding a divide of NATO. I would also be worried if we allowed a disintegration of the European single market, which has made our companies so much more efficient and effective. Finally, I am also concerned about a future with increasing misunderstandings between European societies. We should try to understand each other better, Germans and Poles, the French, the British. Lets’s learn from Brexit what can happen if citizens are not being heard.

Körber-Stiftung: Is the increasing East-West divide part of a European dystopia?

Morawiecki: It is not only between East and West. I notice more and more misunderstandings Between the North and the South. There is this very efficient German or Scandinavian model of the economy, which we try to emulate, while the economic outlook in Greece, Portugal or Spain is not as inspiring. There are different interest groups, and we have to be aware of them.

Körber-Stiftung: Would you approve if some EU countries were more closely integrated with each other than others?

Morawiecki: I’m not concerned by this Two-Speed-Europe vocabulary. There are so many different dimensions in which we need to work together. We need to find platforms for cooperation for each one of them. Poland, together with our European partners, for example managed to build PESCO. I would suggest looking towards the future, instead of focussing the discussion on things that divide us.

Körber-Stiftung: What do you expect from Germany in order to realise your vision of the EU?

Morawiecki: I would envision that Germany thinks more about how to align development in the CEE countries with Western European levels. Secondly, I would expect Germany to take a leading role in solving the issue of global monopolies and tax havens. Tax havens can be challenged if strong countries, such as France and Germany, back the efforts. If we do not act, European societies will continuously be deprived of funds, which they deserve.

Körber-Stiftung: Are there aspects of German policy that contribute to a negative trajectory for the EU’s future?

Morawiecki: I think Germany plays a very positive role in terms of fiscal and financial discipline as well as the proliferation of policies that spread economic development evenly across various sectors. This should be continued and enhanced in the future.

The interview was conducted in February 2018.

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