Marek Kuchcinski for Mandiner: NATO's eastern flank must be strengthened

Russia is pursuing a kind of imperialist expansionist policy, and Putin's goal is to regain the splendor of the former Russian Empire," says Marek Kuchcinski. According to the politician of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, in another burning issue, the rule of law, the Court of Justice of the European Union gave an unjust verdict, and the rule of law mechanism will be a political tool in the hands of Brussels to regulate Hungary and Poland. The former Speaker of the Polish Sejm held talks in Budapest on Friday, after which we spoke with him. Our interview.

The EU can link compliance with rule of law standards to EU payments, the EU Court of Justice has ruled. What was your reaction when the verdict was announced?

We regretted the verdict, but we expected it. There were signals from Europe that they want to introduce a rule of law mechanism and they want to use this tool to take action against the governments of Hungary and Poland.

In his first reply, the spokesman for the Polish government pointed out that according to the ruling, EU payments can only be withheld if a member state harms the EU budget by violating the rule of law. This is not the case in Poland, so it would be illegal for Brussels to suspend subsidies.

This shows that this is the tool they want to use against our government. In the Polish legal system, the Polish Constitution is the most important source of law. We believe that the Court of Justice of the European Union acted unlawfully in this case because it exceeded its powers under the EU treaties.

This results in a kind of inequality in the perception of EU Member States, which is measured by double standards. Elements of the judicial reform introduced in Poland can be found in the Swedish, German or Spanish legal system, and the established legal institutions have been functioning in other member states for a long time. So if we are condemned for this, but they are not, it is an injustice, not only political, but also legal.

In the case of Poland, the European Commission had a problem with judicial reform, but the Court's ruling is about violations of the rule of law that threaten the EU budget. Will Polish judicial reform cause material damage to the EU? If not, it will be strange to pay out money from Poland on that basis....

In a way, the European Commission confuses the rule of law and the withdrawal of EU funds as a coherent issue. According to the Polish position, these two issues do not belong together and we would like to deal with this separately. Polish judicial reform does not fall into the category of issues defined by the EU court judgment,

But the mainstream in Brussels wants the rule of law mechanism and the withholding of funds to be managed together. The context is also important: two countries - Poland and Hungary - for which sovereignty is a core value have been assessed while the EU mainstream is working to transform the European Union into a federal political union. In this endeavor, Brussels is using this new legal instrument against these two countries.

According to Politico, the Polish government has not only signaled to Brussels, that it is willing to fine-tune its judicial system based on EU criticism. Is this true?

The final decision has not yet been made. We are willing to make some compromises, for example on the transformation of the Supreme Court. There may be compromises in some areas, but these are just plans, no concrete decisions have been made yet.

As the President mentioned, the most pressing legal (and political) problem is that EU bodies are gradually expanding their powers year by year beyond the basic treaties. After the European Commission and the European Parliament, the Court of Justice followed suit. What are the legal and political consequences of this?

Perhaps most dangerous in retrospect is the way in which the Court of Justice of the European Union has now moved beyond its own jurisdiction. It seems that the constitutional courts of the member states and the Court of Justice of the European Union want to exercise their powers beyond the powers set out in the treaties, or rather over the EU. I could mention two policy implications. One is that there are growing forces in the old member states, such as France, Germany and the Netherlands, that are unhappy with this type of decision. Secondly, the elections to the European Parliament in the member states are becoming less and less interesting for the voters. In Slovakia, for example, only a quarter of the electorate went to the polls in the last vote.

However, there are also positive signs, for example, realist factions in the European Parliament have started to work together and a larger European alliance can be formed. The political forces that comprise this may even be in government in some member states, and this could reduce the current destabilizing trend in Europe.

For us, the countries of Central Europe, the former communist bloc countries, the question of whether we can regain our sovereignty is very important. We cannot accept that once again we are instructed from the political center, as in the old system.

Another issue is the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The president posted a 2008 quote from Lech Kaczynski on his Facebook page: "Today Georgia, Tomorrow Ukraine, the day after tomorrow the Baltic States, and finally it could be our country, Poland." Why would Russia attack NATO members?

Lech Kaczynski issued this warning in Tbilisi on August 13, 2008, and it still stands. Putin's Russia is pursuing a policy aimed at regaining the glory of the old Russian Empire. This is evidenced not only by the occupation of parts of Ukraine or the occupation of the Transnistria region, but also by demands to restore NATO's military infrastructure to 1997 levels. This can only be interpreted as Moscow's request to withdraw NATO troops from the territories of the countries that joined the EU after 1997, Hungary, Poland, the Baltic States and others. Russia is pursuing a kind of imperialist expansionist policy and wants to regain influence in these countries.

Poland is a member of NATO. If Russia attacked, it would go to war with all member states, including the United States. Why would that be in her interest?

Article 5 of the Founding Treaty of the North Atlantic Alliance does indeed state the principle of collective defense, but if we had a weak military that was incapable of self-defense or listening to Russian deception, the country might not defend itself. It is true that the United States understands this situation and is strengthening NATO's eastern flank. This needs to be reaffirmed. Every country in the region needs a strong army because it can act as a deterrent against the Russians.

 Would it be wise to allow Ukraine into NATO? The conflict was sparked by this eventuality.

We believe that Ukraine is a sovereign state and that every sovereign state has an undeniable right to decide for itself what kind of alliance it will join. The leadership of NATO has a similar vision - when the then leadership of the organization said in 1992 that the way was open for us, we took it as an invitation. Ukraine has revised its position: Russia attacked and annexed Crimea in 2014.

In the current situation, Kiev sees no choice but to join the Western military alliance.

The Hungarian position towards Russia has been for years that we are members of the EU and NATO, but we have good relations with Moscow, especially economically. The Ukrainian president said a few days ago that there are EU countries that are in collusion with Russia. How do Poles see the Hungarian-Russian rapprochement that has been going on for several years?

First of all, I don't see Hungary or even Poland having such a role to play in the decision on Ukraine's NATO membership. The influence of the Germans and the French is most decisive in this matter and it is well known that they are not optimistic either. In the conflict in Ukraine, it is clear that Hungary and Poland have a different approach to the issue, and we also have a different approach to the issue of Russian relations. Hungary has started to build foreign trade relations in the east and south. It should also be taken into account that Hungary is a natural defender, located behind the walls of the Carpathian Mountains. The large mountains provide good protection from the east for Hungarian territories. Poland is in a different military geographic position, and if you look at our history, you can see that the Polish state has been in conflict with Russia for hundreds of years. And this dividing line also appears in today's politics. An independent Ukraine is a guarantee for us that Russia will not rebuild its imperial aspirations. We also have historical differences with Ukraine. This is a typical situation in Central Europe, but we must find ways to work with it. We are united by a common vision of our place in Europe.

Finally, does the Polish government understand the special situation in Hungary in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict? The Hungarian minority lives in Transcarpathia, and due to the restrictions imposed on them, it is in Hungary's interest to convince Ukraine to establish Western standards. Blocking their EU and NATO membership is a political tool and not much more in the hands of the Hungarian government.

Poland understands this and it is no wonder that this is Hungary's attitude. We assume that the basic task of every state is to ensure the security of its citizens and support its compatriots living abroad. The Polish minority in Ukraine and Belarus is in a very similar situation as the Hungarians in Transcarpathia. Therefore, it is a great challenge for our countries: on the one hand, to effectively represent the interests of our country and, on the other hand, to establish good relations with the neighbouring countries.

Photo: David Mátrai

original text: NATO's eastern flank must be strengthened, chairman of the Polish foreign affairs committee | Pillow (



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