Neither "Euroenthusiasm" nor "Euroscepticism" but "Eurorealism"
Professor Paruch explains that the basic feature of PiS's vision of Polish foreign policy is Eurorealism, as opposed to Euroscepticism and Euroenthusiasm. "Euro-enthusiasm and Euro-scepticism have become dogmatic positions, and the representatives of these viewpoints have failed to reach compromises or even to modify their opinions on the basis of international trends and the situation in Europe in particular." - explains.
Professor Paruch emphasizes that from the point of view of the Law and Justice party, the division into skeptics and enthusiasts is wrong.
For enthusiasts, the EU has gradually become a priority over the state, which has the right to limit the sovereignty of member states and even interfere in their internal politics. For Euro-enthusiasts (mainly liberals, progressives), the EU is seen not as an international organization but rather as a "super-state" type entity.
The inhabitants of this superstate are supposed to represent a supranational (or rather post-national) society. The proponents of this tendency expect that at the end of this constructivist experiment there will be a European federation - a superstate built on the ruins of European nations.
For PiS "it is a falsification and distortion of European reality, dominated by nations and states representing them, with their own political identity shaped by a historical process [...] There are no Europeans. Our continent is inhabited by different peoples, and the common characteristics that we owe to Christianity are not enough to create a European demos".
For President Lech Kaczyński the lack of this demos meant both the lack of European identity and European public opinion. In a January 2006 interview with PAP, the late president stressed that ".Europeans tend to define themselves as Poles, Germans, French, Danes, and so on. [...]". From Lech Kaczyński's point of view, the cementing element of the EU is "solidarity among member states around common interests".
Professor Paruch points out that most theories on integration originate from liberal thought. "The following elements are rooted in liberalism: (neo)functionalism, communication theory, international approach, institutionalism and multi-level governance. It is for liberals that the EU has become an object of scholarly analysis and prognosis, as well as an argument that international relations have undergone fundamental changes of a historical nature. But for realists, the EU is just one international organization to be analyzed on the basis of our knowledge of international relations, foreign policy, and the state. "
A political scientist from Lublin puts forward the theory that skeptics also overinterpret the political role of the EU, seeing it as "a threat to the Polish nation and state from an identity, mental, civilisational, cultural, social and economic point of view."
For skeptics, the European Union is a negation of European integration, so - in their opinion - Poland should act outside this Union, which harms national interests, attacks Christian values and threatens democracy, sometimes even resembling the USSR.
At the 2019 PiS public meeting, MP Konrad Szymanski highlighted what he interprets as two forms of populism: one anti-European, the other Euro-enthusiastic. According to him "the former flourishes through nationalist slogans, the latter in the name of the EU [...]".
Waldemar Paruch confirms that PiS's choice of a Eurorealist orientation, like its attitude to NATO, is "deeply ideological". He goes on to explain that a feature of Eurorealism is "widespread acceptance of integration, but with important caveats:
1) Towards some tendency to create a transnational public space;
2) towards a gradual transfer of important competences from the Member States to the European institutions;
3) towards the gradual creation of first a superstate then a European federation and a European nation as a social base;
4) to the procedures and negotiations inherent in the political system of the European Union, which replace the values on which the Community should be based. "
For Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński EU (or NATO) membership alone should not be seen as a success. According to him, what really matters is the attitude of the government within these organizations. Even before Poland's accession to the EU in 2004, Jaroslaw Kaczynski argued that a sine qua non condition of his country's membership should be the certainty that its sovereignty will be preserved.
Waldemar Paruch explains that for PiS, joining the EU was both a historical necessity and a pragmatic choice. PiS leaders believed that refusing to join the EU would condemn Poland to remain in Moscow's orbit. In 2002, Jaroslaw Kaczynski summed up this situation by saying that Poland simply "she had no choice".
Four years later, however, his twin brother Lech was to explain his party's approach to EU membership. "[...] I am for the European Union. To claim that I am one against the Union is a misunderstanding." He will also stress that, in his opinion, Poland's entry into the EU is "huge success“.
The democratic deficit of EU institutions
According to the Law and Justice party leadership, state sovereignty remains one of the most important factors determining Poland's position in the European game. This is why, as early as in 2002, PiS formulated a postulate to amend the Polish constitution in order to guarantee the superiority of Polish constitutional rights over EU treaty rights, thus following the example of Germany. The key words of PiS's European policy vision are sovereignty, solidarity and freedom.
Professor Waldemar Paruch mentions in his book, detailing the political thought of the Kaczynski brothers, that with the idea of joining the EU "demanded respect for two principles:
- all treaty decisions transferring state powers to the EU should be approved by referendum;
- The Constitutional Tribunal must have the right to assess the compatibility of EU treaties with the Polish Constitution".
As Waldemar Paruch points out in his book, the critical attitude of the Law and Justice leadership towards European institutions is not new. In 2005, the Kaczynski brothers published a document entitled "The European Union. Catholic Poland in a Christian Europe, in which they demanded "the inclusion of a reference to God and Europe's Christian heritage in the European Constitution".
Professor Paruch reminds us that this document (published shortly before the Law and Justice party's victory in the parliamentary elections of 2005) contains harsh criticism of the EU. From a passage in the text we learn that in some extreme cases "The EU supports degeneration, moral pathologies and even crimes considered as an expression of human freedom and a symbol of open society". Waldemar Paruch then stresses that such attacks will no longer be found in future PiS programs, especially in 2014-2019.
Later in the book he takes up a statement by the distinguished Professor Krzysztof Szczerski, former close advisor to President Andrzej Duda, on European institutions. "The European institutions [...] cannot in themselves be the basis of their own authority [...] On the basis of the Treaties, only the Member States can confer competences, because they are the ones with the competences in terms of competences". In other words, the EU institutions are seen as tools created to help member states and work for the common good. "
The day after PiS won the parliamentary elections in autumn 2015, relations between Brussels and Warsaw suddenly cooled. From the perspective of the conservative Polish government, the left-liberal Eurocrats are to blame for this state of affairs.
To this day, PiS criticizes EU institutions for what Waldemar Paruch formulates as "politically motivated interference in the internal political affairs of member states". That is why Polish leaders demand that EU institutions stop expanding the scope of competences and stick to what is written in the Lisbon Treaty in this area in the spirit of respecting the principle of subsidiarity.
In addition, several Law and Justice personalities, including MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, highlight "double standards" practiced against Poland in the context of justice reforms. Indeed, recent reforms of the Polish judiciary have placed Warsaw on the target of the EU mainstream, despite the fact that the new legislation in this area looks very similar to what we find in several Western European countries (especially Germany and Spain).
Waldemar Paruch then cites criticism of the European Parliament by Law and Justice leaders. Former Speaker of the Sejm Marek Kuchciński said in 2016 that the model of European parliamentarism "has design flaws and performs poorly".
As a solution to these problems Marek Kuchciński proposed strengthening the role of national parliaments as - according to him - the only guarantors of the proper functioning of the EU. Marek Kuchciński recommended turning to national parliaments for two main reasons. Firstly, because of their "strong democratic legitimacy". Second, they constitute "a platform for communication between the EU and citizens".
Of the three main institutions of the EU (Parliament, Commission and Council), the European Council is considered the most legitimate because it is composed of heads of state and government.
The aforementioned elements concerning Jarosław Kaczyński's party's criticism of European institutions are obviously not exhaustive. However, they may provide some clues explaining the fact that PiS is among the conservatives and reformers in the European Parliament. As mentioned above, the leaders of PiS harshly criticize the functioning of the EU not in order to destroy it from within, but in the hope of improving its functioning.
Political pragmatism: "doomed to compete"
Political scientist Waldemar Paruch points out the axiological vacuum observed by PiS around the issue of NATO and EU membership. This brings to mind the words of writer Bronislaw Wildstein that "The intellectual atmosphere surrounding NATO and EU membership, while beneficial to our country, was to be the last act of our history".
But Waldemar Paruch reminds that from the point of view of PiS, Poland's membership in these two organizations was an opportunity to play a fruitful political game in the international arena, provided that this membership was used in a thoughtful, rational and pragmatic way.
In the context of international politics, the Lublin-based political scientist explains that PiS starts from the fundamental assumption that the world order is not constituted on the basis of international standards, but rather the balance of power between different states "historically doomed to compete with each other".
In the hope of victory, it is therefore necessary to strengthen Poland's political potential, especially from a comparative point of view with its neighbors. Also in the hope of remaining competitive, PiS has always been (very) critical of Poland joining the Eurozone.
In the same vein, this is the reason why PiS "attaches so much importance to certain factors that directly affect a state's potential, such as demography, military, economy, political system, education, culture, identity [...] Without the organization of these sectors, the state would not be able to play an important role in international competition within the EU [...].".
According to political scientist Joanna Sanecka-Tyczynska, PiS's Eurorealist stance is based on three assumptions. First, the raison d'etre of the state must take precedence over European integration. Second, the sovereignty of the member states takes precedence and is more important than the Union because it created the European community through a voluntary international agreement. Third, the nature of the Union is a fortiori conflictual, given the very nature of international relations.
Joanna Sanecka-Tyczynska, quoted by Waldemar Paruch, explains that one of the features of PiS's political thought is working out different scenarios (or variants) in international politics. She lists "six scenarios invented by Jaroslaw Kaczynski about the future of European integration:
- a return to economic integration
- the creation of a pan-European federation
- Multi-speed Union
- the subordination of the EU to German-Russian collaboration
- regional fragmentation of the european community
- EU solution. "
Each of these options requires a policy strategy tailored to future developments.
Professor Paruch continues his description of Eurorealism according to PiS, claiming that the party's leaders reject the integration/sovereignty dichotomy. For the Kaczynski brothers, joining the EU was supposed to strengthen Poland's sovereignty. According to this logic "anymore Europy" does not necessarily rhyme with "less Poland".
For PiS, joining the EU in 2004 was an obvious "for geopolitical, historical, civilizational and cultural reasons [...] PiS regarded the EU as an international organization composed of sovereign member states that voluntarily cooperate with each other [...] as an international environment in which various scenarios and variants can be implemented, largely dependent on the policy pursued by Warsaw".
Waldemar Paruch decries the fact that Law and Justice treats the EU as an instrument that Poland should use to advance its interests. This attitude implies a refusal to see the EU as a political entity, but rather as a platform for cooperation between sovereign, free and equal states. According to this vision, Poland was right to become a member of the EU because it entails benefits on the domestic (modernization) and foreign (leverage effect) levels.
To this end, closer regional cooperation between Central European countries was essential in the eyes of the Kaczynski brothers. "Central Europe is perceived by the Law and Justice party as a permanent geopolitical entity, existing independently of its international status, while the EU remains perceived as an entity corresponding to a certain epoch [...] Central Europe is considered to be a factor that strengthens Poland's position in the EU". According to this logic, Poland's potential alone is not sufficient to restore the balance of power with respect to the Berlin-Paris axis.
Waldemar Paruch explains that PiS "rationalized" Poland's attitude toward European integration. "Law and Justice sees European institutions as a platform on which states play a political game, competing to satisfy their selfish claims. In this context, the PiS leadership restores to politics its properly political dimension based on the polarization of ally-enemy [...]".
This dichotomy can be observed in the context of Warsaw's policy toward NATO.
NATO "makes the world a better place"
PiS's attitude towards NATO can be summed up in the words of former Polish President Lech Kaczynski based on a speech on March 13, 2009. "NATO makes the world a better place. It may not be a perfect organization, but the world would be worse without it".
As Waldemar Paruch points out, Poland's foreign policy vision differs from that of the Civic Platform, perceived by conservatives as an attitude "clientism" toward Moscow and Berlin.
Poland's accession to NATO in 1999 was seen by an overwhelming majority of Poles as an unqualified success. It allowed Poland to get out of the "grey zone" that had emerged in Central Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Already at the turn of the 20th century, the Kaczynski brothers insisted that NATO membership alone was not enough. Similar to their approach to the EU, PiS sees Poland's NATO membership not as an end in itself, but as a necessary first step leading to the stabilization of security in the Central and Eastern European region.
For Law and Justice, NATO is the most important form of multilateral cooperation at the political-military level and guarantees security and stability of the continent. Thus, the economic benefits of EU membership give way to military security, which is seen as the highest priority.
Professor Paruch explains that the key role of the United States in NATO is something understandable in the ranks of the Law and Justice party. From this point of view, the leadership of the United States is seen not as fatalism, but as a state of affairs to be cherished.
In its 2009 program, PiS presents three pillars to shape Poland's position on the international stage:
- NATO membership
- partnership with the United States, and
- close cooperation with independent states "located to the east of the European Union" - read Eastern Partnership countries, (excluding Russia and Belarus)
One question that illustrates PiS's attitude toward NATO is the installation of a missile shield that should officially protect the eastern part of NATO from a potential attack from Iran or North Korea. The installation of this missile shield was supposed to represent "guarantee for the polish-american strategic partnership".
NATO membership and the strengthening of Poland's position in the organization are seen by the Law and Justice party as milestones in Polish foreign policy.
Professor Paruch mentions in his work a multitude of initiatives taken by the highest personalities associated with this party (presidents, prime ministers, ministers of defense and foreign affairs, etc.) aimed at modernizing the army while increasing the military presence of NATO, particularly American troops, on Polish territory.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his supporters share the opinion that Polish history provides solid arguments in support of the thesis that peace and stability can never be guaranteed forever. Following this logic, one should therefore preemptively rely on the strategic leverage represented by NATO to deter a potential aggressor.
To this day, PiS remains the Polish party presenting the most pro-American line. According to the former Minister of National Defense Antoni Macierewicz, this is one of the reasons for the party's electoral success. According to him "Poles are looking for a sense of security, and the only party that clearly and decisively explains the importance of close cooperation with NATO, and therefore de facto with the United States, is PiS. [...] If there was a better opportunity, we could be interested. Meanwhile, our main strategic partner is the United States".
The friendly attitude of the Law and Justice party and its electorate towards the United States is combined with a sharp distrust of Russia. Poland's strong eastern neighbor has long been seen as a major threat to regional security and the territorial integrity of Central and Eastern European countries.
The Chechen war (2002), the conflict in Georgia (2008), the Smolensk catastrophe (2010) and its consequences, and the clashes in eastern Ukraine (since 2014) and the annexation of Crimea have reinforced Polish conservatives' concerns about the Kremlin. There is no doubt that the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine since February 2022 only accentuates this position.