Polish Toledo

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Saturday, June 04, 2016

Signs of Exit?

Very soon the citizens of the United Kingdom go to the polls to determine if they stay in the EU. Many predict if the Brexit succeeds, it will engender a domino effect all across Europe, as many more countries will begin voting on whether to stay in the EU, or leave. The dynamics at play are reminiscent of Solidarność when the defiant actions of Poles influenced people in other Eastern Block countries to follow their lead in throwing off the shackles of communism.

Second thoughts about membership

If the Brits leave, Poland is the next likely candidate to consider extracting itself from the Union that is a failed,  corrupt, ill conceived, and badly managed mendacious / unaccountable disaster.

Here's the hint of a Polxit: When Poland’s new Prime Minister Beata Szydlo member of Eurosceptic PiS [Law & Justice Party] swept to an election victory last year, one of the first things was removal of the blue European Union flag from the backdrop of her news conferences, leaving only the red and white Polish flag. Moreover, burning of EU flags has become more common at demonstrations in Poland and anti-EU sentiments are stoked by memories of historic foreign intervention by its neighbors.

Now, the mandate proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for EU members, including Poland, to accept Muslim migrants has galvanized support for Szydlo’s Law and Justice Party’s pledge to defy the quotas.

Friendly and grateful refugees

George Byczynski, head of the British Poles Initiative, a Polish civic group in London said, "At the beginning, there were a lot of voices in Poland in favor of taking refugees from the Middle East”.  But the threat of financial penalties for not doing so changed those attitudes and Poles
suddenly started feeling this is again an authoritarian approach in detrimental to national sovereignty and self determination.

Andriy Korniychuk, an analyst at the Institute of Public Affairs, a research organization in Warsaw, says anti-migrant sentiments helped bring Szydlo to power, and he says the anti-EU wave is showing no signs of slowing.

The Eurosceptic movement is growing according to recent polls, but has not yet reached the level the Brexit campaign has in Britain. The arguments in Poland to leave the EU are more symbolic in regard to the protection of sovereignty than anything else. Pragmatic Poles know Poland is a poster child of European integration due to its being the largest beneficiary of EU aid. The economic benefits may be the main reason the movement has not led to any concrete, significant action for a Polish exit.

But, another variable is at play. The EU has been extremely critical of changes made by the PiS government affecting state run media and the Constitutional Court. The EU made an  unprecedented warning on June 2 to the country’s right-wing government to respect the rule of law, or face punitive measures. The EU  formally warned Poland that it should find a solution to roll back Warsaw’s overhaul of the top Polish court, which critics say endangers its independence. Brussels’ warning is part of a drawn-out procedure which could eventually see Warsaw have its voting rights suspended in the European Council of Ministers, the EU’s most important decision-making body.

Sanctions imposed against Poland could have a pronounced affect that would accelerate Poles to consider getting out from under the thumb of Brussels as it did Moscow 27 years earlier. However, this time there is the cost of ending billions in financial aid.


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