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“Federal Europe against the Europe of Nations”

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“Federal Europe against the Europe of Nations”

In recent days Poland has seen approx half a million people take to the streets in Warsaw for a demonstration “in defense of freedom and democracy”. Behind the protests for a rule that specifically targets the executive’s main opponent, Donald Tuskhides a divided country between national populism and the European vocation, and an opposition front to be reunited in view of the parliamentary elections next autumn. We talk about it with the prof. Daniel StasiProfessor of History of Political Thought at the University of Foggia.

EC: Let’s start with the current situation: why did half a million Polish citizens contest the government and the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party on 4 June in Warsaw?

DS: On June 4, 1989, the union Solidarity he won the hearts and a large part of the electorate of Poland which was freeing itself from the communist yoke. Many years later, to commemorate this event, demonstrations once again took place in favor of freedom and democracy. In the days preceding the incumbent government, the majority who support it and the President of the Republic declared themselves in favor of a law providing for penalties of an administrative nature, and not only, for those who have established collaborative relations with Russia over the past 15 years. The identikit of this law is very clear: to hit Donald Tuskformer President of the European Council and former Polish Prime Minister, who at this moment represents the truth obstacle to a possible reconquest of power by the national-populist majority in the next autumn elections. So an ad personam law, liberticidal, which has nothing to do either with the western legal tradition, or even with the thirty years of democracy that Poland built with great effort after the end of communism. The demonstrations of the other day recalled the extraordinary victory of June 4, 1989 and the beginning of the end of communism in the countries of the East, in the socialist countries, but they were also an opportunity to demonstrate against a liberticidal law and which shifts the legal center of gravity of the Polish state towards a clearly authoritarian system.

EC: Going into detail: why do you define it as a freedom killer? What are the characteristics of this law?

DS: It’s about a norm that is already vague in its structure. It is said that those who have collaborated with Russia over the past 15 years must be sanctioned. You understand well: what does it mean to collaborate? For example, go there for a study trip? Does it mean, for example, giving an interview in favor of this or that authority? It is a very ambiguous rule and one that has been precisely defined “lex Tusk”, that is, it aims to hit the person who will probably be able to consolidate the opposition and encourage a change in government. Liberticidal because individual rights are compressed and it’s done a political use of justice which really seems like a trace of the past, the communist and Stalinist past that used the judicial authority to hit dissidents and opponents. All of this has nothing to do with the rule of law, but not only because I say so, authoritative, highly authoritative constitutional lawyers of every political orientation also say so.
To this law they declared themselves the two Polish Nobel Prize winners are also against itthe only two Nobel Prize winners in Poland: Lech Walesa1983 Nobel Peace Prize e Olga Tokarczuk for literature. But a large part of civil society, especially in the big cities, is aligned against this last provision which is increasingly distancing Poland from the furrow of European liberal democracy.

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EC: You spoke of Tusk and therefore of the possibility that this law is precisely ad personam against him, to invalidate his candidacy. In this sense, which parties oppose Kaczyński’s party? Is there a possibility of an alliance in view of the elections?

DS: The question is very punctual: in the sense that the real problem is this, whether Tusk or others will have the ability to compact this broad front very variegated internally opposed at least on paper to the national populist government of Law and Justice. These are very varied forces, mainly of post-political inspiration, now detached from the great ideological narratives of the past, in which, for example, the left has a completely marginal role in favor of other electoral cartels centered on this or that leader of liberal inspiration and above all of the centre-right. These forces, alongside the old “peasants’ party”, as it is also defined in Italy, i.e. the People’s Party, the oldest existing party in Poland which is represented in Parliament, should come together to form a common front. But all of this is still on paper: there is no concrete initiative either of a programmatic type or of a more broadly political type which seems to go in this direction.

EC: How does the government party stand in front of the competition?

DS: Right now Law and Justice flies in the polls. I recently returned from Poland and a couple of weeks ago I heard on television the real head of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynskiproclaim the 800 zlotys given for each child, about €200 for each child, with an increase of 300 zlotys, which in rural Poland is a lot of money, to be clear; and especially the fourteenth. This redistribution of resources makes the state undue and increases inflation which is now around 20% in Poland, however has repercussions on the political level that should not be underestimated. The real hard core of Law and Justice which is found in the countrysidein what we can define the wide universe of the ‘disadvantaged’ of the transformation of the liberal type, in the years of anti-immigrant campaigns. The ‘disadvantaged’ look to this government as a hope. And the Law and Justice party today is firmly the first party and detaches the second, Tusk’s party, by at least nine points.

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EC: Returning to European issues, in 2015 the Commission accused the Polish government of violating article 7 of the TEU. Why? How did the dispute unfold?

DS: The story of arm wrestling between the’European Union and the national-populist majority since 2015 – and therefore from the first election of the current President of the Republic Andrzej Duda up to the present day, it is a story that is studded with continuous ‘stop and go’, one could say: because on the one hand the Poles claim their belonging to the European tradition for having publicly joined the European Union as a political project; on the other hand they have always emphasized their sovereignty. In other words, two visions are colliding in Europe right now: the one that should be the road toFederal Europe and the one, at this moment I would say almost majority, which instead sees Europe as a clearing house for the various nation states or in any case theEurope of nations. And therefore not a sovereign institution but an institution parallel to what sovereign states are. From this point of view, the majority of the Polish Government has continued to move, claiming its own peculiarities from a legal and political point of view, all centered on the primacy of national law over individual law.

EC: What does it mean?

DS: It means that the nation to exist must compress and limit individual rights to defend national unity. If we talk about abortion, as it is happening and as it probably will happen in Poland, it is done on the basis of an idea of ​​national identity of a clerical and nationalist type. On the other hand, as regards i relationship between executive power and judiciarythe main object of the dispute with the EU, i.e. the institution that puts the work of magistrates under control and which is in the hands of Justice Minister Ziobro, representative of the most radical wing of the Law and Justice government, means in other words, alter the liberal-type balance of power based on the majority that would represent the nation and therefore the right of the nation which must once again prevail over Western-type institutional models.

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EC How does the Polish government stand towards the EU today?

The current government has an ideological battle at its heart, ie redefine the profile of the EU. In this moment it is heir to the traditions of the past, from a historical point of view it was born on the ashes of nationalisms and its founding myth is probably the Shoah. Since September 2019 we have known that totalitarianisms in the European Parliament have been equalized, therefore Nazism and communism are equal, but above all it means that the real victim of the totalitarianisms of the 1900s is Poland, which here too claims an important role both in the EU and in terms of sanctions against Germany. The positions taken even recently by the Polish government are known, asking for reparations for the crimes of the Second World War and for Hitler’s invasion of ’39 and so on. As can be seen, everything is held from an ideological point of view and it must be said that this government among the thousand defects that can be highlighted and which range from slips above all on thePegasus case, or rather having put some political figures and magistrates under control with an apparatus bought by the Israeli secret services, for which a scandal occurred a few months ago, still keeps the bar straight. The straight bar is the one that sees a nationalist government, genuinely and consistently nationalist, to fight on several fronts. The war naturally turned the tables and gave greater political, geopolitical and even economic weight, I would say, to Poland which today is one of the most important states in Europe.

Daniele Stasi is full professor of the history of political thought at the University of Foggia. He lived many years in Poland, where he worked in different universities. He was recently a visiting professor at the University of Warsaw. He deals with nationalisms and 19th/20th century policies


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