Monday, 27 July 2009

Poland is growing

My 'study' trip to my home town - Gliwice brings everyday something new. The most important message is that the crisis has not struck as hard as in other countries. The GDP in the second quarter of 2009 should still remain positive (around 0.8).

This is probably thanks to still strong consumption (might still go down) and huge public investments sponsored mainly from the EU funds. If somebody wants to have a look at the plans of north-south highway linking Czech Republic with Gdansk you can go to (beautiful visualisation of the Silesian part of it). There are many new roads being built. I have witnessed it during the weekend in the Czech mountains (Pradzied). And no queue on the borders.... you travel like this was a ... Central Europe :)

There is also some movement in the national politics. Pawel Piskorski, once a founder and leader of the ruling Platforma Obywatelska and a former MEP is trying to challenge the existing establishment by building a new centre-left political on the ashes of the historical Stronnictwo Demokratyczne. His chances of success are still limited but still he pushes Platforma to react on the ideological issues. They managed to engage another former leader of Platforma, Andrzej Olechowski (who secured 17% of votes in the 2000 presidential elections) who will most probably stand again next year. Who knows, how sucessful he might be? I would bet he will make it to the socond round with Donald Tusk. This would make a very interesting discussion.

Last but not least, the regional and municipal elections are scheduled for spring 2010 (before the presidential ones in automn). This makes it an interesting time for those that fancy campaings and political debates. Magda, shall you stand for a post in the municipal council of the city of LODZ? You have fervent supporters not only in Brussels :).

So now it is time for Krakow, my life trampoline. During the almost 10 years that I had spent there I have developed a kind of love-hate relation. Now it is time to visit old friends and places again. It is always tough to visit places that accompanied you during good/bad times. I feel uneasy about this trip... Probably Krakow has already forgotten about me. I have cheated it with Brussels, so no lover forgets this :) Still I will go to say him hello....

I just can't help it.... on holidays but thinking of Europe :)

I think that I should start seeing my interest in Europe as an obsession. I went on holidays to my home country and am reading articles in Euractiv and Euobserver. I am thinking more and more that it is time for me to engage in the large scale debate on Europe.

I have been thinking a lot about the issue of enlargement and 2 big chunks on the way to be swallowed by the EU: Turkey and Ukraine. The more I look at these 2 countries, the more I have an impression that EU is just not ready to 'eat' them. Instead we should start thinking about putting them as strategic partners:
1) Ukraine should be our mean of transforming Russia into what it can be (a democratic, non imperialist country respecting its citizens)
2) Turkey should be our vehicle for change in the Muslim word. Turkey is actually a Muslim country with a European soul.

I go to Lviv, one of the historic towns of Ukraine next week. I have read a lot about its Polish/Ukrainian/Jewish/German/Armenian history. Am looking forward to discover how things look on place. Will write about it upon my return. But the most startling was that Ukrainian nationalism was a reaction to Polish nationalism in the late XIXth century. Nationalism seen as a European religion is really a new perspective.

I become a fun of Przeglad Polityczny. This is a periodic published by the group of Liberals from Gdansk (the friends of the current of Polish Prime Minister). They really write good stuff about the contemporary political discussions. I feel that my crazy idea to draft a common narrative for Europe is getting new insights from them. Now we have a new term for the EU polity - civitas. I will write more on this when it becomes more clear in my mind. Just a teaser: instead of talking about federation, state or union - which make us think the states of the XXth century we need to find a new expression to capture it. And CIVITAS seems for me to capture it :).

I need to read the ruling of the German Constitutional Court on the Lisbon Treaty. I think that this is a major piece showing the limited legitimisation of the European Parliament. EP will have to really take it into account. And this will give rise to the meaning of Convention as a Treaty reform stage. No matter if Lisbon fails or not... we will see a new Convention very soon. I hope this time we shall make it right.

And last piece: UK. This country is going through breathtaking political change which will influence the whole EU. I think that the year before Conservatives win the next elections will be crucial for establishing their position on major world issues. If they decide to go by EU, this will be a painful experience of lost influence. UK now, after the financial crisis is much closer to make strategic decisions about its internal rules. I expect a lot of changes in the coming years. And ultimately UK should make a clear choice if it remains an island by the EU or is part of this political project.

Have good holidays. Break from work does not mean break from thinking. :)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

European Politics versus holidays

I have not written for a while but am following closely the recent events on the European stage. I am happy about the choice of Jerzy Buzek. Suddenly all the foreigners get interested in Poland... It is funny how power attracts and raises interests.

There is a lot of speculation about Barroso. I must say I like this speculation. I have nothing personal with this guy but somehow he has not convinced me so far. I do not want to join all those who say he did not do enough during the banking crisis. He was coping with an insitution which has doubled its membership within 3 years. But I think a fresh start would help.

It is a bit like with Buzek. He was the Prime Minister of Poland for 4 years. He had good will and try to accomodate different currents inside Solidarnosc. But he would have better done if he had resigned after the initial 2-3 years. Standing by the post is not beneficial for the system when people no longer bet on you. The fall of AWS (electoral block Solidarnosc) in the 2001 was a sad ending of his term as Prime minister.

One saying says: always give a second chance, never a third one. I think it does not apply to Presidents. They should have one chance and if they do not use it well, it means they do not have the capacity to improve....

I should write more but am getting ready for well deserved holidays. When I come back in August, I hope Brussels will sleep well and dream about a new Comission President. Why not Chris Patten? Why not Wastrom? Why not Fischer...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

L'Europe puissance - the key question

Many years ago I read an article comparing the prevailing visions of Europe in France, Germany and UK (divided among their respective political parties). The main conclusion was that French tend to think about Intergovernmental Confederation (which guarantees respect of their nation-etat and is a vehicle of their interests), Germans about a Federal State (with clear delineation of power between different government levels) and the Britts about a Free Trade Union (reducing internal barriers for trade and competition, with limited central powers).

But I am afraid that many of these divisions disappear when people start to talk about spreading European values and L'Europe puissance (Europe as a political power). Recently I came across another article where the author complains that EU has concentrated too much on 'regulation',
abandoning the political project as such. I cite his words:
Ce n’est pas la régulation qui est un objectif en soi, c’est le projet politique qui est l’objectif. (It is not the regulation which is an objective as such, the political project is the objective).

This small innocent phrase which follows on the speeches of many so called 'founding fathers',made me think about value of thinking small against thinking big. I am afraid that whenever we start to talk about 'projet politique' there is a tendency to think in terms of the traditional nation state which has been the major political project of XIXth - XXth century (unification of Italy and Germany, the emergence of nation states in Central Europe following the I world war etc.). And with own its merits (declaratory equality of citizens, social protection, concept of demos), a nation state has been probably one of the biggest oppressor and source of violence in the international realm (wars 1914-1945), postcolonial conflicts in Africa. So if we think about EU in these terms, there is a risk of creating a new imperial structure which will repeat the nation-state experience in the larger intercontinental context. But it will not change the rules of the game, which have proved to be so dangerous for the humankind.

I think that we should accept the European project as precisely rather a regulation of relations between states than creation of a new political entity which will finally make the 'European' voice heard. It does not need to go any further. Europe should be a big think-tank, regulator and place for discussion/peaceful confrontation among different actors. It does not need to go much further but make all the internal actors play according to the rules of the game.

And precisely the French reflex of talking about 'l'Europe puissance' is dangerous in this context. We need much more moderation in our approach to foreign policy. EU should behave rather like inward looking China who tries to prevent external threats but does not have this intervention reflex that we so painfully experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Europe will not be a better, more efficient France. We cannot expect that by giving money, sending troops or negotiating trade deals we can fundamentally change the reality of countries in Africa, Asia or Latin America. We can support positive tendencies, help in sharing good practices but our influence will always remain limited.

I think that if we continue to talk about Europe as a sort of 'better, bigger nation state' we shall only bring back the imperialist thinking which partly lead to the second world war. There is tention between the 'Europe as a project to guarantee peace' and the 'Europe puissance' megalomania. I hope that this is what meant Schuman, Monnet, Spinnelli, Spaak and Adenauer. Moderation should become the major spice of European foreign policy.