Why Duda will stick close to EU despite ‘frosty’ relationship

ANDRZEJ Duda’s election victory has strengthened Poland’s hand with a European Union it has come to blows with in the past – but Law and Justice will remain close to the bloc, an expert has claimed.

President Duda edged out Rafal Trzaskowski two weeks ago in a result which, to many political experts, solidified conservative rule in all levels of government for years to come.

It also gives Duda and Law and Justice a mandate to put Poland on a collision course with the European Union during a period where the United Kingdom is leaving the bloc, which looks increasingly weak.

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The Polish right will pursue a “twin track” approach to the EU, Professor Aleks Szczerbiak told Redaction Politics, where it criticises the bloc but maintains good pragmatic relations with it.

“With the EU political establishment, Law and Justice hasn’t had great relations with the Commission in Brussels and the major EU powers, the Franco-German axis, it’s a frosty relationship,” he said.

“[A twin-track approach] is something they have been doing for a while, but they will now hope to accelerate it into a higher gear.

“It means accepting the fact that the government will disagree with the EU political establishment over a whole series of issues – where they have different interests over the relationship with Russia, for example, over social values like multiculturalism and migrant quotas, and cultural issues such as LGBT right.

“This is a right-wing, socially conservative government that stands outside the European mainstream and is fully aware it does that.”

Ordinary day-to-day relations are a different matter, however.

Issues such as the EU budget and recovery fund – in which Poland negotiated the largest amount of funds from the bloc in history, according to government spokesman Piotr Müller – will ensure Poland recovers as best it can from the impending post-pandemic recession.

As such, Poland will have constructive discussions with the EU over “bread-and-butter” issues, Professor Szczerbiak said.

He added: “They will hope that the EU, knowing it has to deal with the Law and Justice government that controls all the levers of state power for the next three years, they will accept that.

“One issue that exemplifies this is the next EU budget – Law and Justice will try and keep that separate from any rule of law concerns the EU might have, for example.”

This was fully on display this past weekend, with Duda confirming Poland’s intention to leave the common domestic violence treaty.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro defined Law and Justice’s commitment to social conservatism when he said: “This ideological element is linked to the imperative to change education in school and outside-of-school programmes in terms of learning attitudes.

“Convictions of the young Polish generation of students to make, in our opinion, the false assumption that biological sex is archaic and, in fact, it all comes down to the socio-cultural gender.”

Aleks Szczerbiak is Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies at the University of Sussex.

Featured Image: Pikist

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