PM talks to Slovenian daily about Poland and its post Covid EU future

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki laid out his vision for Poland and Europe, and the country’s place within the EU in an interview for Slovenia’s biggest daily, Delo. DELO/PAP

Defending Poland’s strategy for containing the Covid-19 pandemic, Morawiecki told the Slovenian daily newspaper Delo that  Poland was prepared for a “critical situation,” having stocked up on equipment and supplies but also by investing in the medical know-how of doctors, who, the PM pointed out, have been saving lives in other countries, including Slovenia.

He said that despite recent growths in infection rates, Poland’s strategy was successful and said it would be continued. He added that if a second wave came it would be more “flowing” and admitted the strategy might be revised if necessary.

 On the subject of whether Poland could afford a second lockdown, the prime minister said the inter-connectedness of both international and national economies and highlighted his government’s Anti-Crisis Shield, which he said had saved five million jobs. He said if a second wave occurred, “we will stay on track to keep Poles far from the negative effects of the pandemic, also the economic ones,” adding that Poland is doing better than many other countries in the face of the pandemic, with economic decline only half the average for the EU. “We are doing everything to keep the threat of a pandemic as controlled as possible,” he said.

 Talking about expenditures and the future of “small government,” Morawiecki said:  “Poland, as indicated by the European Commission, is to have the fastest economic growth in the near future. The drop in GDP growth is to be the smallest in the whole European Union. Moreover, an additional stimulus for return to the stable development path after the coronavirus crisis will be the Recovery Fund, which will involve local governments too.”

The PM went on to defend his government saying: “We fulfil the mandate given to us by the majority of Poles, who support the positive socio-economic change. We are doing our best to make Poland become better every day - and this is what happens. We have made the state strong for the strong, and more forgiving for the weak, for those who need help.” He said that for several years, Poles had been supportive of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s programmes. “Our goal is to decrease inequalities, better distribute wealth and help more people prosper. This is the only sustainable way,” he said, pointing also to the fact that PiS’s presidential candidate, Andrzej Duda, had recently won an election. “Therefore, we maintain a strong mandate from Poles to pursue a policy that makes Poland a dynamically developing country, friendly to Polish families, [a] country with an established reputation in the region.”

Asked about Euroscepticism, Morawiecki denied he was a Eurosceptic himself. “Some try to present my government as Eurosceptic, meanwhile a strong competitive and solidarity-based Europe, where [the] voice of all Member States matter, is a part of the modern concept of my government. I am convinced that we should all be Euro-realists wanting an ambitious Europe, that ensures the security of its citizens, but also addresses the current challenges. I do believe that the European Union should be full of investment, open to innovation, but also capable of completing projects already started,” he said, going on to refute that Eurorealism was just about maintaining the status quo. “In my opinion, Eurorealism, based on a sober assessment of our achievements and shortcomings and the solidarity of all Member States, can bring about real change,” Morawiecki told Delo. “The European Union needs an ambitious vision, we cannot stand still when the whole world is moving forward. The future is in our hands.”

On the subject of Belarus, Morawiecki advocated support for the forces of change in that country and advanced his government’s ‘Solidarity with Belarus’ programme, earmarking an additional PLN 50 million (EUR 11.36 million) in aid. He said: “In my opinion, security and peace architecture in Europe without security and peace in the East will be incomplete,” he said. “As we can see it clear today, this fragile structure must be continuously reinforced. Of course, the future of Belarus can only be decided by Belarusians themselves. However, our role is to ensure that they can exercise this right. Stepping aside in not an option but without presenting a tangible offer of cooperation, Belarus may even deeper fall into the sphere of Russian influence.”

The PM concluded by saying: “A strong Poland means a strong EU, and vice versa, especially in the time of the pandemic. This is an extraordinary time that requires extraordinary methods. We must be united. Solidarity is the key.”DELO

In reference to the Bled Strategic Forum, for which Morawiecki is in Slovenia, the PM spoke about his vision for European integration and his shared views with Slovenian PM Janez Janša and other regional leaders. “We rarely understand that the states of our part of Europe are struggling with a gigantic post-communist challenge,” Morawiecki said. “This challenge is common to most of us. The alliance of countries in our region has often proved very effective, as can be seen from the success of the recent negotiations on the EU's financial framework for 2021-2027. By working together, our voice is heard in the EU, together we can bring more benefits to our citizens. I have to admit that Slovenian PM Janez Janša is a great negotiator but also a kind man, which is why I highly value our cooperation. We must remember one thing, Central and Eastern Europe is not only a good market for Western countries, it is also a region with great potential and vision for the future of Europe. Slovenia, Croatia or the Visegrad countries are natural allies of Poland - we share similar goals; we want to develop our region, introducing new technologies, and boosting digitization. Together we can make us emerge even stronger from the current crisis.” 

He also denied that these relationships were about short-term interests. “The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are united by a common history, culture and economic relations,” he pointed out. “Our countries are still struggling with the legacy of the socialist regime, problems that are foreign to the countries of Western Europe. We have a bond that is much stronger than a political alliance for a one-off goal. What unites us is a common vision of the future, in which Central and Eastern Europe is not only developing economically but also is a place of security and prosperity for its citizens.”

 The prime minister also expressed his view of Poland’s role within the EU and defended the country’s position on the rule of law, arguing that, ”the tragedy for Central Europe is a lack of understanding of what is happening in Central Europe by our Western, European friends, because they were on the other side of the Iron Curtain post II World War. Poland, as a member of the EU, has a right to make amendments to its justice system. All of these amendments comply with the Polish legal system and are actually based on a Western legal system. What is crucial is the fact that Poland respects international law and European law binding upon it. We must remember that the payments from the EU's 2021-27 budget will not be made dependent on the state of the rule of law in individual member states. The media are having a real go over this problem. Let me assure you that centuries-old constitutional heritage shows that we deeply understand the essence of the rule of law and its key importance for the future of our country. On August 31th, we commemorate the establishment of the Solidarity Movement in Poland. It is a great celebration of Polish democracy and traditional values – freedom, human dignity and faith – values which were at the heart of the Solidarity Movement 30 years ago and still remain the essence for Polish society.”

“Indeed,” he continued “(…)Poland is one of the most pro-European nations in the EU. Our voice becomes louder from day to day. Our international position is still growing; our alliances are strong. In recent months, we have shown that these are not only words. Furthermore, Poland will be a beneficiary of EUR 160 billion of the EU Funds. The foregoing means that Poland is on the right track.”

“We offer new solutions to resolve the problems in Belarus and Ukraine. In the meantime, Poland is an active member of the United Nations and NATO. A strong Poland means a strong EU, and vice versa, especially in the time of the pandemic. This is an extraordinary time that requires extraordinary methods. We must be united. Solidarity is the key. This is what Europeans expect now. This is what Poland is striving for,” Morawiecki concluded.

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