Polish PM tells CNN that Poland is very much pro-European
"Poland is very much pro-European, but a little bit Brussels-sceptic", Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview with the CNN news channel on Thursday during a trip to the US.
Richard Quest, a well-known CNN journalist, asked the prime minister about the issue of the rule of law, over which he believes "Poland is in the deepest of trouble with the European Union."
"This is what some people believe," Morawiecki replied.
"That is not a belief, that is a fact," the journalist insisted, referring to the EU Treaty's Article 7 rule-of-law procedure against Poland over justice reforms.
"The countries from Western Europe which did not come through the communist times and post-communist times do not understand the idiosyncrasies and the different things that are happening in the central part of Europe, in the Czech Republic, in Hungary, in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and some other countries. And this is what we try to explain, that Poland is very much pro-European, but a little bit Brussels-sceptic," said PM Morawiecki.
"You’re Brussels-sceptic and rightly so," Quest retorted, "in the sense that EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans says: Poland’s government – your government – is systematically politically interfering with the composition, powers and the administration and functioning of the judiciary."
Morawiecki replied that he had been holding talks with both Timmermans and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker "almost every month." "Many dialogues, many conversations since the beginning of this year and actually we’ve changed a lot in our judiciary system; several changes are actually going in a very right direction and they are praising those changes big time," the prime minister asserted. "Like for instance, random allocation of cases, which was not the case before and which led to lots of wrong behaviour."
Richard Quest persisted: "In the over-arching picture there is a feeling that Poland is going in the wrong direction on the question of the rule of law, the military and for example media. Why is everyone else wrong and you’re right?"
"Let me reply through a very special example," Morawiecki responded. "FTSE Russell has requalified Poland from emerging market to developed market economy. Do you believe this would be possible without checking all the institutions – not only the Stock Exchange and regulatory environment but also institutional stability and legal environment? It wouldn’t. So the proof is in the eating. A week ago we have been classified as a developed country with a stable market, not only regulatory environment but rule of law as well."
Quest put it to the Polish PM that his country was being punished by the EU, citing one of the PM's colleagues as saying, "it’s all to do with the fact that it’s to punish Poland for having an independent policy and for the fact it has stopped being a neat, obedient country. Is that what you think? Do you think you’re being punished because you’ve found your own voice?” Quest asked.
"It’s much more than only one reason," replied Morawiecki. "We have really changed a lot. We have actually attacked VAT mafias and a fraudulent taxation system, which was until 2016, and this is one of the reasons. Many people don’t like it. We have closed our VAT gap by the highest pace in the European Union. This is one of the reasons. Another one is that many people don’t like that we have a very independent policy, that we do not accept migration for instance. This was a bone of contention with the European Commission. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, she actually said ‘this is a willkommenskultur.’ Let’s come, everybody from North Africa and the Middle East, you can come to Europe.’ We said ‘No. We want to preserve our culture, we want to preserve our country, for security reasons as well.”
Asked whether he had "found a new authoritarian friend in President Trump that you can do business with?" Mateusz Morawiecki insisted that that was not the case and that his trip had an over-arching business nature.
"You must be kidding Richard," he said. "We are here with lots of our CEOs and we meet many American CEOs, some of which I know, some of which are new friends. (...) What I really feel is that Poland has to bring closer the European Union and the United States, because we are very pro-American and at the same time we are very pro-European. (there are - PAP) not too many countries like this. And I believe we can be a kind of integrator of the transatlantic community."
Richard Quest persisted with his questioning of the Law and Justice government's relationship with the Trump administration, arguing that there could be no common ground between the EU and a US president who, "offended (German Chancellor - PAP) Angela Merkel, was rude to (UK Prime Minister - PAP) Theresa May on his last visit, has been downright unpleasant in terms of President Juncker on his last visit. Where is the common ground with this administration?" the interviewer asked.
"I don’t want to be actually a defender of everything President Trump is doing but I will emphasise two things: This is the form, and here is the substance," the Polish prime minister explained. "You said about the form, and the substance is free and fair trade. Imbalances in the current account, imbalances in trade, or contribution of different NATO nations to the joint commitments. Each country is supposed to spend two or more percentage points of GDP on military expenses and only Poland and several other states including of course the United States is doing it. So who are the other countries who are not doing this? They are free riders, sir. So this is why President Trump is right in many instances. But as far as form is concerned maybe, you know, it’s not for me to judge," Morawiecki concluded.