Say what you will about Poland’s activist foreign policy, but you’d have to admit that they have become one of the EU’s most active young members. However, the exposed emotion of the Kaczynski brothers’ comments is unnerving to many in the Union – especially their willingness to spend enormous political capital to block the new EU treaty on voting rights which would give much more weight to large population countries like Germany. As punishment for their outspoken opposition, EC Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso has threatened Poland to step into line or risk losing “solidarity” – which is EU code for drastically cutting back vital subsidies. There are a lot interesting comments being exchanged over this comlicated issue that I have yet to digest, but one paragraph from a WSJ editorial resonates:
Some (usually Germans) claim that the Kaczynski brothers are motivated by a visceral dislike of Germany and a desire to spoil Ms. Merkel’s EU presidency. Well, the Poles may be emotional, but that doesn’t mean they are irrational. Nor that they have forgotten that Ms. Merkel’s predecessor, who pushed through a big gas pipeline that circumvents Polish territory, now works for Vladimir Putin. With former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder advising a company majority-owned by Kremlin-controlled Gazprom, Polish concerns about German voting power don’t sound so unreasonable.
A reasonable question to ask is if Poland would be still be raising such hackles over the EU treaty had Germany not cemented such unsavoury energy relations with Russia. Here we have a critical moment which illustrates the core problems of EU unity and its disaggregation – and concerns about Russia are right in the middle of it. More to come later on….