September 9, 2014
As of this May, Poland has been a member of the European Union for 10 years. Our membership in the EU has already brought us tangible economic, social and political benefits. A clear testament to the latter is PM Donald Tusk’s appointment as the President of the European Council, which is not only a great personal success of the Prime Minister and of Poland’s economic policy, but also a tremendous diplomatic accomplishment.
For Poland, this is an excellent opportunity to move forward. In any country, economic and social progress has a horizontal and a vertical dimension. Horizontally, it marks progression from point A to point B as we improve our position by getting a larger piece of the pie. However, as the pie does not get any bigger, someone is bound to lose out on the shift. This is a struggle for a distribution of income, so to say. But it does not have to be like this if we can use the progress to grow the pie so as to have more without taking it away from someone else. Moving from 1 to 2 – from less to more – marks vertical progress, which underlies global economic growth. In the end, the shift is felt across the board. This, one could say, is a struggle to increase incomes.
Seen through the lens of a country’s interests, economic benefits and the paths to achieving them look differently than when viewed from inside the community to which one belongs. For any one country, it matters little whether the improvement is brought about as a result of horizontal or vertical progress. To a community, however, the difference has paramount importance as a community can only thrive on vertical progress.
Diversity is the characteristic feature of any community. To enjoy the benefits of diversity, we must cooperate, joining forces to achieve the community’s common goals and values. The goal which is currently being pursued across the EU is broadly-understood security. Nowadays, particular focus is placed on military and energy security, but jobs, incomes and stable economic growth are also considered in the long term.
In these circumstances, a Polish President of the European Council can contribute significantly to the EU’s development. First of all, we are different in that we have unique experience, which is something we can bring to the table. Poland has been the only EU country to enjoy uninterrupted, and rapid, economic growth for 22 years, which is something we owe to our liberal approach to the economy and the resulting successful transformation – a unique achievement in the continental EU. Our attempts to reform the mining industry failed after changes on the global energy market restored coal to its former position of favour, making it difficult for Poland to reconcile its own energy security with the objectives set under the EU energy and climate policy framework for the coming 15–20 years. Neighbouring with Ukraine, which is now engaged in a desperate struggle for independence, we know Russia better than any other EU member. We also better understand the dangers of this conflict. It was only 25 years ago that Poland itself managed to escape Russia’s sphere of influence. Being outside of the Eurozone, we also have a better sense of what – other than a common currency – is important to the integrity of the European Union.
It was undoubtedly in view of this unique experience that the European Union decided to elect a Polish President of the European Council. In that position, Poland should carry more clout to influence other countries, but to get our point across to others we must convince them of mutual benefits. This will only be possible with access to solid practical information and expertise to support our standpoint on various matters, which should also facilitate our understanding of the arguments made by other parties. This will not be enough, however. To successfully convince others, one must know how to emphasise similarities rather than differences, which is a vital part of reconciling conflicting views. I think that by working on the issue both in Poland and abroad we can better understand that the European Union is not THEM but US. With this knowledge, we will be able to benefit more from our membership in the European community.