The European Union is an “imaginary community, from which Poland benefitted only a little,” Polish President Andrzej Duda declared on September 11.
Duda’s remark caused uproar in that part of the Polish society that does not side with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, of which Duda is an iron loyalist. Accusations flew of the president criticising the EU, joining which had been one of Poland’s foremost policy goals after the end of Communism in 1989.
The president, who made the controversial remark at a meeting in the southeastern town of Lezajsk, appeared to be pandering to PiS’ electorate that the ruling party keeps telling the EU has not been a good game for Poland.
PiS has long claimed the EU has too much say in member states’ affairs such as migration or energy policy. The ruling party is also at odds with Brussels over reforms of the judiciary, which the EU – as well as the opposition in Poland and a number of international organisations – say threaten to extend political control of the courts.
Duda is also preparing the ground for the next presidential elections, due in 2020. Often accused of being an underwriter of the party’s orders, the president is a target for the opposition for his role in PiS’ revamp of the Polish judiciary.
A second five-year term in office would push away the prospect of Duda being held to account for violating Poland’s Constitution, which the opposition says it will execute.
“We need a community here in Poland. Our own. When we will have dealt with our issues, we will take care of European issues. For now, let [the EU] leave us alone and let us fix Poland because this is the most important thing,” Duda said.
Poland joined the EU in 2004 together with nine other, mostly former Communist, countries. Via EU funding that aims at reducing development gaps between countries, Poland has received tens of billions of euros that helped finance construction of new infrastructure, schools, and environmental facilities.
PiS has been habitually accused by the opposition of plotting to execute “Polexit” to leave the EU, but the ruling party denies it. Duda’s remarks and an earlier statement by Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin – who said Poland would ignore the EU Court of Justice’s coming ruling on the judiciary reform if it is unfavourable – have now reinvigorated the Polexit accusations.
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