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What Holds Europe Together?

Krzysztof Michalski


Europe—Still Divided

Lech Kaczynski

Texte intégral

1Almost a quarter of a century has passed since Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s famous article “The other face of Europe.” In evaluating the significance of the appointment of Karol Woytyla to the throne of St. Peter’s, Mazowiecki, who went on to become the first president of independent Poland, reminded us that aside from the happy, western part of the continent, there is also a central and central eastern part, which, while belonging to the same historical–cultural community, finds itself in a completely different situation. It was necessary to deliver this reminder, because the community which Mazowiecki was appealing to had at that time been forgotten. Perhaps it would be better to say that it had been disregarded, and that the condition of slavery had, basically, been accepted. This meant the same thing as the denial of the historical community, and also, in an ethical sense, of the mutual belonging of citizens in both parts of Europe, and the resulting solidarity. Now it is said that this is just how it was at the end of the 1970s, that it was a long time ago, and that today everything is completely different: the other Europe now belongs to the Union, or soon will, so the division has been overcome, and with it the political, cultural and moral problem. This viewpoint has many supporters. I will make no song and dance about the fact that I am not one of them, which of course does not mean that I would underestimate the significance of what occurred in 2004. If I nonetheless raise doubts, these are ones born out of the developments of the 1990s and of recent times, the analysis of which obliges me to draw a regrettable conclusion: namely, that it is unlikely that in the future my country, and also others in “the other Europe,” will be participatory in the full extent of European solidarity.

2The attitude taken by Western Europeans from after World War II until 1989, namely to take the division of Europe for granted and to write off the other half, can be viewed as the result of a process of normalization in social consciousness—as the rationalization of a decision whose effect, once taken, became more irreversible the more any alternative appeared risky and uncertain. This attitude still marks the perception of, and dealings with, the former “eastern Europe” fifteen years after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It should be changed immediately, above all with regard to those in the region who—like most of Europe—fell victim to German Nazism, and who were only allowed to celebrate their liberation fifty years later.

3Analogies between the eastern enlargement and the Marshall Plan, which benefited Germany in particular, are popular. This parallel, however, is completely misleading, because our relations to the Union are founded upon an unequal principle: the advantages for the Union member-states are greater than those for Poland. Most disturbing is not merely the fact that the membership process was drawn out longer than that of Greece or Spain; it is much more the fact of what we have been confronted with since becoming members of the Union. In order to present the reasons for this disturbance, allow me to make one or two observations about the history of the European Union and the European Economic Community (EEC) from our perspective.

4The formation of the EEC was the result of the experiences of the First and Second World Wars, and was at the same time an alliance against Communism. The idea of a union of Europe was not new; now, however, there was the impetus to make it a historical fact. This was a union founded upon the recognition of the existence, equality, and sovereignty of the nation-states, upon the recognition of democracy as a fundamental precondition for the union’s legitimacy, and not least of all, upon the recognition that democracy itself has deeper foundations, namely values, that grew out of Christianity and its lessons about the primacy and worth of the human being.

5The EEC and its predecessor organizations were the work of Christian Democrats, a political formation that attempted to combine elements of conservatism, liberalism, and socialism, whereby democracy was the only one to refer directly to the worth of the human being. The equality of states thus meant the equality of societies, and by extension, of peoples and individuals. With the recognition of national particularities came the recognition that individuals are able to realize their rights only in the realm of their own cultural and historical belonging. Furthermore, it was recognized that the European community is a community of communities, but that a political community of all Europeans which bypasses the national communities is a postulate referring to a very distant and indefinite future, entertained by only a few.

6This construction of the EEC led to the recognition of the principle of solidarity as the basic condition for the organizational and financial functioning of the community, and for its underlying values. Solidarity meant an aspiration not only for formal equality (one state, one vote), but also for real equality; in other words, the levelling of the economic standard of the European states, as well as that of individual regions within those states. It also meant the rejection of hegemony. For this reason, it is possible to say that the conception of the EEC offered a rebuttal to the classical political principle of the balance of power, since this was founded on the controlled tension between states.

7When looking at the history of the EEC and the Union, it must not be forgotten that their formation, as well as the greater part of their existence, has been marked, on one hand, by heavy pressure from the east and simultaneous protection from America, and, on the other, by an exclusivity that was only really corrected in 1985, when 50 million Spaniards and Portuguese were admitted to the Union. The policies of de Gaulle must also not be forgotten: these represented an attempt to return to classical hegemonic politics within the Community, and simultaneously to pit the Community against the US.

8Although in the course of time the constructivist tendency grew within the Union, the founding ideas endured. This changed significantly with the enlargement, and with the parallel suggestion of providing the Union with a constitution. The Nice Treaty, however, preserved at least several elements of the original conception. The principle of unanimity had indeed been limited; it, however, raised the value of small- and medium-sized countries, thereby providing the newly admitted states from the “other Europe” a relatively good starting position. The European Constitution, as it concerned these states, signified a general change of course with regard both to its text and its context.

9Let's begin with the preamble. There were two reasons why we demanded that the Christian traditions in these countries be borne in mind. First, we wanted the truth to be respected, because we knew from our experience—the experience of communism, and also post-communism— what it meant to live in a system wherein it was disregarded. Second, we saw in this element of the preamble a point of connection to the founding idea of the European Union, one that is important to us. And last, because of the inclusion of the Christian tradition in the preamble, we thought that each state in which Christianity was still alive (of which Poland is one) would be granted a certain respect. We feared anti-Christian censorship. And when this occurs in a Constitution, censorship has its foot in the door.

10Recent experiences have confirmed this. Now, the issue has ceased to become one of censorship, and become one of the penalization of statements underpinned by faith, one of discrimination against Catholics. Nothing else lies behind the resignation of Commissioner Buttiglione and the charges brought against a Swedish pastor.

11We see another, equally difficult, problem: the radical restriction of the sovereignty of nation-states, on one hand by the European constitution, to which the national constitutions are subordinated, and on the other by the enormous extent of the legislation to be implemented by the Union, rather than the nation-states. In actual fact, we are dealing with two problems: first, the restriction of the democratic principle that only representative bodies have legislative authority, and, second, the transfer of national sovereignty from the smaller and weaker states to the more powerful.

12This situation is rendered more acute by further factors: the inexperience of the newly-admitted states in the political arena of the Union; the discourteous language used to address them; the German– French anti-Americanism and its lack of understanding for the new member-states’ natural desire to seek the support of the US, the only power to promise them protection from Russian claims. Privileges for the territory of the former GDR, which Germany is loathe to give up, complete the picture.

13A lack of regard for history is reflected here, along with the inseparable issue of guilt for World War II and its consequences. Privileges are received by a country directly involved in the fifty-year subjugation of Central and Central Eastern Europe, and which incurred guilt for monstrous crimes there. In fact, what we observe here is a hierarchy of nations, and also of individuals according to their national affiliation, a hierarchy ultimately based on power.

14Economic issues also ought not to be overlooked. The future constitution anticipates a harmonization of economic policy. For the time being, at least, it is still a vaguely intimated perspective. It is, however, one which has already been interpreted in a practical way in the form of the demand that new member-states raise their taxes— in other words, subordinate their own economic interests to those of the stronger partners.

15Lastly, there is the mystifying phenomenon whereby the stronger states appeal permanently to Europe and to European belonging, but forget all forms of solidarity as soon as the issue becomes one of budgeting. If we want to strengthen the institutions of the Union and give it the status of a proto-nation-state, then the means the Union has at its disposal (in other words, the budget) must be raised. The reality, however, it is precisely the reverse. As one might expect, it is reflected in the immediate expression of solidarity in the form of help for economically weaker states and regions.

16The most obvious tendency with regard to expenditures is for national regulation to be renounced in favor of the effort towards transnational uniformity. I have already mentioned the transfer of sovereignty from weaker to stronger states. I must add here that this is expected to take place at a low price. The union will not hear of support for the new member-states along the lines of that once received by Ireland, Greece, Spain, or southern Italy. This can hardly be judged to be an expression of solidarity.

17If one looks at what is going on in the Union today, there can be no doubt that it is all about the interests of the larger and economically more powerful European states, who wish to construct a Union that secures for them a stronger position in the world than corresponds to their potential, and above all, their readiness to pull their own weight. There is no reason why we should accept this, or even go along with this type of politics—least of all Poland, which has every right to entertain greater ambitions.

18Furthermore, we are not ready to take on the various challenges facing us that have to do with Germany’s leading role. If the political correctness that today supersedes Christianity as the basic value system takes on an anti-Christian, and in particular an anti-Catholic, character—something directed especially at Poland—then we will refuse to accept this as well. The same goes for the new version of history that the Euro-enthusiasts would like to create, a history in which victims and executioners no longer exist.

19Therefore, as decided supporters of a Union which lays the foundations for a lasting solidarity of European states, we are unable to declare ourselves in agreement with a constitution that undermines the foundations for such solidarity, and contains elements that in essence perpetuate the division of Europe. We demand nothing more than that which in part has already been granted to others and has united Europe, namely solidarity.

20Translated from the German by Simon Garnett


Lech Kaczynski is President of Poland; co-founder of Prawo Sprawiedliwosc, PiS (Law and Justice).

Le texte et les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont sous Licence OpenEdition Books, sauf mention contraire.


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