Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Poland Bet on Certain by Electing Donald Tusk for a Second Term

Adelina Marini, October 11, 2011

Poland faced a huge test on Sunday, just in the middle of its 6-month rotation presidency of the European Union. On October 9th general elections were held in the country, during which the Poles had to choose between the secure, ensured by incumbent Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his party Civic Platform, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski - well known former premier from the right-wing Law and Justice party, who is known for his nationalistic inclinations and isolationist approach. With almost all votes counted, Tusk's party is leading before Law and Justice with around 38% against 30%.

How secure is the secure?

Since Donald Tusk is in power, whose party is defined as being liberal and centre-right, Poland has managed to gain a seat among the biggest in the European Union. This is the only country in the Union which, since the recession of 2008, has managed to keep up above the surface and to generate economic growth, although not with the same pace as before the crisis. The country held a course of enhancing its influence in Brussels and toward pragmatism in its relations with an ancient enemy - Russia. Furthermore, with the very recent summit with the Eastern Partnership (EaP) Poland clearly stated its wish for a stronger role in the foreign policy - not just its own foreign policy but the European one too. Something, which is being recognised at the highest European level - starting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy, to EU's leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy.

According to the Polish journalist, Marek Magierowski, however, this certainty is deceiving because for the past seven years Poland's economic growth was due entirely to the European funds. Poland is a champion of absorption of EU funds and has repeatedly offered assistance and expertise to the most lagging behind countries, like Bulgaria. According to Mr Magierowski, the money flow from the EU funds will be slowing down in the future because new countries are queueing up for EU assistance, like Croatia which is expected to join the Union in mid-2013, followed by Serbia. The journalist quotes World Bank data, according to which Poland's average economic growth for the last decade was 3.9% annually which, no matter how impressive it is, is hiding other problems.

Marek Magierowski points out that, although all the necessary preconditions are available, Poland is not an export champion and even is lagging behind the Czechs, the Hungarians, Slovaks and Slovenians. "As it stands, ours is probably the only country in the world to have spent two decades 'removing barriers to entrepreneurship,' without enjoying much in the way of positive consequences", the journalist writes.

The biggest challenge for Poland is demographic collapse, he says, because only for the first six months of this year (2011) the rate of demographic growth was negative for the first time in six years. According to UN forecasts, in 2035 the Polish population will shrink to 34 million from the current above 38 million, according to data from 2011. "And the question that this prediction raises is more than just the issue of who will pay our pensions", the journalist writes and goes on: "We are the architects of a selfish society of uneducated and uncreative people, with very little in the way of opinions, who are reluctant to reproduce themselves, but eager to demand guarantees of a just future from a state, in which they have no desire to participate, because they are too busy with Nordic walking, fitness and other such activities", concludes his obscure picture Marek Magierowski.

Donald Tusk's alternative is the well known Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who ruled the country together with his twin brother Lech Kaczynski, who was president back then. Lech Kaczynski died in 2010 in a plane crash bound for a decisive meeting in Russia, which was expected as a sign of warming relations with the big and hostile north-east neighbour. The Kaczynski brothers maintained a position of resistance against any deepening of integration in the EU and against the Union's attempts to create any partnership relations with Russia.

The results from the elections evoked a lot of relief sighs, even among the new global scarecrow - the financial markets, because of the Poles' choice to bet on something certain. Probably because in these turbulent times the certain is preferable before the idealistic visions which, in fact, bother every civilised society. But to what extent is this certainty going to continue is a question which not only the Poles are looking for an answer to. The eurozone crisis is transforming into a banking crisis, which has already bitten the relative stability of Britain.

The expectations are that the Polish economy will soon feel the hit wave, so the new-old Prime Minister Donald Tusk may have a celebration drink these days for the victory but he should not switch his telly off. Especially since European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced yesterday (October 10) that he was rescheduling the October European Council for October 23rd and was combining it with a euro area summit. The change of dates from 17-18 October to the 23rd is a signal that the problems are yet to begin.