Wojciech Białożyt, Jacek Kucharczyk, Romain Le Quiniou, Filip Pazderski
Poland’s Political Discourse On Europe Article from the: Representative Democracy in the EU. Recovering Legitimacy
Since the beginning of Poland’s political and economic transition of 1989, democratic reforms have been underpinned by values and ambitions that can best be expressed as the country’s ‘return to Europe’. Continuing public support for EU membership had laid the foundations of political consensus around the integration process and, perhaps more importantly, the democratic and institutional reforms necessary for successful EU accession. But this democratic and pro-European consensus came under strain with the victory of the Law and Justice (PiS) party in presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015. Since coming to power, the PiS undertook a series of radical changes targeting the judicial system and other democratic checks and balances. These reforms gave rise to even more conflict with the EU institutions, notably the European Parliament and the Commission, and the unprecedented triggering of Article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union. At the same time these systemic changes and the ruthlessly majoritarian way of legislating them caused deep social and political polarisation. While the overwhelming majority of society continues to support EU membership and democratic governance, there are serious divisions when it comes to more specific political issues and their interpretation. These divisions have been exploited by the ruling party to maintain public support in the face of growing domestic and international criticism. This chapter argues that Poland’s current politics could have severe consequences for both the condition of representative democracy and the country’s EU membership.