With Britain Out, Poland Must Repair Ties with Berlin

Poland’s Law and Justice party can’t let historical grievances stand in the way of an alliance with Germany.

Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany observe an honor guard in Berlin, February 18
Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany observe an honor guard in Berlin, February 18 (Bundesregierung)

Poland mourns the British decision to leave the EU, Politico reports today. The nation that most shares Warsaw’s pro-American and market-oriented vision for the bloc is now on its way out.

As a result, the balance in Europe could shift in favor of the eurozone core, where some countries believe the answer must be deeper integration.

“This is not the appropriate solution,” argues Konrad Szymański, Poland’s Europe minister. “Such scenarios only bring closer the further disintegration of the EU.”

He’s right. But Poland isn’t in a strong position to block such centralization proposals because his conservative Law and Justice party has burned the bridges its liberal, Civic Platform predecessor built with Berlin.

Contrasting visions

The day after Britons voted to leave the European Union in a referendum, Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, declared the solution must be “more Europe”.

Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, seemed to agree, saying, “What happened in the United Kingdom may be the greatest opportunity for Europe if we stop playing a defensive game and try to give our continent the possibility of a new start.”

Central European nations and leaders in the Netherlands see things differently.

The former issued a joint statement on Tuesday, arguing that Europe must “get back to basics.”

The Dutch, who hold the rotating presidency of the EU, said the outcome of the British referendum was a “wakeup call”.

People are dissatisfied that the “European express train keeps thundering on,” warned the parliamentary leader of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party, Halbe Zijlstra.


The Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands and Slovakia are not strong enough to stop a determined “more-Europe” faction consisting of France, Italy and Spain, though.

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, who presumably recognizes that a good number of voters are fed up with an institution that seems tone-deaf to their concerns, needs Poland’s support to offer a counterweight to the Mediterranean bloc and make sure that Europe doesn’t double down on the mistakes that convinced the British to leave.

Still processing the war

But the current Polish government is no mood to support her, because it can’t get over the things Germany did 75 years ago.

As I wrote in November, it only took Law and Justice a couple of days after it won the most recent election to bring up the war.

The last right-wing government, which was in office from 2005 to 2007, never missed a chance to offend the Germans either.

If it keeps this up, Poland won’t have anyone but itself to blame when it finds itself marginalized and on the outskirts of Europe in a few years’ time.

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