Poland’s ruling party has come out against a proposal for more flexible integration in Europe that is supported by the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
“We cannot accept any announcements of a two-speed Europe,” Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of the conservative Law and Justice party, told the weekly W Sieci.
This would mean either pushing us out of the European Union or downgrading us to an inferior category of members.
This is hyperbole.
The whole idea of a multispeed Europe, as endorsed by the “Big Four” earlier this month, is to break through the false dichotomy of more or less Europe. It would allow countries to integrate at not just one or two but many speeds.
For example, countries that wish to pool their defense procurement could do so within the context of the EU without militarizing the union as a whole, which is something Poland opposes.
Poland has often led Central and Eastern European member states in opposition to integration initiatives, which is one reason governments in Western Europe are so keen on a multispeed Europe.
A year ago, Poland called for a union that gets “back to basics” and completes the single market. No matter that Law and Justice is discriminating against foreign companies in Poland itself.
In 2015, Poland blocked a European Commission proposal to distribute immigrants across the EU, forcing countries like Germany and Sweden to shoulder a disproportionate burden of the refugee crisis.
Poland continues to resist attempts to cut back on agricultural subsidies that benefit its farmers.
It also resists reform of the free movement of people in Europe, which helps cheap laborers from Eastern Europe but is putting pressure on low-skilled workers in the West.
It is as if Kaczyński and his party are all for more Europe so long as it benefits Poland. But the moment other countries ask for solidarity in return, they start crying about EU overreach.
Kaczyński can’t expect the rest of the EU to come around to his views. Most member states, especially those in the eurozone, want to integrate further. They are not going to wait for Poland.
The euro is an example of Europe having already integrated at different speeds.
Right now, Poland is still formally committed to one day joining the single currency. A multispeed Europe could give it an opt-out.
There are other examples. Ireland and the United Kingdom are exempt from the Schengen free-travel area. Denmark doesn’t participate in EU foreign and security policy. Poland has not signed the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, fearing that this might force it to extend marriage rights to gay couples.
Luckily for the anti-gay Kaczyński, the rest of the EU has been able to live with a “two-speed” Europe in that area. He may want to ask himself if a one-size-fits-all is really what he wants.