Friday, July 24, 2009

Poland Czech and Lisbon

Poles, Czechs and the Lisbon treaty

The awkward squad
Jul 23rd 2009 | PRAGUE AND WARSAW
From The Economist print edition

Why the Polish and Czech presidents drag their feet over the Lisbon treaty


Klaus and Kaczynski, procrastinating presidents

AFTER being subject to commissars in Moscow, some east Europeans are twitchy about commissioners in Brussels. But that only partly explains the reluctance of two presidents, Poland’s Lech Kaczynski and the Czech Republic’s Vaclav Klaus, to sign the European Union’s Lisbon treaty, which both countries’ parliaments have ratified.

Both men are famously prickly and prone to nit-picking. Both frame their objections in the language of national sovereignty. Both hate to see Ireland bullied—it is being asked to vote again on Lisbon on October 2nd. Mr Kaczynski similarly disliked the sanctions briefly imposed by the EU on Austria when the right-wing Freedom Party was in government. Mr Klaus says the EU elite cannot accept dissenting views (when visiting European parliamentarians attacked his Euroscepticism he compared them to communist-style thought police).

But the differences are bigger than the similarities. Mr Kaczynski’s opposition to Lisbon is about posturing not principle. He says publicly that he is merely waiting for the second Irish referendum before signing. Given that he helped to negotiate the treaty on Poland’s behalf, it would be hard for him to demonise it as Mr Klaus does. Indeed, Mr Kaczynski, who worries about waxing Russian influence and a waning American presence, has described the EU as “a great thing”.

The real reason for the Polish president’s delay is a desire to annoy the government led by Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform party. Mr Tusk defeated the government led by Law and Justice, headed by the president’s twin, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, in 2007. Mr Tusk’s emollient, pro-EU stance contrasts sharply with the Kaczynskis’ abrasive style. A delay over Lisbon also allows the president to grandstand on the EU’s “moral relativism” (meaning the incompatibility of its views of human rights with Polish social mores on homosexuality and the like).

Mr Klaus says he will get around to Lisbon only once everyone else has endorsed it. He will probably sign, but through gritted teeth. He would like a loose free-trade zone instead of what he sees as a nascent superstate. Unlike Mr Kaczynski, he is no Atlanticist; he gets on quite well with Russia. Also unlike Mr Kaczynski, he has the excuse that, though Lisbon passed the Czech parliament in May, it faces a court challenge by politicians from the Civic Democratic party that Mr Klaus once led.

Euroscepticism has only limited appeal in eastern Europe. The EU is widely seen as a guarantor of stability and progress: generous in paying for modernisation of public services and infrastructure and the best hope for fighting corruption. Lisbon is widely backed not on its merits but because its failure would risk pushing the EU into yet another interminable internal debate.


Sean Hanley said...

Czech jurists have been debating whether the Czech President is oblged to ratify a treaty passed parliament or has latitude not to - they seem agreed he may delay signature pretty much as long as he likes - and also whether an international treaty may come into force without the President's signature. Apparently, it might...

Czech speakers may want to check out the excellent blog where the coutry's best legal minds have covered the arguments in some detail.

Lighthouse said...

Re Ireland bullied about the Treaty...

An Irish Bedtime Story for all Nice Children and not so Maastricht Adults

The Happy Family
Once upon a time there was a family treaty-ing themselves to a visit in Lisbon.
On the sunny day that it was they decided to go out together.
Everyone had to agree on what they would do.
"So", said Daddy Brusselsprout "Let's all go for a picnic!"
"No", said Aunt Erin, "I don't want to".
Did they then think of something else, that they might indeed agree on?
Oh yes they did?
Oh no they didn't!
Daddy Brusselsprout asked all the others anyway, isolating Erin, and then asked her if instead, she would like to go with them to
the park and eat out of a lunch basket....

Kids, we'll finish this story tomorrow, and remember, in the EU yes means yes and no means yes as well!

Unknown said...


Your article amounts to a misrepresentation of Kaczynskis’ position re. Lisbon Treaty.

They decided to agree to the Treaty in the negotiations as they thought it was more favourable to Poland than it actually was. This was an effect of other leaders outsmarting Kaczynskis (also thanks to their rather inexperience on international negotiations stage). So once they realised they were “conned” they would do anything to frustrate the Treaty. It is personal, so it is very strong.

It is obvious that when Kaczynskis were stitched up to accept the Treaty they did not like, they could not start proclaiming they were such idiots and that they were conned. So on one side they pretend to support the Treaty, but on the other do anything to frustrate it. No brainer, is it not?

They also agreed to the Treaty, not only believing it was more favourable to Poland than it actually was, but they thought at that time that vetoing the Treaty would be more costly to Poland than accepting it (bearing in mind that they wrongly thought it was better for Poland). No wonder, that once they see now opportunity to frustrate the Lisbon Treaty they try to do it.

From these three points above, Kaczynskis position is actually very consistent, albeit very awkward to present as consistent for people not skilled in political games. That is why media not too helpful to Kaczynskis pick up on and ridicule their behaviour (which is extremely consistent).

However whether one agrees with Kaczynskis stance is completely another matter.


NB. Writing that Kaczynski wants to annoy Tusk or his stance is about posturing not principle is very speculative based on stereotyping Poland’s politics. Even it were the case, considering the above, this would be a side and almost irrelevant issue anyway.