The Awkward New Member: Poland's Changing European Identity

Lewis, Paul (2007). The Awkward New Member: Poland's Changing European Identity. In: International Symposium on the Lisbon Treaty and the Future of the European Union, 6-7 Dec 2007, University of Glasgow.


Like those in other post-communist Central and East European countries, successive Polish governments were consistently eager to join the European Union although popular enthusiasm for membership took a notable dip in the late 1990s and two vociferous 'Eurosceptic' parties were elected to parliament in 2001. Since joining, however, public opinion has been very much in favour of the country's new European status and the considerable economic benefits it has brought. It seemed rather strange, then, that in September 2005 a parliament was elected distinguished by the nationalist sentiments of several major parties which fed into the adoption of what was seen as a strongly Eurosceptic stance on the part of Polish representatives in the European arena. Polish interests were pursued aggressively and in a manner that many thought was fundamentally un-European throughout much of 2007 at the several summits critically concerned with relaunching the constitutional project and formulating what has become the Reform Treaty. This behaviour played a significant part in the defeat of the incumbent government in the October 2007 and the subsequent installation of a new leadership generally perceived to be significantly more EU-friendly. Ironically for a government that promulgated the principle of 'Nice or death', it secured an agreement for the Nice provisions to stay in force until 2014 but then itself expired at the polls. It should not be assumed, however, that the new Civic Platform/Peasant Party coalition will not be an equally energetic proponent of the Polish national interest. 'Poland' has therefore had several identities in recent years, and seen considerable variation both among and between the different areas of public opinion, political parties and government policy. It will probably see several more in coming years.

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