David McHutchon: Lessons from Poland About EU Subservience

Poland – the biggest beneficiary of European Union (EU) membership almost every year since joining the bloc in 2004[1] – has seen more international news coverage than usual for taking a bold stance in recent weeks against EU bullies. However, it has been castigated by the EU as a result and, although it may be Poland today, if Scotland became independent from Westminster and subservient to Brussels, the EU has made it clear it is more than willing to dish out unjust desserts to member states who value their sovereignty.

With its strongly westward-looking orientation, history of liberal politics and strategic geographic position, the Republic of Poland represents the very model of an ideal EU member state. Indeed, you would struggle to find a more pro-EU state with two opinion polls last month placing support at over 90 per cent.[2] However, to assume this record of support translates into a reciprocal support for Polish traditions and institutions by the EU, one would be badly mistaken.

Instead, over the past half-decade, it has routinely chided, hectored and sanctioned the Polish Government. The latest chapter of this dispute was triggered on 7 October 2021 by the Polish Constitutional Court. It determined that Articles of the Treaty of the EU were incompatible with its own constitution. Furthermore, they determined that EU authorities were acting outside of the scope conferred on them by the stated articles.[3] The pushback from senior Eurocrats was swift and uncompromising.

Indeed, only a day later, the unelected Ursula von der Leyen issued a statement. It read: “Our Treaties are very clear. All rulings by the European Court of Justice are binding on all Member States’ authorities, including national courts. EU law has primacy over national law, including constitutional provisions. This is what all EU Member States have signed up to as members of the European Union. We will use all the powers that we have under the Treaties to ensure this.”[4]

Thereafter, David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, issued an equally menacing statement threatening Poland with “consequences” while affirming the primacy of EU law.[5] Their behaviour reached an epic level of nadir when, on 19 October, von der Leyen – who, I repeat, is unelected – gave the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, a dressing down about his country’s failure to respect EU values in a plenary session of the European Parliament. How ironic.

Morawiecki’s response was in equal measures playful, pugnacious and pitiful. He started by endorsing EU enlargement, NATO and European values, but said the EU was evolving a system of “double standards” in which some countries get away with certain things for which other countries are punished. He questioned the equality applied to “… decisions made in respect of different Member States in similar circumstances, which in fact deepen the division into old and new EU Member States, into strong and weak, rich and poor?”[6]

He blasted the EU for “blackmailing and threatening Poland”[7]. He added: “I do not agree blackmail to become a method of conducting policy towards a Member State. That’s not how democracies do things.”[8] The subtext was absolutely clear – its democratic deficit is precisely what affords the EU its capacity to engage in blackmail. Polish troops fought with European allies to defend democracy, he reminded his EU colleagues. against the 1920s Bolshevik invasion, Third Reich two decades later and “cruel communist system”[9] of 1980.

In an extremely clever section, he demonstrates to MEPs how disproportionate Poland’s treatment was by quoting from decisions made by some of their own councils and courts. He said: “I can see the agitation on your faces but I do not understand why.”[10] It was at this point he stated quotes were drawn from the French Constitutional Council, Danish Supreme Court and German Federal Constitutional Court all of which, similar to the Polish Constitutional Court, affirmed the supremacy of national constitutions over EU law.

He then spoke about the “creeping expansion of the competences” of EU legal institutions, describing it as a “silent revolution”. He argued that the logic of the present developments was that the Union had “ceased to be a union of free, equal and sovereign countries – and that it would transform itself, by the method of accomplished facts, into a centrally administered parastatal organism, whose institutions may force upon its ‘provinces’ whatever they consider right.”[11]

What Does This Mean for Scotland?

At Restore Scotland, we frequently warn our fellow compatriots about the EU’s democratic deficit, which is evident from legislation initiated solely by the EU Commission. However, Morawiecki cites it in a form of judicial activism, which he says is “done without a clear basis in the treaties [and] without any real control.”[12] It is also ironic that the EU is threatening to punish Poland for a decision made by its own courts, while at the same time claiming to uphold judicial independence.[13]

The EU is withholding from Poland €57 billion of grants and loans from its Recovery Fund, unless it subjugates its national constitutional law to the EU.[14] According to the Daily Telegraph, Poland was to receive the third-highest share of funding but, due to withheld contributions, has slumped to fifth. It also adds that holding back funds could derail hopes of GDP growth hitting 5 per cent in 2021 and 2022 and destabilise its economy, which has outperformed both Germany and the Eurozone since 2014.[15]  

The Dutch Government, who hold a particular hatred for their Polish counterparts, have continued to issue ominous threats with Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Knapen stating: “The time for talking is never over, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot take action in the meantime. It’s going to come soon.”[16] Only Angela Merkel seems to realise the stakes and is restraining EU ideologues from fully punishing Poland but when she shuffles off, who then will restrain the eurocrats?

As I stated earlier, Morawiecki’s speech to the EU Parliament was playful and pugnacious but it was also strangely pitiful. When a head of state is required to defend the concept of national sovereignty to a remote foreign body with an unelected hierarchy, he or she is describing an unrealised sovereignty or, worse still, a sovereignty in abeyance. Yet, Morawiecki’s speech is thick on this sort of contradiction and cognitive dissonance. He comes to the EU Parliament like a beggar pleading for a coin he claims he already holds.

So, firstly, if a Scotland which secures her political and economic independence from Westminster wishes to avoid this form of subservience to Brussels, it is essential she avoids the tentacles of the European Union. Only the most terminal case of dependent personality disorder would cause us to cede our new-found independence and immediately shackle ourselves to a second and much more remote political union, having taken over 300 years to extricate ourselves from the first.

Secondly, to minimise conflict, smaller countries surrounded by more belligerent, larger neighbours typically would (i) prioritise good relations with neighbouring states but also (ii) use classical balancing approaches. For instance, an independent Scotland should seek to avoid fixed alliances and pursue a policy of pragmatic neutrality on the international stage. It is also essential to pursue, as a matter of priority, good relations with immediate neighbours, namely the remaining UK nations, Iceland, Norway and the European Union.

Thirdly, the EU is punishing Poland, not only for its legal regime, but for its socially conservative governance, as it has done with other member states who do not obey the social orthodoxy. Influenced by the country’s largely Catholic social values, Poland has shown great respect for its social traditions in a way that maddens the illiberal and elite Eurocrats. It is clear the EU is determined to centralise all social policy and pursue policies that are destructive to family life and traditional Christian social values.

Finally, perhaps the biggest lesson to learn from Poland is that a sovereignty that cannot be exercised, or that people refuse to exercise, is of little use to attaining and retaining independence. Despite decades of domination, Poland threw away its independence for EU lucre and our Europhile ‘parcel of rogues’ in Holyrood would do the same. If we are to be truly sovereign, we must abandon the false dichotomy between UK and EU unionism and back candidates for public office committed to true independence for Scotland.

David McHutchon, Party Leader, Restore Scotland

[1] Golinowska, S. (2020) ‘Our Europe: 15 of Poland in the European Union’. Available at: Our Europe: 15 years of Poland in the European Union (case-research.eu) (Accessed: 6 December 2021)

[2] Author unspecified. (2021) ‘Most Poles think Warsaw should give ground in EU dispute: survey’, Al Jazeera, 26 October, Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/26/most-poles-think-warsaw-should-give-ground-in-eu-dispute-survey (Accessed: 6 December 2021)

[3] Author unspecified. (2021) ‘Assessment of the conformity to the Polish Constitution of selected provisions of the Treaty on European Union’, Trybunal, 7 October, Available at: https://trybunal.gov.pl/en/hearings/judgments/art/11662-ocena-zgodnosci-z-konstytucja-rp-wybranych-przepisow-traktatu-o-unii-europejskiej (Accessed: 6 December 2021)

[4] von der Leyen, U. (2021) ‘Statement by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission, 8 October, Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_21_5163 (Accessed: 6 December 2021)

[5] Geris, E. (2021) ‘Poland high court rules EU laws violate constitution’, Jurist, 7 October, Available at: https://www.jurist.org/news/2021/10/poland-high-court-rules-eu-laws-violate-constitution/ (Accessed: 6 December 2021)

[6] Morawiecki, M. (2021) ‘Statement by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in the European Parliament’, Republic of Poland, 19 October, Available at: Statement by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in the European Parliament – The Chancellery of the Prime Minister – Gov.pl website (www.gov.pl) (Accessed: 6 December 2021)

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Wanat, Z. (2021) ‘Poland threatens ‘assertive’ action if EU doesn’t approve recovery cash’, Politico, 10 November, Available at: https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-assertive-action-eu-recovery-cash/ (Accessed: 6 December 2021)

[14] Rees, T. & Wallace, T. (2021), ‘Poland finds its economy squeezed by both east and west’, Daily Telegraph, 11 November, Available at: Poland finds its economy squeezed by both the east and the west (telegraph.co.uk) (Accessed: 6 December 2021)

[15] Ibid.

[16] Athrapully, N. (2021) ‘Poland Will Not Be ‘Blackmailed’ Into Accepting European Union Laws, PM Morawiecki Says’, The Epoch Times, 22 October, Available at: https://www.theepochtimes.com/poland-will-not-be-blackmailed-into-accepting-european-union-laws-pm-morawiecki-says_4062805.html (Accessed: 6 December 2021)