_Tatiana Romanova, leading researcher, Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies, Higher School of Economics. Saint-Petersburg, 23 December 2017.
New Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that after WWII Poland did not receive adequate compensation from Germany for the damage it had suffered and has the right to bring the topic of reparations to the agenda of Polish-German negotiations. Germany is unlikely to return to this issue, says Valdai Club expert Tatiana Romanova, Associate Professor, European Studies Chair at the Saint-Petersburg State University, Head of Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence.
The fact is that in the Soviet era, namely in 1953, Poland officially refused reparations. Berlin primarily pays attention to this decision, the expert stressed. Moreover, the Germans are now less likely to feel the historical guilt compared to the period immediately after WWII. Finally, the policy of public funds saving is now much more stringent in Germany.
“The issue of reparations can hardly become reality. However, it is obvious that Poland will trumpet about this not so much in hope to actually get these funds, but mainly as a negotiating resource to attract attention and maximize Poland’s weight in the decision-making process in the European Union,” Tatiana Romanova said.
For Germany, the current escapades of Warsaw are by no means new, since the topic of reparations was previously used by Poland to some extent. “The German government has very clearly stated that Berlin does not intend to pay, precisely because Poland at one time refused reparations,” Romanova stressed.
The problems of Polish-German relations, when neighbors cannot find a common language, and the overall behavior of Warsaw in one way or another influence the situation in the EU.
What is happening inside Poland: the reform of judicial system, the reform of the Constitutional Court, attacks on journalists’ rights is a matter of concern and criticism from Brussels. In this regard, Poland plays a significantly smaller role in the EU.
The threat of applying Article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union is looming over Poland, which could deprive Warsaw of the right to vote in the EU Council in connection with the violation of human rights and the principles of democracy. “There is disagreement between Brussels and one of the European Union members-states, and this happened much later than it could have been. After all, the EU institutions tolerated Poland for a long time, and only now they began to understand the expediency of retaliatory measures,” the expert stressed. In November 2017, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that provides the launch of a mechanism to impose sanctions against Poland.
But the EU cannot displace the government of Poland. It can only wait when the citizens themselves change their opinion about the government in the elections. The institutions of the European Union, and its member-states can continue to press on the Polish authorities. “If criticism of previous years has no effect, we will probably see the application of Article 7, although Hungary has promised to block the adoption of such a decision in the Council of Ministers and the European Council. The question is not whether Hungary succeeds or not. In any case, this may be the most radical measure – blocking Poland’s participation in the European Union institutions. And then we will wait for the citizens’ vote,” Tatiana Romanova said.
In general, there are four options for further development of the situation:
• Everything remains as before, and no measures against Poland will be taken with further decline of Poland’s weight and influence in Brussels;
• Application of Article 7, despite the promise of Hungary and Poland itself to counteract this:
• The current Polish government will change its position regarding constitutional and judicial reforms, which Brussels criticizes, as well as actions against journalists;
• Citizens themselves will go to the polls and change the composition of the executive power.