Poland's Election Signals EU's Desire to Rebuild Ties after Years of Discord
Eurocrats in Poland are beaming like Cheshire cats, according to the exit polls from the election.
"We, the fifth-largest country in the EU fold, are back!" is the straightforward message that Poland's moderate opposition Civic Coalition wants to convey to Brussels after years of enmity and alienation.
The EU accepts them since they are led by Donald Tusk, the former head of the European Council.
Brussels has been extremely concerned about the election in Poland.
Not much was spoken in public. There was a lot of finger-biting over the euro behind closed doors, but EU officials don't want to be perceived as meddling in national elections.
For a long time, Poland and Hungary were seen as the EU's bad boys—democracies with flaws and adversaries of the EU.
They were charged with disobeying democratic principles within the bloc.
Brussels withheld billions of euros from Poland, citing the government's deprivation of women's autonomy over their own bodies through the virtual prohibition of abortion and its takeover of the public broadcaster, which also threatened press freedom and judicial independence.
Additionally, Hungary and Poland consistently obstructed the adoption of bold EU climate targets and the agreement on additional measures to address migration throughout the EU.
With only the exit poll to go on thus far, Brussels is doubly happy with the predicted result because it seemingly buckes an emerging trend that the EU really feared: the seeming resurgence of the far right Euroskepticism throughout most of the bloc.
These factions are leading the polls in Germany, Austria, and France. Slovakia's election was just won by populists.
Former Slovak Prime Minister and Smer-SD party chairman Robert Fico attends a news conference at the party's headquarters in Bratislava, Slovakia, on October 1, 2023, following Slovakia's parliamentary elections.
Robert Fico, the victor of the Slovakian election, plans to stop providing military support to Ukraine.
Though it won't be simple, Civic Coalition pledges to rejoin the European mainstream. It is anticipated that the departing hard-line, conservative Law and Justice party would have a sizable portion of legislative seats, which will restrict the options available to Poland's next administration.
Margaritis Schinas, the vice president of the European Commission, seemed positive when we spoke, nevertheless. He expressed his hope that the difficulties "haunting" relations with Poland would now subside and referred to Warsaw as an essential part of the European alliance.
Brussels is eager to defrost icy ties with Poland for additional reasons, including Russia. Moscow views any division among the international supporters of Ukraine as advantageous to it.
Whoever won on Sunday, Warsaw's hard posture towards Russia was not likely to budge.
It's a long-standing rivalry. In light of that, NATO was significantly more optimistic than the EU over the outcome of the Polish election. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Warsaw has taken a more prominent role in the military alliance.
Julianne Smith, the US ambassador to NATO, told me that during her visits to Poland, she saw that the Polish people, not just the government, were committed to continuing to help Ukraine.
They are in that location. They share a border with Ukraine and experience the war in a different way than some of the other alliance allies.
It's a lot like what they do every day. And for that reason, I believe we can depend on Poland and are at ease doing so in the long run, regardless of who happens to be in office."
Prior to the controversial Donald Trump taking office as US President, Washington was extremely irritated that its European allies weren't investing more on defense. Poland is happy to dedicate 3% of its GDP on enhancing its sense of security. And Civic Coalition isn't expected to change that.
In fact, Poland announced plans to invest in enough manpower and equipment to become Europe's strongest army by 2026 because it is so concerned that the conflict in Ukraine may spread beyond its borders.