Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
Many Lithuanian politicians and even some of the seasoned political observers are puzzled: what to make of the new Polish Government? On one extreme, some already drool over an example-setting new Poland, while the others, on the opposite end, caution the nearest neighbour, at a speed of bolt, is turning into another Hungary.
The majority, perhaps, is keen to sit on the fence and see what happens next over the border…
Poland is the saviour?
«I believe we are seeing something really extraordinary in Poland now. Poland and Jaroslaw Kaczynski will not pander to Russia and will not court it like some of his predecessors. The geopolitical vision the Kaczynski-led party has is clear and enrooted historically. Importantly, it works for Lithuania as Poland envisions certain (political) coalescence and unity of Middle European and Baltic states. The new Polish authorities will end the games with Western European countries…» Laurynas Kasčiūnas, acting director of Vilnius-based Eastern Europe Studies Centre, told BNN.
Poland has drawn a good deal of criticism for controversial legislation that regulates the Constitutional Tribunal and curtails the public broadcaster’s rights.
Faith-based policies will thrive?
Asked by BNN what one should be making of the moves in Poland, Tomas Janeliūnas, an associated professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University, noted that albeit the question sounds simple, he finds hard to answer it so far.
«As a matter of fact, we seeing only the first steps by the new government and I so not want yet to start making far-reaching conclusions as to what its intentions are and how they can play out,» Janeliūnas emphasized before adding that there is a «strong attempt» in Poland to concentrate power in key institutions in the same hands as soon as possible.
«The actions aimed at the Constitutional Tribunal and the public broadcaster can appear to be very important later on, when the government pursues its further objectives. I have in mind, first of all, the imminent implementation of the Law and Justice Party’s doctrine of values, all of which are spinning around Catholicism and whatever stems for it,» Janeliūnas emphasized to BNN. He added: «We inevitably will be seeing more and more manifestations of the Catholicism-based ideological doctrine.»
Along it, the analyst is convinced, Poland will be aiming to rev up patriotism in the country, which, he says, will likely come at the expense of worsening relations with the European Union.
«Already we are hearing some of the party’s members talking about Brussels’ dictate,» the analyst noted.
More time needed for definite conclusions
The associated professor predicted that the policy, if followed, will inevitably lead to clashes with the other Polish political forces, which can eventually be hushed with the restrictions on public media.
Nevertheless, Janeliūnas cannot tell yet definitely whether Hungary and, now, Poland set a dangerous trend of nationalism and anti-EU rhetoric in Europe.
«I’d say that such circles of nationalistically-oriented policies keep coming back over the time. When the brothers Kaczynski were in power eight years ago, we’d see quite a similar trend. Remember, we’d hear anti-European tunes and values of Catholicism were being declared. There were also attempts then to amass power in the hands. So the circle has come back,» Janeliūnas is convinced.
But characteristically to the new Law and Justice Party-led Polish Government, many contested decisions are being made now very swiftly and assertively.
«Hungarians had been slower and more assessing their steps,” the analyst believes.«I cannot fight a feeling the Polish Government wants to recover what it has lost over the eight years when in opposition. Therefore the rapidness and assertiveness,» Janeliūnas points out. But he cautions the pace of actions and impatience for a change can come with many blunders along the way.
«Let’s face it: the decisions the Government has done already are on the fringes of democracy and this is seemingly not an end. I’d say Poland is acting as a young democracy now, thence the impatience (with decisions) and rush to carry out changes.»
How will Poland treat Lithuania?
He says Lithuania had been through a similar period in the early 1990s, when Sąjūdis, the country’s national movement, would bring about changes without paying attention to what the public says.
«And later, the Social Democrats were trying to erase some of the decisions by Sąjūdis. So swaying of the political pendulum is not new in the politics. It’s a re-occurring thing, in fact, » the analyst asserted.
Referenced to Kasčiūnas’ enthusiastic assessment that such Poland works in Lithuania’s favour, Janeliūnas expressed apprehension that after the controversial decisions domestically, Poland might turn out rather unpredictable with its policy with Lithuania.
«I have little doubt that Poland will come back to the long-disputed issues that the Polish minority here keeps insisting on solving positively. I mean the use of Polish alphabet letters in Lithuanian passports held by Lithuanian citizens of Polish ancestry. The assertiveness the ruling Polish party has shown domestically can be started exercised with the neighbours- and Lithuania- too. Such behaviour would do no good for mutual relations,» Janeliūnas is convinced.
Lithuanian Poles’ leader will be courting new government?
He says it is likely «a matter of time» when Waldemar Tomaszewski, the leader of Lithuania’s Electoral Action of Poles, a political party based on Polish ethnicity, will let know about himself to the new Polish authority.
«It’s very plausible that he, in one way or another, will get in touch with Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party and attempt to get it interested in the Lithuanian Polish party’s agenda,» Janeliūnas believes.
Meanwhile, majority of Lithuanian politicians seem to be settling in a waiting mood over the events in Warsaw.
«Europe is definitely concerned about what is going on in Poland. Already soon it can see a backlash from the European Commission. The events do not look very well from the standpoint of democracy. Certainly, elections decide who comes to power…today we see that, in Poland, all the leverages of power- President’s Office, Government and the parliamentary majority in the Parliament- are in the same hands…Whether this is good or bad is hard to tell as the voters are behind that. But what the new Polish Government executed already does raises a certain concern,» Benediktas Juodka, a Social Democratic MP and chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Delfi.lt
The reform of the Constitutional Tribunal, as well as the interference with the media freedom principles point out that not all is good with the democracy in Poland, he insists.
Comparisons between Hungary and Poland amount
Echoing, Petras Auštrevičius, a Liberal Europarliamentarian, is even harsher assessing the developments over the border.
«I am honest: I’ve had a better prognosis (with the coming of the Law and Justice Party) for Poland, but the farther they go the bigger concern takes over (what is going on there). It is not about a new Government, but the ways it has started taking care of matters in the country, especially those in relation with superiority of law, control of public institutions and attempt to forcefully enact its policies. When seeing all of that, I believe the ruling coalition is acting in a non-European way,» the MEP said.
He reminded the European Parliament has passed several resolutions over the situation of human rights and democracy in Hungary and confessed he feared that the Hungarian scenario may be repeated in Poland.
«I fear that Poland is following into the footsteps of Hungary over which actions the European Parliament has reacted with a resolution and Poland, now, is likely to be the next,» the Lithuanian politician says.
New Polish Government needs more time
Gediminas Kirkilas, a big hitter in the Social Democratic Party, admitted to BNN he is following the events in Poland with «anxiety».
«I believe that a civic society does exist in Poland and it will not give in to the pressure. I hope the Polish authorities will understand the situation and will be open for compromises. The Poles have been the first to have shaken up the totalitarian system, so, I am sure, they can stand up now against what is seen as a slap to democracy again,» the politician said.
Meanwhile, Gabrielius Landsbergis, chairman of Lithuanian Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats, asks all to give the new Polish Government «more time» to get used to the new powers.
«I’d nod to those who say that the new Government needs more time to run in with the powers and find right solutions…Nevertheless, the new Polish leadership ought to learn from the ill examples that the Hungarian Government has been notorious for. I hope that the new Polish Government will not follow the path taken by the Hungarian Government,» the Conservatives’ leader told.