The state of votes
Intermarium – a chance for our region
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Marcin Furdyna | 2018. March 01. 00:00
Intermarium, or Trimarium – that’s what the Polish authorities are trying to create in this part of Europe: an alliance of countries between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas. The main question is whether such formation is real, or maybe – as a well-known British publicist Edward Lucas claims – Poland is not strong enough, economically and demographically, to attain such ambitious goals.
There is no doubt that Poland, a state situated in the centre of Europe with about 38 million people, is among those European countries able to pursue an active foreign policy, both within the European Union and in relations with its non-EU immediate neighbourhood. In Poland, pundits generally indicate that there are two main attitudes to what the country’s foreign policy should be like. The first one says that Warsaw ought to closely cooperate with the core of the EU, especially Germany and France, and try to play the second fiddle (as Brexit is a matter of time) in such concert of powers in the European Community. The other sees Poland as a magnet for cooperation with smaller countries in the region like the Baltic States or the other V4 countries, and thereby creating a considerable fraction in the EU that may be a counterbalance to the Western core of the EU. The former attitude was represented by Donald Tusk’s government with Radek Sikorski as foreign affairs minister, and the latter has been adopted by the Law and Justice party after its landslide victory in the last parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015.
The idea of Intermarium was originally proposed at the beginning of the 20th century by one of the greatest Polish statesmen (then a socialist activist fighting for independent Poland), Joseph Pilsudski, as a restoration of a strong political formation in the shape of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that had eventually collapsed in 1795. Pilsudski believed that the federation of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and perhaps other Central and Eastern European countries is a prerequisite to defend them against German and Russian (then Soviet) threat in the future. Unfortunately, nationalisms (with the strong Polish one) turned out to be too vital at this time and the project failed. In the mid-1930s, another Polish politician and Pilsudski’s heir in the field of foreign policy, Joseph Beck, attempted to create a strip of neutral states sandwiched between the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. His plan went wrong as, inter alia, Romania and Hungary (the nucleus of Beck’s so-called Third Europe) were unable to bury the hatchet over Transylvania, Warsaw had bad relations with Czechoslovakia, as well as the Baltic and Nordic states were not interested in resignation from their neutrality to form such a bloc with Poland.
We all know what happened in 1939 in Poland, but this is not the point. The point is that many things have radically changed from pre-WWII era and we don’t live in that Europe anymore. This implies that the idea of Intermarium has changed as well. Today we don’t face a long-lasting problem of two hostile neighbouring powers because one of them has become our ally within the framework of a powerful and democratic organization, so any historical analogy that come to many minds is wrong. Nowadays Poland is a member of the European Union and NATO, what guarantees its economic growth, political position and military security. According to opinion polls, the country takes pride in one of the highest support for the EU across Europe. Poland receives a significant amount of money from the structural funds and benefits enormously from the European single market. In a nutshell, there is no such issue like Polexit on the agenda today. If any Polish government raises the question of leaving the EU, it will be swept from the political scene right away. Although some opposite media in Poland take Polexit into consideration, this is absolutely an element of the political war that we can witness over Vistula.
If the aforementioned is true and the Polish authorities understand how important our membership in the EU is (we presume that they do, because, well, it simply can’t be missed), another myth is proved wrong. It follows from the foregoing that the strong EU and NATO are in Poland’s vital interest. Nevertheless, many people believe that Intermarium is an idea that stands in opposition to the EU and NATO. Andris Sprūds, the head of the Latvian Institute of International Affairs, said in an interview, “Strategically, Intermarium doesn’t interest us, it’s ineffective, and it may have some element of destructiveness as it may undermine the cohesion of the EU and NATO. Latvia doesn’t want to play that game.” The problem is that Poland doesn’t see Intermarium as something that would weaken the Euro-Atlantic organizations, but as a tool of self-organizing Central and Easter Europe to defend its interest in a given case. The other side of the coin is that Polish government has made some missteps in relations with Brussels and many see it as a destructive element inside the EU. The battle over Tusk’s second term as President of the European Council, the dispute with the European Commission over the Constitutional Tribunal, and anti-EU or anti-German rhetoric were both unnecessary and counterproductive. That is why some countries don’t want to talk about Intermarium, even if the project seems quite sensible.
Intermarium already exists regardless of what people think. It works every single time when Central and Eastern European states act jointly to come up with solutions to common political, economic or infrastructural problems. Those who think that Intermarium must be an institutionalized organism like the EU are wrong, because it’s all about a common interests. We saw the effect of it in Bucharest in October 2015 when nine Central European countries attended a mini-summit to prepare a joint stand ahead of the NATO summit in Warsaw the following year. We can observe the effect today as Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine are trying to block the project of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. But the effects would have been much greater if Polish government had been doing politics as it should be done – quietly and effectively.
Kummer Lívia | 2018. March 01. 00:00
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