ARE THE POLES THE TRUE EUROPEANS?
Looking in the Kaczynskis' Rearview Mirror
If Germany had never invaded Poland, there would be no need to talk about EU voting rights today, says Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. In Brussels there is irritation that Poland is playing the "history card" once again. But Germans in particular should be wary of being too quick to judge.
In the dispute over the voting rights in the European treaty, the Polish Prime Minister Jarolsaw Kaczynski has now come up with an argument that any German would find it difficult to contradict. "If Poland had not had to live through the (World War II) years of 1939-1945, Poland would today be looking at the demographics of a country of 66 million." The Polish leader was attempting to justify his demands for an alternative voting rights system, rather than the one proposed by the German rotating EU presidency.
There is no question that not only the history of Poland, but that of every European country, would have been much happier without the German invasion of Poland and its monstrous consequences. It should be remembered that during World War II there were an estimated 6 million Polish victims of the German occupation -- of which 5.7 million were civilians. In Poland alone, 2.4 million Jews were murdered.
Kaczynski made the statement on Polish radio on Tuesday but otherwise it didn't really resonate at home. However in Brussels and Berlin the comments were registered with concern and were seen as an indication the Polish government is now doing what it often does when it runs into trouble: plays the history card.
And this Thursday evening, when the Polish square-root idea is broached, one can expect this kind of reminiscing again. Warsaw is isolated and is threatening to use its veto. But anyone who thinks that a hopeless cause would make the Polish prime minister or president break out in a sweat doesn't know the Polish mentality. When there's nothing more to be done, that's when things really get going for people like the Kaczynskis.
The Catholic twins are caught up in the amber of history.Memo to der Spiegel: Would you make such an idiotic distinction if the Kaczynskis were Jooos?
But what we might consider isolationism, and even parochialism, the Kaczynskis and most Poles see as a political defensive fortification. While amber conserves, it also protects from outside blows.And it is a political defensive fortification that will be next to impossible to breach. Unless Germany gives up its quest for domination within the European Union.
Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has called on the Kaczynskis to make a "leap into the present." "You will not be happy in the long-run if you are always looking in the rearview mirror." Juncker is right. But it is worth looking in the Kaczynskis' rearview mirror. Because what the Polish president and his brother, the prime minister, see there is not the same thing that Tony Blair or Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel or Jose Manuel Barroso see. For the Kaczynskis objects in the mirror appear closer than they really are.There's much more.
In their rearview mirror, for example, it is the end of August 1939, a few days before the German invasion of Poland and a man by the name of Jozef Beck appears in view. He is Poland's foreign minister and he is receiving the US diplomat Joseph K. Davies in his office in Warsaw. The two are discussing the danger of war breaking out. Davies, previously US ambassador to Moscow, is pretty pessimistic, but Beck sees things differently. The Germans should come! If the Wehrmacht attacks, Polish troops will be in Berlin within three weeks. Davies thought Beck was completely crazy. And he turned out to be right. The Wehrmacht marched into Warsaw four weeks later, and the biggest ever program of destruction in the history of mankind got underway.
Davies urged Beck to form an alliance with Moscow. That was out of the question for the Poles, just as, in all their quarrels with Brussels, it would be out of the question for the Kaczynskis today. The pattern of thought is certainly similar: Before, it was the Germans and the Russians who occupied us, now the EU wants to pull a fast one on us. But how did the Kaczynskis come to this conclusion? A look in their rearview mirror provides some answers.