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Invading Poland Again

The E.U. is not a common market. It is a liberal imperialist project.

The European Union and the  globalists who rule the European core revealed their hand last Thursday when some of the bloc’s leaders shamed Poland for purportedly violating the E.U.’s values and laws, once again proving that the E.U. is not a common market, but a liberal imperialist project.

Whether it’s logging in the Białowieża Forest, the refusal to take in refugees, press freedoms, or judiciary reform, the issues the E.U. and some of its member states have with Poland are multifaceted. Yet, at the root of all of their critiques of Poland is the idea that Poland’s sovereignty is second to that of the E.U. Warsaw ultimately answers to Brussels—and on occasion Luxembourg or Strasbourg—rather than the Polish people.

This is something Eurosceptics have recognized for quite a long time, even before Nigel Farage spearheaded the ultimately successful Brexit effort in the U.K., which still has internationalists biting their nails in fear of which domino might fall next—fears that haven’t yet come to fruition. Today, the Eurosceptics’ intuitions are being all but explicitly confirmed by those still committed to the European project.

Two days before this year’s E.U. summit began in Brussels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki squared off in speeches to the European Parliament, offering a sneak peek of the impending discussions.

In her speech, von der Leyen took issue with a recent ruling by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal that stated the national constitution is paramount, over E.U. treaties, calling it “a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order.”

“The people of Poland wanted democracy,” von der Leyen said, describing the Polish people’s ascent from the bondage of communism. “They wanted the freedom to choose their government, they wanted free speech and free media, they wanted an end to corruption and they wanted independent courts to protect their rights.”

“This is what Europe is about and that is what Europe stands for,” the European commissioner went on to say. “The recent ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court puts much of it into question.”

“We cannot and will not allow our common values to be put at risk,” she added.

In a speech of his own to the European Parliament, Morawiecki said, “Some European institutions assume the right to decide on matters that have not been assigned to them. … We will not act under the pressure of blackmail, we are ready for dialogue, we do not agree to the ever-expanding competences (of E.U. institutions), but we will of course talk about how to resolve the current disputes in dialogue.”

Leaders from other E.U. member states backed von der Leyen and the commission’s assessment of the situation in Poland at the summit.

“If you want to have the advantages of being in a club… then you need to respect the rules,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said. “You can’t be a member of a club and say, ‘the rules don’t apply to me’.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte remarked, “The independence of the Polish judiciary is the key issue we have to discuss. It is very difficult to see how a big new fund of money could be made available to Poland when this is not settled.”

The European Commission has already prevented Poland from accessing 57 billion euros ($66 billion) in Covid-19 economic relief funds, and asked the European Court of Justice to consider imposing daily fines on Poland until the Polish Supreme Court is reformed and laws that violate the bloc’s “common values” are changed. While Poland rightfully seems to care more about its sovereignty than receiving E.U. development dollars, it is not a net contributor to the E.U. like the pre-Brexit U.K., which gives Brussels more leverage than Warsaw would like. In 2018, the E.U. spent 16.350 billion euros in Poland, nearly 3.5 percent of the entire Polish economy, while Poland contributed just under 4 billion euros.

Poland was not without its defenders at the summit, however. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the leader of another country that the E.U. has taken great issue with over the past few years, and who has garnered attention in conservative intellectual circles and American media, said, “the fact is very clear: the primacy of E.U. law is not in the treaty at all, so the E.U. has primacy where it has competencies… what’s going on here is regularly that European institutions circumvent the rights of the national parliament and government.”

The most recent condemnation of Poland from von der Leyen et al. further reveals the European project to be what nationalists and Eurosceptics of various stripes have always understood it to be: an imperializing force for liberalism. To this day, students are taught that the European Union is first and foremost a common market, devoted to the free transfer of people, goods, services, and capital. Only later, this story goes, when the bloc was faced with the choice of widening or deepening the level of European integration (which it wound up opting for both), did more commitments to “common values” beyond that of neoliberal economics.

But that conventional wisdom is wrong. The E.U.’s provenance, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was created in the aftermath of World War II by the Treaty of Paris in 1951. The year prior, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, who fought for the German empire in World War I, was attempting to devise a plan that would prevent war from once again breaking out between France and Germany and tossing the entire continent back into turmoil. In what became known as the Schuman Declaration, Schuman proposed, “that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe.” 

Although I have my doubts if the ECSC was essential to prevent another war, given the state of post-war Germany, that is unquestionably a laudable goal. Nevertheless, that goal and the broader process of European integration is a cultural one, which employed economics to achieve those ends. The Schuman Declaration makes this abundantly clear:

The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.

The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.

Schuman’s logic was simple enough: by having France and Germany forfeit their control over two industries necessary for warmaking to a supranational authority, they mutually neuter their capability to wage war and are forced to settle disputes diplomatically.

The ECSC was composed of four institutions, a High Authority made of appointed bureaucrats, a Special Council made of the signatories’ national ministers, a Common Assembly, and a Court of Justice (sound familiar?). Together, these institutions would ensure the stability of the steel and coal market. Since the beginning, long before Maastricht or the Single European Act, the cultural project that is Europe has always relied on supranational authority to enact its priorities.

Here, the American right has a lot to learn from European integration. For starters, the free market is not merely something that occurs on its own; it is imposed by government, and takes vast amounts of resources and authority to maintain its “freedom.” For those inclined to say the economy is something that should be wound up and left alone, at the end of the day someone or something still has to do the winding.

As the E.U., like its predecessors, has extended the process of European integration beyond the core of Europe, it has simultaneously sought to broaden and deepen the definition of “common” European values. By expanding to the point of potentially running into other regions, Europe has had to redefine itself not as a particular place, made up of particular peoples who share a common Christian heritage, but as a set of abstractions and values deemed “common.” If these values are to remain common, though, perceived transgressions against them cannot be tolerated. To quash dissent, the liberal rights regime must appeal to supranational authority to operationalize its imperializing force, much like the establishment of the “free” market relied on the ECSC’s oversight and control. A failure to do so would jeopardize the entire project of European integration, if not liberalism itself, which thus ends with a tyranny of its own kind.

America’s globalist liberal establishment comes closer to mirroring that of Europe by the day. When the liberal rights regime rubs up against democracy or federalism, liberalism wins. American conservatives should heed the Eurosceptics’ warnings before America too is fully reduced to a tyrannizing bundle of lofty abstractions.