How will the conflict between Warsaw and Brussels end?

Thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Poland over the weekend to protest the Polish Constitutional Tribunal's ruling last week. The court ruled that EU law is partially incompatible with the Polish constitution, and many now fear that Poland could leave the EU. Europe's press discusses the scope of the protests and the future of the European Union.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Still not enough

Despite the resistance on the streets, the opposition forces led by Donald Tusk lack clout, German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk comments:

“That is also due to Tusk himself. ... Because of his earlier, partly neoliberal policies, he is disliked not only in PiS circles. He has yet to come up with a new, convincing programme after his return. The same goes for a reorientation at the personnel level in Tusk's Civic Platform party. However, all of this is needed to generate support beyond the core voters. And here lies the second cause of the limited potential of the pro-EU protests: emigration, as well as a political apathy that has never been fully overcome since the end of communism, make widespread mobilisation difficult.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

The opposition needs a European vision

Tygodnik Powszechny also makes demands on the opposition:

“The [EU] community is going through an identity crisis and is deeply divided by a web of conflicting interests. Kaczyński sees this and is factoring it into his calculations. Perhaps he is counting on 'sovereignists' like him coming into power in other important countries soon. For Polish opposition politicians, it is enough for now that the defence against 'Polexit' has strongly consolidated the fractured electorate across the spectrum and beyond the PiS. It is unlikely that they will be able to present a coherent vision of the EU two years before the elections. ... However, there will come a time when it will no longer be possible to avoid this question.”

15min (LT) /

Vilnius needs a Warsaw it can rely on

Poland's behaviour is jeopardising EU enlargement, political scientist Ramūnas Vilpišauskas warns on 15min:

“The bigger such conflicts between Poland and the EU institutions become, the less trustworthy Poland's voice sounds when it comes to important political and institutional reforms in the EU neighbourhood. ... And this is also a reason why Lithuania should be concerned - Lithuania's strategic interest lies in spreading democratic and European values among its neighbours in the east. ... This situation is also grist to the mill for EU countries like France that don't want to integrate the Balkan countries too quickly or give Ukraine a future perspective in the EU.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Survive by getting smaller

The EU should no longer bother with unwilling member states, senior official Etienne Keroyant advises in Les Echos:

“Faced with the new challenges that lie ahead, the EU must speak with one strong voice, without the risk of being stabbed in the back by one of its members. ... Refocusing the EU on its historical members - the Europe of 12 or of 15, which can be joined by those Central and Eastern Europe countries that are truly interested in far-reaching integration - with a similar level of economic development as well as culture, seems essential at the moment to ensure the development or simply the survival of the European project and to make the continent a power that counts globally in the years to come.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Never again a second-class citizen

Natalia Waloch, who left Poland for France in the early 2000s and worked there illegally as a cleaner, recalls in Gazeta Wyborcza her high hopes back then, when Poland was not yet an EU member state:

“Being a young Polish woman in Paris in 2002 was not easy. The French really didn't know much about Poland. ... I was often asked whether we had cars or computers. In many people's minds, Poland was somewhere near the Ural Mountains. ... I decided that I would never again go anywhere where I would be a second-class citizen. I wanted to be European in the truest sense of the word, to have access to universities and studies abroad and not just to casual jobs that often left me exhausted. I won't let anyone take that away from me [now].”