Asserting Poland’s Right to Shape Europe
WARSAW -- In Berlin this week, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski called for a greater federalization of Europe, emphasizing that, notwithstanding the economic dimension of the crisis, the core of the EU’s problem is one of leadership. The enduring significance of Sikorski’s message lies less in the specifics of his proposed reforms and more in the tenor of his speech, with its sense of urgency, declaration of European solidarity, and willingness to point fingers and name names.
Sikorski has challenged Europe’s largest players to lead, follow, or step aside. No other part of Sikorski’s address was more symbolic of the reality of European politics today than his direct appeal to Berlin to assume the lead. The Polish foreign minister openly declaring in Berlin that he fears Germany’s power less than her inactivity shows how profoundly Central European relations have moved beyond the burden of history.
Poland, a country in which the past remains a part of quotidian politics, has shown her determination to look beyond the here and now, and to raise the larger question about the future of the European project. Sikorski’s speech put paid to the notion that new EU members are still largely passive participants in the integration process, adapting to EU rules and regulations, and interested mostly in being the recipients of European funds.
Sikorski put Europe on notice that all members want to shape the European project, and this message, coming from a country that has fared better than most in the current economic climate, carries added significance. In Warsaw, where intense and at times heated reactions to the Berlin speech ran the gamut from high praise to outright condemnation, one common thread linking Sikorski’s admirers with his critics was the recognition that Poland’s voice carries new weight.
Poland, an economic success story in Europe and a country which, only two decades ago was an economic basket-case burdened with the crippling legacy of communism, has challenged the status quo. Declaring her commitment to further integration, proclaiming solidarity with Europe and rejecting the criticism of enlargement, Sikorski has asserted the country’s right to shape Europe’s future.
Andrew A. Michta directs the Warsaw office and is a Senior Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund.
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