In an interview for the German ‘Der Spiegel’ weekly, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki spoke of the Poles’ disappointment with German assistance to Ukraine, how the country’s climate policy made Europe dependent on Russian energy resources, and Warsaw’s trouble with Brussels.
The Polish Prime Minister said that the German government’s position immediately after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine was “disappointing”. He brings up oft-reiterated points, that Ukraine “is fighting not only for its survival but for Europe's freedom” and that Ukraine’s defeat would be an invitation to further conquests, which is why Poland, a possible target, is so vocal about supporting Ukraine.
By the end of the interview, PM Morawiecki revisits the matter and goes so far as to say that “If Ukraine were dependent on Germany within the framework of a European defence policy, it would no longer exist today,” and that the US has proven to be the best guarantor of Europe’s security.
He also says that Germany’s failure to quickly acknowledge the follies of its energy policies, such as becoming so strongly dependent on Russian natural gas is another reason for Polish disappointment.
“Putin uses pipelines as weapons. For him they are an instrument of warfare,” said Mr Morawiecki, adding that “Ukraine drove the enemy back faster than the Germans were able to make decisions.”
The Polish PM also says that despite a deal between Warsaw and Berlin, according to which the German Bundeswehr was to send weapons to Poland to replace the weapons Poland send to Ukraine, no German arms have been transferred so far, despite Poland having supplied Ukraine with weapons “well over $2 billion [ca. EUR 2 bn] already, 300 tanks and other heavy equipment”.
“What counts is not what is written on paper, but what is implemented. [...] Berlin's hesitation, its inaction, seriously calls into question the value of the alliance with Germany. And we are not the only ones saying that. I am hearing this from quite a few other heads of government in Europe, as well,” Morawiecki stressed.
As he points out, Germany’s position in the EU is vital, and Berlin dragging its feet affects the pace at which the entire bloc functions.
“I understand that some things take time, but others should also be quite simple,” said Morawiecki, pointing out that the EU has agreed to give Ukraine EUR 9 bn back in June to ensure that the country is at least capable of continuing paying salaries to employees of vital state sectors, while the war disrupted the collection of taxes. He juxtaposes the slow process of transferring the money to Kyiv to the 2016 refugee crisis when the EU was swift to send money to Turkey to support the Syrian refugees and migrants from other countries.
Mr Morawiecki believes that Germany’s role as one of Europe’s leading countries will be adversely affected by the current war in Ukraine. Primarily by the fact that German energy policy has proven a complete disaster. And not just for Germany. He says that it “inflicted tremendous damage on Europe” as a whole.
By contrast, everybody can now see that Poland and other countries in the region were correct in continuing to raise the alarm about the threat posed by Russia. He also points out that German trade with the Visegrád Group (Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary) “is significantly larger than trade with China, the U.S. or France,” and that Berlin should “nurture and cultivate such partners rather than patronizing the Poles.”
The PM also spoke of the recent report published by the Polish government, which summarised the losses Poland suffered during World War Two and estimated the cost of war reparations at EUR 1.3 trillion. As Morawiecki points out, “that is not such a fantastic sum”, as the entire annual Federal budget and the budgets of individual German states amount to a similar sum. He also points out that Warsaw wishes to invite representatives of Israel to the talks with the Germans because about half of the Polish victims of the war were also Jewish, and that the Polish government is not ruling out taking the claims to an international court if an agreement with Berlin cannot be reached.
PM Morawiecki also spoke of the fact that Poland is yet to see the money from the post-covid recovery package, which amounts to about EUR 35 bn. Brussels claims that the money will only be paid once Poland begins to abide by “the rule of law”, which was reportedly violated by the government’s reform of the judiciary, aimed at introducing checks and balances into the system of electing judges, which have previously been elected by other judges.
Morawiecki believes that accusing Poland of violating the rule of law for reforming its judiciary is “absurd”. As he points out, the reunification of Germany prompted the sacking of some 70 per cent of judges working in the judiciary of East Germany, a process the Polish judiciary never went through and which resulted in the judiciary still being tainted by corrupt practices of the communist period 30 years after the system collapsed. He also says that many other European countries, e.g. Spain, have a process of electing judges similar to the reformed Polish system, but they face no accusations of breaking the rule of law.
As he explains, Poland has the right to reform its judiciary, and European institutions have no right under the EU treaty to interfere. He also says that any attempts to explain the nature of the Polish judicial reform have fallen on deaf ears.
“I have repeatedly tried to explain to many of my colleagues in Europe that our judicial reform does not damage the rule of law in Poland, it restores it,” said Morawiecki, but he adds that “Either they didn't understand, they didn't want to understand, or they are pursuing very different goals than they claim.”
Asked to elaborate. PM Morawiecki points out that Poland, the largest EU member state in Central and Eastern Europe, has served as an advocate for the interests of other countries in the region and has been very active in promoting regional cooperation, making it, in a way, a regional leader.
“We articulate the experiences and interests of the countries that experienced communism. We represent diversity in Europe, and diversity is a value in itself,” said Morawiecki. “Maybe our role isn't to everyone's liking.”
Morawiecki also said, that while in certain areas “further integration is worthwhile” in others, especially those that are concerned with ideologies, individual states should retain greater autonomy, saying that “We believe that further integration is not automatically better than diversity.”
Asked about how he expects the war to end, The Polish PM did not respond directly but stressed that the EU needs to stay firm in applying further sanctions to erode the Russian economy, and therefore its ability to continue fighting its war of aggression. He said, however, that the focus should be on helping Ukraine to prepare for a hard winter ahead.