Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Man To Watch: Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland

Some thoughts from Polish President Lech Kaczynski, prior to his visit to Germany this week (his first ever). Some folk describe him as a right wing nationalist, but he comes across rather well: statesmanlike, and - in contrast to most European politicians' disconnectivity to European voters - able to talk about things that concern ordinary people:

- the most important event in his life was the restoration of Polish sovereignty in 1989 and this experience drives his suspicion of Russia;

- his experience as mayor of Warsaw showed him that many EU directives were utterly unsuited to the situation in Poland;

- he is in favour of Ukraine and Turkey joining the EU;

- his aim is to restore Law and Order in Poland, specifically, to act against the crime caused by an unholy alliance between the local MAFIA and the ex-communist security forces;

- the deal between Germany and Russia's Gazprom to build a new gas pipeline (brokered by ex-Chancellor Schroeder, who is now an employee of Putin's at Gazprom!) is against Poland's interests;

- Kaczynski is proposing an "Energy NATO" to the European Union, involving the creation of a new pipeline, in order to protect the European supply which, as we saw this last winter in Ukraine, is at least partly the mercy of Russian whims.

Kaczynski's views are timely in several respects. First, the energy crisis facing Europe requires a new vision, and Kaczynski is the first politician in Europe to come up with one. Second, Kaczynski's instinctive mistrust of federalist power is shared by many in Europe - voters who rejected the draft EU Constitution in Holland and France foremost amongst them, but many more, who were not allowed to vote on the question by their own politicians. Recent efforts (by Angela Merkel and others) to revive the document are dangerous becuase they persist in seeing the problems of Europe as caused by the nation state. But these days it is EU institutions themselves that are demonstrating myopia and an inability to listen to their citzens' concerns. Europe needs more politicians of Kaczynski's calibre who are willing to challenge this corporatist orthodoxy.

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