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Polish trust in the European Union
Poles have more trust in the European Union and its institutions than in Polish authorities. 48% of the Poles values the EU positively. This is the highest level in Europe. Polish Member of the European Parliament Sidonia Jędrzejewska elaborated on this during the debate 'Poland and the European Democracy', organised by the Montesquieu Institute and the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw. Together with Polish prof. Leszek Jesień she reflected on Poland and the European democracy in the House of Europe, The Hague.
Prof. Jesień highlighted the factor of European citizenship. The European cooperation started as a partnership among the different participating member states. Back then, the European citizens were hardly involved with Europe. The Maastricht Treaty (1993) changed this, as the European citizenship was introduced, together with a common currency: the euro. The Schengen Treaty (1985) provided Europeans with the advantage to travel in the EU without borders. The involvement of European citizens with the EU grew, with the euro crisis as a new peak.
Both speakers talked about whether a European demos exists in the EU. Prof. Jesień argued that there is no simple European democracy, as there is no simple European demos. To overcome the lack of European demos the EU has to show its value on the international stage. Indeed, Ms. Jędrzejewska argued, there is no simple European demos, but the euro crisis did change citizens' involvement with the EU. Important matters are debated on a national level, and therefore there is no European demos and no European debate.
The crisis revealed an undemocratic European system that started an institutional metamorphosis, as Ms. Jędrzejewska explained. The MEP named this process 'rebuilding the ship on sea'. The EU has to be aware of (potential) euro scepticism, such as in the Netherlands. The anti-European story is easier to tell and more spectacular. The solution to euro scepticism is according to her as follows: the EU is essential on the international level. While nations will not be powerful and influential enough to combat other world powers, the EU is able to. The argument of 'never war again' is not relevant any more for the younger generations. Spreading fear will not help: instead, the solution lies in more cooperation amongst member states.
The speakers also elaborated on youth mobilization. Ms. Jędrzejewska mentioned that the Polish society is oriented on the elderly. At this moment, political debates are not attractive to young people because there is not much to offer to the younger generation. The elderly vote and are participating in elections. Online or direct democracy could help involve more young people into politics. However, these measures could invite radical voting, which is a risk, especially regarding the EU. According to Ms. Jędrzejewska young people have to fight for their rights in politics.
In conclusion, Poland aims to improve its democracy. Lacking trust in their national political institutions, the Poles set their hopes on the European Commission, the European Parliament and on the European Court of Justice. The EU could, as it is seen as a modern and democratic organisation, help Poland achieve this goal.