Poland faces a stark choice: Will it be a sovereign player shaping Europe’s future or a plaything of France and Germany?

Which way will Poland turn? Donald Tusk and Jarosław Kaczyński shaking hands in the Polish Parliament when Tusk became Prime Minister in 2007. Handshakes between the two have been rare since. EPA/Radek Pietruszka


Poland stands at a crossroads as it approaches its election on October 15. Historically, Poland has navigated decisions that have both elevated and nearly obliterated it from the map. The Kingdom of Poland in 1025 and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1386 marked periods of ascendancy. Their united stand against the Teutonic Order in the 15th century, culminating in the victory at the Battle of Grunwald, was a testament to their strength. Yet, the partitions in the late 18th century, driven by neighbours like Russia, Prussia, and Austria, combined with internal dissent, saw Poland vanish from the map until post World War I. Poland’s history is a resilient dance of triumphs and setbacks.

Post-World War II, Poland was under Soviet grip, ushering in the Communist era. The emergence of the Solidarity movement in the late 70s, led by Lech Wałęsa, signaled a desire for change. Amplified by the Gdańsk Shipyard strikes, Solidarity transcended its initial labor rights goals, representing nationwide yearning for freedom. The Polish Catholic Church, strengthened by figures like Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Pope John Paul II, offered spiritual resilience against Communist dominance. John Paul II’s 1979 visit galvanized national unity, emboldening Poles to challenge the status quo. By the late 1980s, economic strains and societal pressures initiated the Round Table Talks between the Communist government and opposition, leading to semi-free elections in 1989. This, coupled with the fall of the Berlin Wall, marked Poland’s shift from Soviet influence to Western-oriented democracy. Poland is now facing another potentially decisive decision.

Poland’s Bold Ambitions: A Thorn in the Side of EU Titans

In recent years, Poland has endeavored to reclaim its rightful place within the European Union, serving not only as a beacon of hope but also as a stalwart defender for Central European countries with intertwined historical narratives and cultural values. As Poland fiercely asserted this renewed role, it became transparent that traditional EU behemoths, chiefly France and Germany, weren’t merely uncomfortable but appeared to be orchestrating efforts to undermine Poland’s resurgence. Numerous international media platforms, likely influenced by certain geopolitical stakeholders, crafted narratives seemingly designed to erode the legitimacy of Poland’s political shifts and challenge its aspiration for regional leadership. Particularly, comments from France’s President Macron didn’t merely hint at a divide but rather painted Poland as a potential disruptor to the European Union’s unity. Beyond media tactics, the EU institutional forums seemed to be strategically weaponised. From manipulated concerns over the rule of law, to controversial debates on judicial reforms, and orchestrated outcry over media freedom, Poland found itself constantly defending its sovereignty against what appeared to be a coordinated attempt to dilute its influence and regional significance.

Conquer and divide

As the impending election in Poland draws closer, its consequences reverberate across the European Union, underscoring Poland’s multifaceted position between the West and East, traditional and multicultural societies, and national sovereignty versus autocratic rule.

Historically, Germany and France have stood as the central pillars of the EU, frequently dubbed the “Franco-German engine”. Their influential roles in driving the direction of EU policies are undeniable. These powerhouses understand the intricate nature of their relationship with Poland. They’re well aware that punitive actions like sanctions or the cessation of funds could not only cause political strain but, given the increasing significance of varied supply chains highlighted by the over-reliance on China-centric routes, could also unintentionally cripple Western businesses intertwined with Polish sectors.

Interestingly, while Poland has benefitted immensely from EU funds, especially receiving over €100 billion in cohesion funding by the end of 2020, a significant portion was invested in infrastructure. While these projects uplifted Poland’s infrastructural framework, they often aligned more seamlessly with the interests of Western European businesses than with Poland’s overarching economic transformation. A case in point is the construction sector in Poland, which has thrived due to substantial investments from Western entities.

Simultaneously, when it comes to technology and innovation, the story reveals a different facet. While Poland’s startup scene, particularly in hubs like Warsaw and Krakow, has been on the rise, the EU’s funding distribution has been lopsided. Established Western European tech giants have reaped the benefits, leaving emerging Polish startups in a lurch, making them ripe targets for acquisitions.

The allocation disparities from the EU to Poland may not be accidental. They could signify a strategic intention. Despite Poland’s immense potential in the tech sector and its pivotal geographical significance, its capabilities have been under utilised. While Poland’s skilled labour force and infrastructure have played a vital role for the EU, it appears that there’s a broader strategy in place to limit Poland’s role to manual labor and infrastructure endeavors.

In this context, the Franco-German alliance, crucial in shaping the EU’s direction, is clearly showing interest in Ukraine as an alternative economic partner. This move isn’t solely about diversifying economic bases. By elevating Ukraine, the EU’s primary powers aim to present an alternative to Poland’s dominant role in manufacturing, labor, and supply chain, and, in the process, subtly diminish Poland’s economic influence in the region.

This tactic resonates with the age-old “divide and conquer” strategy. By potentially creating a rift between Poland and Ukraine, the EU’s leadership hopes to ensure that neither nation gains enough influence to challenge the existing power structure.

Poland, at this historic juncture, is reminded of times when its fate hung in balance, swayed by external narratives. Europe, for the longest time, has perceived Poland merely as a supplier of cheap labor and a replaceable manufacturing hub. The old game of setting Central and Eastern European nations in competition seems tired in the face of Poland’s emerging potential. The question looms large: Do we continue being relegated to the background, or do we take charge, leading a renewed vision for the Intermarium region?

A deeper alliance with Ukraine presents a golden opportunity: not just a partnership of strategy, but one deeply rooted in shared history and mutual aspirations. The broader European Union’s playbook, which often seems biased in favor of the West’s corporate giants, casts a shadow against the potential prosperity of a Poland-Ukraine nexus. Such an alliance promises not just economic growth but a reclamation of regional dignity and mutual respect.

Moreover, our stance with global powers, especially the U.S., beckons recalibration. For too long, our national narrative has been outsourced, told through foreign lenses, often distorting our ethos. The time is ripe for Poland to control its narrative, reflecting our true essence to the global community.

As we approach the election, it isn’t just about selecting a political party or leader. It’s a profound choice: do we cast our vote for those who envision Poland as a key player, in partnership with its neighbors, reclaiming its rightful place on the European stage? Or do we resign to a future where our national sovereignty gets diluted, falling prey to centralised autocrats who seem more keen on governing from a distance, detached from the true wishes of the citizenry? The choice is stark, and its implications profound. Poland’s decision in this election will not merely shape its destiny but will influence the broader trajectory of Europe’s future.