Clear change in rhetoric, unclear change in policy. Polish foreign and European policies after 2015 parliamentary elections

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The Institute of Public Affairs in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation monitored the electoral campaign before the 2015 parliamentary elections in Poland for Eurosceptic and populist trends, focusing on ideas of Polish parties for foreign and European policy.The aim of the analysis was to describe positions of the main political forces in Poland towards the most important issues in European agenda (Russian-Ukrainian conflict, accepting immigrants from Northern Africa and Middle East, reforming the EU in relation to the UK referendum, austerity policy and financial support to Greece, Eurozone and Polish membership in it, energy and climate policy).

The early activities of the Polish government of Law and Justice formed after the October 2015 parliamentary elections causes concerns in the West about complying the rule of law and democratic standards. This resulted in implementation of the so-called rule of law mechanism by the European Commission and a discussion about the situation in Poland in the European Parliament. Concerns about the situation in Poland are related not only to the state of democracy, but also to the question of whether Poland ruled by the populist nationalists will remain a reliable partner committed to European integration. This paper attempts to address these last concerns.

The author tries to foresee what changes in Polish foreign and European policies can be expected under the new government on the basis of the electoral campaign, the new government’s first decisions and the party’s strategic programming documents. The paper addresses the new government’s position towards the main issues on the EU agenda and the future of cooperation with EU partners.


Foreign policy was not a significant topic in the electoral campaign. The victory of eurosceptic forces in the elections may suggest a shift in Polish society towards a more sceptical approach towards the European Union. This is not the case. The shift has been done in the governmental approach to the EU. One can surely expect different rhetoric than the one of the previous euro-enthusiastic government. A big shift is expected in Polish-German relations – a priority for the previous government. There are several important issues antagonizing Warsaw under the new regime and Berlin, and therefore, the maintenance of good relations depends on a constructive approach on both sides. One can hardly expect this kind of approach from a political circle with strongly ingrained anti-German phobias in its historical background. The refugee crisis, or the public resistance towards accepting refugees in Poland is believed to be one on the main factors behind Law and Justice’s electoral success. Therefore, this creates a kind of commitment for the party to reverse the former government’s decision of accepting refugees allocated within the EU, or at least block any such allocations in the future. An “idée fixe” of the foreign policy of the new government is the creation of a coherent alliance in the Central and Eastern Europe. This is where the new government will seek more cooperation as an alternative to close ties with Germany and the other biggest EU members.

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