As a student in Europe, it’s not surprising to spend your Christmas holiday out of the town where you are studying. In my case, I had a week-long visit to this former German city which left a post-World War II legacy with Gothic architectures. Given the ongoing standoff between the EU and Warsaw government, it’s worthwhile to see whether the Commission’s repeated warning on suspending Poland’s voting rights in the European Council has changed the public perceptions towards the European institutions.
The Polish satire
Being a student leader of the Message to Europeans 3.0 project implies that I have a moral duty to promote the positive sides of the EU, albeit the facade of Europe we’re facing right now; an unshakable belief towards the crumbling political project also shows that my desire to make changes overrides the self-protection mechanism to avoid taking risks. With a list of questions on how the Polish people see the EU in general, I met up with an Oxford-based Polish student who studies Politics, Philosophy and Economics. During the conversation I tried to bring up the domestic issues in Poland but she seemed to be indifferent about the latest saga between the Commission and Poland. She also gave me an impression that while she is studying about politics, the level of hopelessness she has in Polish politics in not less than any other average Polish youngsters who are not privileged enough to join the Oxbridge club in England. This led me to start thinking, if an elite student is losing hope in her country, then how about other ordinary citizens?
The biggest beneficiary of the EU
When I walked around the downtown of Wrocław, all I saw was nothing but the traces of the EU here and there. Throughout the week I joined several free walking tours about the old town’s history, World War II & Jewish Wrocław, and the islands and bridges in the city. As I listened to the narrative of the tour guide, I realised how much this city has benefited from the EU–Euro 2012 football tournament to the EU cohesion fund that improves the infrastructure around the city. The tour guide also indicated that there are several buildings are opening for free, thanks to the EU funding. In fact, Poland is the biggest net beneficiary of the EU funding which contributes to a percentage point to the GDP growth of this country.
An elusive ruling government backed by 43% Poles
Before visiting this city, my assumption was that people were generally sceptical about the EU because the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) has more than 40% support from the public. So I went to Literatka, a local cafe that is believed to have intellectuals and artists meeting near the town hall square. I talked to two medical students and they are pro-EU in a way that they feel more European than Polish. The Erasmus programme and Schengen area encouraged them to study and travel within the EU, painting a different picture when we talked about the European institutions. I also met a Ukrainian migrant who speaks conversational Polish as she has been in Poland for 2 years. She didn’t feel excluded by the locals and it’s a good sign for an European ideal that embraces cultural diversity.
For now, the so-called “nuclear option” for triggering Article 7 in the name of sanctioning Poland against the violation of the rule of law doesn’t seem to be a decisive factor that changes the perception of Polish people towards the EU.