Is Poland Really Lost? Poland’s Contested Governance Reforms and the Further Role of the Central Eastern European Area (CEE) in the EU

On January 13, 2016 for the first time in its history the European Union launched an investigation against one of its full member states, i.e. Poland. The dispute is about new Polish laws that allegedly disempower the national constitutional court and the public media thus breaching EU democracy standards. The newly elected Polish government in charge since November 2015 denies this and calls its “reforms” legitimate, even necessary to achieve a government better capable of acting in order to renew the economy and the political and social system. The dispute reaches far beyond Poland and questions the state and perspectives of integration of the Central Eastern European (CEE) nations into the EU. It is both effect and motor of the current pluri-­‐dimensional European crisis.

In essence, the EU-­‐Poland dispute is the outcome of the combination of the specific problems of governance in the Central Eastern European (CEE) nations with a superficial institutionalism of the EU that long neglected the area’s developmental issues. Poland’s democracy problems show that new attention of the EU to its CEE member states is needed which were for many years ignored because of other concerns such as the economic and financial crises since 2007 and the subsequent debt crisis since 2012, latest because of the threat of a “Brexit”, of Britain leaving the EU. In order to save the European integration project, it will be crucial for the credibility and acceptance of the EU to help the CEE nations to reform their socio-­‐economic systems. The case of Poland is the chance for a debate about how the EU and its CEE member states can cooperate better instead of arguing. This debate will be an important pillar of the ongoing overall discussion about the future of the European Union in the coming years.