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Poland Defies the EU

In the European Union's desperate efforts to turn key points from its derailed constitution into a treaty last month, Poland became the principal impediment to the wishes of EU leaders. Why such Polish opposition?

by John Ross Schroeder

Journalist Quentin Peel, writing in favor of breaking the EU constitutional deadlock, stated the following: "The Poles are much more difficult to understand. They are afraid of Germany. It seems to have nothing to do with the 21st century. It is a fear that cannot be solved by treaty changes" (Financial Times, June 11, 2007, emphasis added throughout).

One EU diplomat involved in current constitutional treaty deliberations said that the French and the British could be relied upon to "play the [diplomatic] game." But representatives from Poland, now an EU member country, were described in a different way. "But the Poles. They are something else. I am not sure they understand the game at all" (The Times, June 21, 2007).

One cannot really understand Poland's behavior with respect to current affairs between nations apart from its checkered history. EU foreign policy spokesman Javier Solana clearly stated: "History lies at the heart of many disputes that are causing such angst in today's EU" (The Economist, May 19, 2007).

Poland's troubled history

Poland's governmental administration is unique in the world today in that its leaders are twin brothers, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and President Lech Kaczynski. Their parents fought Nazi Germany in the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944.

More recently, Polish leaders were angered when former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder bypassed Poland in his agreement with the Russians to construct a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

As a result of these and other historical events, the two brothers "deeply mistrust Germany and Russia and battle harder for Polish interests than any of their predecessors" (International Herald Tribune, June 21, 2007).

A thousand years of Polish history has been marked by a periodic loss of territory and national independence. The lust in national hearts for ever more territory and the vagaries of international politics are not the only factors here. Felipe Fernandez-Armesto writes in his history book Millennium:

"Eastern Europe's geography is hostile to political continuity. Cut into and crossed by invader's corridors, its open flat expanses, its good communications and dispersed populations contribute to an environment in which states can form with ease, survive with struggle and thrive with rarity. It favours vast and fragile empires, vulnerable to external attack and internal rebellion. In our millennium [the last 1,000 years], they have come and gone with bewildering rapidity" (p. 79).

To many Poles, World War II only ended in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and the iron curtain crumbled.

Territorial pressures from Germany began at the very inception of Polish statehood. Historian J.M. Roberts' Pelican History of the World states: "Another enduring national entity which began to crystallize at about the same time as Russia was Poland. Its origins lay in a group of Slav tribes who appear at the outset, in the tenth century, struggling against pressure from Germans in the West" (p. 357).

Another source, Chambers Dictionary of World History, tells us, "The Poles under the Piast Dynasty emerged as the most powerful of a number of Slavic groups in 1025" (pp. 652-653).

The Polish Empire reached its zenith of European influence under the reign of John Sobieski. In the siege of Vienna of 1683, his army swung the balance toward victory for the citizens of the Hapsburg's capital and stopped the last great Turkish advance in Eastern Europe. But any glory or gratitude was short-lived. The nation that had assisted so valiantly in halting the Muslim Turks would soon be gobbled up by others.

Caught between two burdens

In a summary account Chambers Dictionary of World History explains, "Eventually in 1772, 1793 and 1795 Poland was partitioned between Prussia [part of what became Germany], Russia and Austria, and was deprived of its independent statehood. Russia gained the lion's share of its territories" (p. 653).

Fast forward to the beginning of World War I. Noted British historian Norman Davies laments that "in August 1914, when Europe entered the ordeal of the Great War, Poland did not exist in any practical sense. 'Poland' could not be found on the map of Europe: Between twenty and thirty million people who might have called themselves Poles lived as subjects of the Russian Tsar, the German Kaiser, or the Emperor-King of Austria; and there was no one alive who could remember the time when Poland had been an independent state" (Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland's Present, p. 95).

As a result of the outcome of this first 20th-century world conflict, Poland was reborn as a full-fledged nation in 1919. Yet in less than a quarter century, Polish independence became just another memory as Germany and Russia (the Soviet Union) oppressed its peoples. Independence had lasted only 20 years. This time foreign domination would remain for 50 years.

Germanization and Russification have marked much of Polish history. Nations, such as Poland, that rest between two dynamic societies bent on molding the world in their image suffer greatly. And who is to say that history won't repeat itself?

Poland's present—and future

Norman Davies positively summed up Poland's present situation at the beginning of 2001. "For despite its problems, Poland is in better health today than for several centuries. It provides a wonderful example of how the human spirit can triumph over prolonged adversity. In this sense, Poland can only be regarded as a great asset to the Europe, at whose heart it has always lain" (Heart of Europe, preface to edition 3, p. xvi).

However, how Poland will eventually fit into the structure of the European Union remains to be seen. The Scriptures indicate that in the "last days" of human government a vast and powerful religious system will have incredible influence on a union of nations that is gradually, but surely, emerging on the European continent (Revelation 13).

This religious system has all the markings of what has been the dominant religious force on this continent for 2,000 years—Roman Catholicism. We should note that Poland remains to this day one of the most vigilant Catholic societies in what is otherwise increasingly becoming a secularized European civilization. This is the same union of nations that currently wants no mention of God in its constitution.

Negotiations between the 27 members of the European Union over the EU constitution are a long-term breaking story. Norman Davies warns that "no history book that sets out to relate the Past to the Present is ever written at the right moment. By the time the author's observations are published the present will always have moved on…

"In this respect the work of the contemporary historian is more akin to the shifting assignments of the leader [lead editorial of a newspaper or possibly a magazine] writer than that of the dispassionate analyst of completed histories" (ibid., p. vii).

Yet the eventual outcome of the biblical prophecies relating to Europe are not in question. The overall progress of the European Union over the last 50 years has been punctuated by many setbacks (mostly small, but some of a major character). Yet the EU plows on relentlessly, and its presence and influence is increasingly felt throughout the world.

To understand the essential historical and prophetic background relevant to the European scene, request or download our free booklets. WNP

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