An interview with Paweł Kowal, a former deputy minister of foreign affairs and a member of the European Parliament, currently an employee of the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences on the future policy of the European Union in the face of the crisis of integration and the dispute over Nord Stream 2.
BiznesAlert.pl: Is there a promise for a deal on Ukraine between the US and Russia?
Paweł Kowal: It is necessary to separate the words of President Donald Trump, for example from the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, from the real actions of the American administration. It turns out that the current presidency brings uncertainty, because the president’s announcements are not clear. The administration, on the other hand, continues a stable policy, which in some cases may even exceed the expectations of countries like Poland. The Americans strengthen their presence on the Eastern Flank and use harsh rhetoric towards Russia, and further sanctions are introduced despite the smaller activity of Europe.
Is it possible to put the thesis that the US is giving up Europe for the Pacific?
These trends have been visible since George Bush, who wanted to get involved more in the Pacific to answer the growing importance of China and the declining potential difference between them and the United States. Russia’s policy in Europe, however, did not allow Americans to withdraw from Europe and even forced them to increase their involvement. This is in line with the long-standing policy of limiting Russian influence on the continent, which assumes that strengthening countries in Central and Eastern Europe will weaken Russia.
How does Nord Stream 2 work for a common policy of the West towards Russia?
Americans do not recognize this problem as global. Although they strongly criticize it, they do not claim that it should become the subject of division in the camp in which Germany is. This was seen on the occasion of Angela Merkel’s quarrels with Donald Trump at the NATO summit. He used the Nord Stream 2 theme instrumentally to catch up with the Chancellor. Then he quickly decided that the Americans would be competing with gas from this project, which could be considered as an admission that the project would probably come to fruition.
This project, however, divides Europe. Is the European Union heading for disintegration? Is it time to reform?
I believe that the crisis moment in which European integration is now is not the time for reform. If we start to change treaties now, we can only accelerate the breakup. That’s what history teaches. However, it is not said that disintegration advocates will prevail. Of course, in elections to the European Parliament, the victories of populists, for example in Germany, will be the highest in history. This does not automatically mean that they will create a third force that will obstruct Parliament’s work. Perhaps the liberals will be ahead of them. What’s more important is how he balance of power in the European Commission will look like. Poland can play an important role here, which is why it will be advisable to end disputes with Brussels. The lack of a common energy policy, manifested by the dispute over Nord Stream 2, revealed the weakness of the Commission in the Treaty of Lisbon. The only answer to this problem would be to give more powers to Brussels, but there is no appetite for this yet.
Interview conducted by Wojciech Jakóbik