Skip to content

66 Working Paper

Domestic Discourses on European Integration in Poland Before and After 2004: Ideology, Nationalism, and Party Competition

Jun 1, 2008 – Peter Vermeersch


The topic of this paper is the significance of EU issues in domestic political discourses in Central Europe be-fore and after EU enlargement. It focuses in particular on Poland. Poland is a critical case, not only because it is the largest of the new EU member states, but also because it is characterized by what presents itself as an in-triguing paradox: although levels of support for EU membership among the population have generally been high, there has been, since the early 2000s, a growing divergence of views on EU membership among political mobilizers. Moreover, the rise of anti-EU rhetoric appears to coincide with the resurgence of nationalist poli-tics. In 2005, a conservative nationalist party called Law and Justice (PiS) won the elections with a moderately Euroskeptic program and formed a government with two radical anti-EU parties in April 2006. Positions on Europe were also a topic in the 2007 elections that led to the defeat of the incumbent government parties. This paper asks two questions: What are the domestic political uses of anti-EU discourse for self-described centrist parties such as Law and Justice (PiS)? And what is the connection between anti-EU discourse and nationalism? The paper argues that domestic views on European integration in Poland are to be understood as the expres-sion of a changing balance between a deeply held conviction and a strategic position related to the context of domestic political competition. It argues that, since 2001, centrist political actors have mainly used anti-EU rhe-toric to serve purposes that relate to the domain of domestic political competition. They could deemphasize their deep normative commitment to European integration because EU membership had already been secured. Finally, the paper shows how domestic political competitors in Poland have intentionally conflated pro- and anti-EU rhetoric with a discussion on commitments to the “truthful” representation of the nation.