On May 1st, Katainen said:

“The EU is not just a money machine, a cow that you can milk. We are expecting a more substantial contribution from Poland for the future of Europe.”

 

The criticism from the Commission comes at a time of continued hostility between Poland the EU over ongoing judicial reform, and Prime Minister Morawiecki’s five-point plan for the future of the European Union. While Europe decides how to respond to Poland’s moves towards judicial reform, the union appears to be looking at ways to reduce EU funding to the country. Since 2004, Poland has received more than any other EU member state, totalling over 100bn.

 

A large majority of Poles believe that membership of the European Union is beneficial, no doubt a result of a growing economy. A study from 2018 showed 87% of Poles were in favour of remaining a member of the EU, much higher than the EU average of 62%. The same study found that 46% of respondents believed EU membership was good for the Polish economy, and that 71% of Poles would vote to stay in the EU. Only 11% of respondents said they would vote to leave.

 

This, however, can change. If the European Union responds to Poland’s new judicial measures with a restriction of access to EU funds or even removal of voting rights, then these numbers could quite easily change.

 

EU leaders would be wise to tread lightly. Poland’s economy is growing more quickly than some major economies in Western Europe, and despite being typically more patriotic and nationalistic than Western nations, it is currently supportive of the union. With Brexit still on the cards and other member states becoming decidedly more anti-EU, any harsh action against Poland could turn voters away from the European project.

 

In fact, Warsaw just saw thousands of Poles take to the streets to campaign against membership of the EU. They may be a minority for now, but the European elections just a few weeks away could be used by Polish voters to signal discontent. If EU leaders don’t listen, they could lose those voters entirely in the coming years.