WBJ talks to Waldemar Paruch, a chief analyst at the government-established Center of Strategic Analysis, about the ruling party’s stance towards the EU, the government’s unusual structure and what the second half of PiS’ rule may entail
Interview by Ewa Boniecka
WBJ: You are a professor of political sciences at the University of Marie Curie-Skłodowska in Lublin, you are a historian and you were recently appointed by the Prime Minister as the chief of a newly established institution: the Center of Strategic Analysis. What does politics mean to you and how do you see your present role in it?
Waldemar Paruch: Political sciences is a domain which is linked with reliable observation of policy, analyzing its facts and professionally reacting to them. It is difficult to imagine a modern political scientist as exclusively a laboratory scholar, just as it is difficult to imagine a medical professor who is not interested in patients. So being a political scientist and having observed the changes in Polish politics for years, I felt prepared to accept the chief position in the Center of Strategic Analysis.
What is the purpose of the Center of Strategic Analysis?
The Center of Strategic Analysis has to optimize the decision process. It does not compete with the government, we work together. The center’s role is to make sure that all government policies and actions are coherent. Our mandate is to help the Prime Minister in the strategic aspects of his job and to strengthen his position.
The first stage off the “Good Change” program is coming to an end. It consisted predominantly of the electoral promises presented by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) in 2015, which enjoyed a lot of public support. Now, the second stage of the PiS term is starting. It is necessary to evaluate what decisions need to be taken and in which areas in order for the party to win the next election. I think that the pace of decision-making should be slower now, while the PM’s position needs to be strengthened. And this is where the Center for Strategic Analyses comes in. I would like to point to the policy of Margaret Thatcher, the conservative Prime Minister of the UK, who also had strong strategic and expert support in her party when undertaking some of the more difficult reforms.
There are many problems ahead of the PiS government also in foreign policy and conflict with the European Union about the legal system and the rule of law in Poland. Where do you think this is headed?
The so-called conflict about the legal system in Poland is nothing more than a political measure for the European Union. It revolves around the position of Poland and the rest of Central Europe in the EU, and Brussels has overstepped the extent of the Lisbon Treaty through its actions. The stance the PiS government has taken in relation to the EU had been prepared even before the party took power in 2015. It is a model of the EU with equal national states, and with clearly defined competencies of EU organs. These bodies are usurping the competencies that are in fact the prerogative of EU members, inciting opposition within European society and leading to the rise of populist and anti-EU parties in many states.
The change in PiS’ stance towards our place in the EU came after the previous government led by Civic Platform (PO) failed to produce any strategic thinking after Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004. At that time everything was seen as perfect in the EU and Poland was falling for the games and interests of the most powerful members – mostly Germany. We are concerned about Poland and about resolving the crises and changes within the EU.
What is the Center’s view of the government’s structure?
For the first time ever, we have a situation where the leader of the ruling party, Jarosław Kaczyński, whom I respect highly and whose strategic decisions I value, is not a member of the government. We have a government whose prime minister is not a member of parliament and the main ministries are led by politicians who are not MPs. In such a case, monitoring the relations between the ruling party and the government should be done in a new way to make PiS policy the most effective. This is where the Center plays a big role. State institutions could be changed, but the organizational culture of running the state must be preserved, as must its policies and strategies.
How does the Center rate Poland’s economic policy and its place in European and the ever-changing world structure?
The economic model realized by the PO government has led the country to the Mexican model: to a stratification of society and to growing disparities between very rich groups and communities living in pervasive poverty. The neoliberal model realized by [former NBP head and author of the capitalist transformation Leszek – ed.] Balcerowicz is done for. The liberal economic model is facing a growing crisis in many EU countries and conservative parties are looking for more flexible rules of capitalist economy.
The role of the state in the development of our well-functioning free economic system is larger, while also respecting the rules of free economy and private capital. The government’s economic strategy, which is strongly supported by Poles, centers around solidarity and fulfilling social needs. It is important, and it is one of the reasons why PiS won the 2015 election.
In the European economy there are many models of mixed development, while the previous liberal economic model, which ignored the social obligation of the state, is changing. One of the key concerns is the need to preserve international free trade, despite some EU members moving towards isolationism.