​'EU support in Poland – split between rural farmers and urban class'

Reuters/Kacper Pempel
People living in the metropolitan areas of Poland view EU membership as a positive, Polish farmers and the agricultural sector have suffered, says Martin Summers independent journalist, writer and broadcaster on Eastern Europe.

Conservative candidate Andrzej Duda has won the first round of voting in Poland's presidential election and will face President Bronislaw Komorowski in a run-off. During the campaign he stressed that Poland shouldn't transfer so much cash to the EU. Also, the Euroskeptic promised a vote on exiting the bloc if the people want it.

RT:Poland was eager to join the EU in 2004. What has gone wrong?

Martin Summers: Rural Poland was never much in favor of joining the EU because the small farmers particularly in the East of the country were largely ruined by EU dumping before they joined the EU, and then when they did join the EU the rules were rigged against them. They got very bitter about all of that and quite a substantial section of the population of Poland is still traditional farmers. And of course the small towns where those people do their shopping are also affected by the depression in the agricultural industry in Poland. And one of the saddest things about it in fact it is that in my own view Polish farmers, although they were small farmers, were quite efficient. And that was a problem because they would have competed with the ‘big boys’ in the EU. So the rules were rigged against them in various ways including a cap on how much subsidy they will be able to get even though there was going to be a completely open market. And rural Poland went into long-term decline as a result of that. That of course has reflected in the success of Duda in this first round of the presidential election.

Reuters/Filip Klimaszewski

RT:What about the metropolitan areas? The EU membership seems to be more popular there.

MS: That’s right. There is a big split between the urban areas who saw the EU membership as a very positive thing – “we want to be Europeans, we want to be modern,” all of that. And there tended to be a rather snooty attitude towards the views of people of rural parts of Poland. They were seen like a bit of a nuisance as if they were holding the country back. And one of the things the Polish farmers used to do – Samoobrona (Self-defense) was one of their organizations - they used to blockade roads with… some of them didn’t have tractors, so they blockaded the roads with horses and carts. And as you can imagine a sort of business class in Poland found all of this exasperating.

RT:If it came to a referendum would Polish people vote to leave the EU?

MS: It will be very divided. I think the urban areas would definitely want to stay in the EU and rural areas less so. But if there was a snap poll in Britain tomorrow it would be probably pretty divided but not necessarily on the same lines.

RT:Poland is the European Union’s largest emerging economy. Would a Polish exit adversely affect the Union?

MS: We may be seeing a breakup of the EU and the eurozone through an economic crisis. If there is a ‘Grexit’ for example that could start a rout in the derivatives market which will crush the international banking system, never mind making a mess of the eurozone. These are dangerous times.

RT:If Poland were to leave what would happen in your opinion?

MS: It will be a big change obviously. I think the Hungarians are more skeptical. I think what is happening is that people want renegotiation of the terms of the EU membership rather than to smash the whole thing down. But I’m afraid the economics, not just of the eurozone, but of the international banking system, are leading us to a series of car crashes which are going to leave a lot of people going through windscreens.

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