Anna Paterek lecture “The Political Communication and Populism in Poland – In the times of coronavirus and Ukraine crisis”

Within the framework of the research projects PID2021-126765NB-I00 of the Ministry of Science, AICO/2021/099 of the GVA and INDI23/58 of the FUSP, on April 17 the Faculty of Law of the University CEU Cardenal Herrera received Professor Anna Paterek from the University Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow, Poland in the Peer Seminar.

Yesterday, April 18, Professor Paterek returned and gave a lecture to the 4th year Law students of Professor Susana Sanz and to the 4th year Political Science students of Professor Carlos Gonzalez.

Professor Paterek presented the situation in Poland in two temporary periods of crisis, the actions and statements made by the government at the time, the media, migration and other challenges that are still on the political table in her country today.

She began with the presentation of the political situation in Poland during the coronavirus and the Ukrainian crisis, how the country after the elections of both 2013 and 2023, one can observe on the political map the clear division of her nation, on one side, the western part of Poland formed by voters closer to the European Union, while the eastern part of the voters are more conservative and more Eurosceptic (with the exception of large cities such as Warsaw or Krakow that despite being geographically in the area with voters more critical of the EU, these large cities remain strongholds of democratic values of the European Union).

Following the election results and their translation to the geopolitical map, the international press went so far as to say that “imperial borders still influence politics in Poland.”

That trend of division and polarization was picked up in the Munich Security Report in 2017, announcing that “the world is facing an illiberal moment” and the transformation of the dividing line between left-wing and right-wing parties to cosmopolitan liberals and the populists.

Professor Paterek explained that the main factor for the rise of populism has been due to Poland’s policies in recent years, from “Poland first, European Union second“, “the defense of Polish identity“, to actions such as that of the Prime Minister at the time Mrs. Szydlo, who decided to remove the European Union flag during press conferences.

In addition, Professor Paterek highlighted the role of the public media, which was used as a propaganda tool, becoming a “government mouthpiece” in which the name of the political rival was in all the headlines on a daily basis.

Professor Paterek tells us that the politicians of the PiS government conveyed their distrust of the European Union to their population both with institutional statements and through the state media, statements such as “The European Union does not understand Poland’s history” or “The European Union does not respect Poland’s national sovereignty” were the most well known.

This Euroskepticism is due to the fact that PiS members think that the EU institutions only reflect the interests of larger countries such as Germany or France and that countries such as Poland have no real influence in Brussels.

A consequence of that Euroskepticism could be seen in the 2017 re-election of Donald Tusk as president of the European Council. Poland was the only member state to vote against his re-election.

In the last part of Professor Paterek’s speech she presented us with a list of controversial issues that took place in her country during the time of the coronavirus and the Ukrainian crisis:

  • From “the politics of memory“, with the publication of school books highlighting the special importance of the Polish nation throughout history;
  • to “the controversial Holocaust law“, legislation that criminalizes any mention of Poles being responsible as accomplices to Nazi crimes committed by the German Third Reich;
  • of how the EU exerted pressure with the withdrawal of European funds for Poland to modify acts contrary to EU values, such as the declaration that took place in more than 90 municipalities in 2019 and 2020 against the LGBT group,
  • until reaching the topic of migration, where Professor Paterek besides talking about the situation of the 1.5 million Ukrainian citizens in Poland in 2024, made special mention about the situation on the border with Belarus, because she encounters a situation where in 2021 Poland accused Belarus of a “hybrid war” that encourages migrants to travel to Belarus and sends them to cross the border into the EU.

And finally Professor Paterek showed us one of the consequences of the government’s use of the media as a propaganda tool, and that is that according to the World Press Freedom Index, Poland went from being ranked 19th in 2015, to dropping to 66th out of 180 in 2024.

With this talk Professor Paterek concludes her agenda of activities at CEU Cardenal Herrera University.

Thank you, Professor Anna Paterek, until next time!


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