Former President of Poland gives speech at UC Davis

JESSE STESHENKO / AGGIE

Honorable Bronisław Komorowski’s lecture focused on impact of Brexit on EU

The Honorable Bronisław Komorowski, the former President of the Republic of Poland, spoke on the impact of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and the wider impact on unity within the European Union. The speech took place at the International Center on Dec. 7.

Komorowski spoke through a translator about the issues of integration facing the EU in the Brexit era. Komorowski began by giving a perspective of Poland’s history under the former Soviet Union as well as background on Poland’s transition into democracy and entry into the EU.

“The East Central European perspective also inevitably grows out or inevitably consists in an acute awareness and acute sensitivity to Russia’s attempt to rebuild its sphere of influence and hinder the attempts of other countries to look toward the West to develop themselves according to Western world values,” Komorowski said via translator. “We have to recall that, according to Russian geopolitical thoughts, the integration of the West and the strengthening of ties with the West is seen as a threat.”

He said that the now-obsolete League of Nations managed international relations through cooperation and agreement rather than by force and domination.

“Today we are faced with threats that are quite similar to that of the disappearance of [the] League of Nations albeit addressed in different political garbs, the main international institutions that are under threat today are specifically the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” Komorowski said. “Today, in order to defend itself against similar threats [in] the future, the European Union’s goal is to strengthen its interior ties and its processes of integration.”

Komorowski then moved onto discussing the consequences of Brexit.

“Brexit, despite based on misinformation, disinformation, demagoguery and a profound lack of responsibility [of all of] England’s politicians, has come about and will lead to an overall weakening of the European Union’s collective power,” Komorowski said. “On the other hand, somewhat paradoxically, Brexit can also allow the remainder of the European Union to strengthen its ties even more so especially at levels of defense, military and regional security.”

According to Komorowski, Poland’s “society is remarkably pro-European,” with “over 80 percent of Poles satisfied with European Union integration.”

In a subtle reference to the United States, Komorowski said “we know that in a world of giants, you also have to act like a giant and not like a Lilliputian.” He also discussed how the U.S. was handling Brexit.

“One thing remains clear, and this is worth stressing: […] the weakening appeal of the common European project in the eyes of Europeans is directly linked to a weakening of the West [and what they call] the Western project,” Komorowski said. “But also, as noticed, the cause of Western unity is by no means served by the current politics coming out of Washington, D.C., particularly the politics vis-a-vis the American politics with regards to the European Union.”

Komorowski mentioned that Brexit is, in part, due to the immigration crisis of refugees entering Europe.

“The problem of European identity made itself especially clear in the fallout of the European migration crisis [which began in 2017],” Komorowski said. “We saw then the collision of two very divergent perspectives on the future of European culture. Without a doubt, for some people ways of migration were seen as a chance to deepen the project of multiculturalism and the integration of cultures. On the other hand, the other part of this collision of political ideologies involve people who saw in the immigration crisis threats to their national identity.”

In conclusion, Komorowski critiqued the American influence on Brexit.

“We can see very strong weaknesses in the American government for supporting tendencies, political tendencies, in Europe aimed at Europe’s disintegration,” Komorowski said. “Two examples I think will suffice. The first is the strong and frequent support given to Brexit and the attempt to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union and thereby inevitably to weaken it. The second was the complete abandonment of the challenging and difficult but perhaps decisive […] Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. We are concerned by the fact that the current American administration seems to be more concerned with personal profits and good deals than with large scale visions of global strategy.”

When asked what brought him to UC Davis, Komorowski, speaking through a translator, talked about his trip to California.

“I am here in my capacity as former president as part of a larger research trip in California,” Komorowski said. “It blends research and pleasure. As part of this trip, I have organized […] several meetings and day trips to various universities in the area, and one of them [is] UC Davis. Apart from that, it is very nice to be in California in December because you guys have nicer winters than we have summers.”

Vice Provost and Associate Chancellor of Global Affairs Joanna Regulska, who is of Polish heritage, spoke about her connection with President Komorowski.

“My father used to work for him, so I know him from the past,” Regulska said. “I met him many times when he visited [the] United States when he was president, but I also participated in conferences [with him].”

Regulska spoke about how Komorowski’s lecture will benefit the UC Davis community at large as well as impact international students in Europe.

“International students and visitors from the European countries who live [and] work there [do] not know what is going to happen,” Regulska said. “Can they stay? Or, if they have to leave, if they will have work permits.”

Davis Mayor Robb Davis introduced Komorowski before his speech. The California Aggie spoke with Davis over the phone about his reaction to the speech.

“I don’t get the opportunity to attend a lot of speeches like that […] from a really respected statesperson who really was given charge of navigating an entire nation,” Davis said. “It was refreshing in the sense [of] taking [in] the big picture of what we see happening in Poland. It is really fascinating to have a man [here] in our community who lived through […] the effects of the Cold War [and the] Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and to have his perspective on the value of European integration and the value of states like Poland and other Eastern European countries.”

 

Written by: George Liao — campus@theaggie.org