Polish Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczynski does not want any confrontation with Brussels. "He needs the European money," explains Malgorzata Bonikowska, director of the think-tank Center for International Relations (CIR). Nevertheless, some recent moves of Polish government are controversial. For instance, the approval of a new media law which passed the Sejm at the end of last week and which is now awaiting its approval in the Senate. If the legislation came into force, it would bring new restrictions to the media environment, including more difficult possibility for obtaining television and radio licenses for foreign companies. And that is something Brussels can hardly appreciate.
Malgorzata Bonikowska is the director of the Centre for International Relations Foundation (CIR), an independent, non-governmental think tank based in Warsaw, which deals with international policy issues, as well as Polish foreign and European policy. She is an internationally respected expert and author of more than 150 publications.
Why is the prime minister Tadeusz Morawiecki so obstinate in defending the controversial media law? Isn´t he aware that this conduct is detrimental to the international position of Poland towards the US and the EU and dangerous for the fragile ruling coalition?
I have no idea what is on his mind but I think that he simply wants – and needs – to be very loyal, in fact double loyal to president Kaczynski and the Law and Justice party, because he is in a shaky position. He was not a member of Law and Justice, he was taken from the outside to become prime minister. Not only he has to fight the coalition partners, in particular the Solidarna Polska leader Zbigniew Ziobro, but also the opposition inside Law and Justice. People like Beata Szydlo, who is his personal ennemy, and her group. So I think that in the party and at the top of the governement he is totally dependent of Jaroslaw Kaczynski. He cannot do anything against Kaczynski´s plans and this is one of them. Kaczynski wants to control the media, that´s all that matters. And it is just a coincidence that the Americans are involved. The law is not aiming at the Americans, the TVN could be owned by people from any other country. In fact Kaczynski was reluctant to attack Discovery, owner of the TVN, as long as Donald Trump was at the White House. But he was planning to do if from the start in 2015. This is nothing new.
Why did Jaroslaw Gowin, the head of the Porozumienie party, choose this moment to quit the ruling coalition?
It´s been a long time since Gowin wants to disconnect from Kaczynski, also because he wants to build his own political strength. Just sticking to Kaczynski all the time and being the smaller partner does not bring him anywhere. Now through this affair with the US he became number one. Even the Americans contacted him. He became the key person. For Gowin this is a political game. He is positioning his party for the new alliances and future coalition, as he does not believe that Law and Justice will win the next elections.
Do you predict that the media law will finally be adopted, despite the probable opposition in the Senate?
Even if the Senate rejects it, it goes back to the Chambre, where you need a two thirds majority. The chances of the law passing are not very high. But we do not know what Kaczynski is doing; at this moment he is dealing with the left in the parliaement. Much depends on what he puts on the table in this negotiation.
It can also be a game he is playing with the Americans. He is very much aware that this affair brings the Americans back to the table, to dealing with Poland. Yes, it makes them angry, but it makes the Biden people talk to the Polish government, which they were reluctant to do until now. It can even be that at the end of the day he does not want to eliminate the TVN, but just to calm them down, so that they become less aggressive towards the government. He did something similar with PolSat, a manoeuvre aiming at the owner. Now this TV station still exists but the news programmes are much less critical, sometimes even favourable to the government. So he might want to convince the Americans that instead of dealing with internal Polish politics, the TVN channel could focus on other things, like films or entertainment.