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Pragmatic Optimism: The View from Poland

As we have done in the last three years, we have been receiving speakers for an Honours class dealing with European affairs. This year’s class was entitled ‘Visions of Europe’ and invited speakers to share their vision for the future of the EU and the wider Europe. Students, in their turn, have been making short movies with their own ideas of the future of Europe. So far we have had a really exciting line up of speakers. Among them, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Jan Borkowski, offered a contribution which struck me as markedly different from current rhetoric in the Netherlands or, for that matter, the UK. He labelled Poland’s approach ‘pragmatic optimism’ – as, according to him, being pro European is consistent with the Polish national interest even if defined in hard realist terms. For Poland, he suggested, the EU is the most practical way of balancing power in Europe between the big powers and between large and smaller states, with the Commission as guarantor of fair play. The ambassador’s talk – detailing the current Polish position towards the EU – could be described with key words such as ‘optimist’, ‘centrist’, ‘pro-active’, ‘national interest’, ‘shared responsibility’. I was struck by how unusual these words sounded in the context of recent discourses on European integration in the Netherlands. Could not help wondering what key words we would find in the Dutch discourse.

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