Without Poland, there would be no European Endowment for Democracy. The E.E.D., which I write about in my latest Letter from Europe, will become a new and much-needed source of funding for pro-democracy individuals and groups in Europe’s eastern and southern neighborhoods.
The foundation is the brainchild of the Polish government, especially Radek Sikorski, the foreign minister.The center-right government in Warsaw believes that it is the moral and political obligation of the European Union to support people who strive for human rights and freedom, especially in the countries along its borders. After all, these are the union’s defining values.
Values matter a lot to Poland. An E.U. member since 2004, Poland has never been complacent about democracy and freedom.
Polish policy is not just about helping its Eastern neighbors become stable, prosperous and democratic so that they can provide a buffer zone against Russia, or encourage Russian democracy activists. Poland wants these conditions for people in North Africa and the Middle East too.
That is why, when Poland was heading the union’s rotating presidency last year, it campaigned hard to get the idea of the E.E.D. accepted. It wanted the foundation to be free of E.U. bureaucracy and internal politics. It wanted to show those striving for democracy that Europe still had some strategic goals for its eastern and southern neighbors.
Poland also wants Europe to have a strong defense and security policy so as to defend its values and become a serious global player.
France desperately wants that, too. But the meager support offered to Paris by E.U. member states after François Hollande, the French president, sent fighter aircraft and troops to northern Mali indicates that much of Europe is not really interested in having a strong, common defense and security policy.
This is not just about supporting France militarily, either.
The conflict in Mali has consequences for Europe, including the export of terrorism and criminal gangs to the European continent, and rising numbers of refugees.
The attack this past week by radical Islamists on the gas fields in Algeria shows the urgency of the threat.
Yet as Poland and France have shown, each in its own way, in today’s Europe national governments have to go it alone before getting even some support from the other E.U. states.