The Two Poles of Europe: The European policy perspective of Poland and Spain

Maciej Pawlowski

5 mins - 20 de Julio de 2023, 07:00

The European policies of Poland and Spain are in many respects opposed, and the General Elections that will take place in both countries are conducive to exposing the differences between them during the Spanish presidency of the EU Council. However, there are some common interests, the recognition of which will largely depend on who assumes power in both countries.
Spain is in the midst of a long electoral campaign that will conclude with elections to the European Parliament in 2024. Municipal and regional elections were held on 28 May, and the General Elections will take place this coming Sunday, 23 July. If the current electoral trends continue, a PP-Vox government is most likely to be formed. However, it cannot be excluded that Pedro Sánchez could maintain a coalition government with Sumar if PP and Vox do not reach 176 MPs.

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In Poland, general elections are scheduled for October. Polls indicate that the ruling PiS will win the election with about 210 seats in the 460-member parliament. The main opposition Citizens’ Coalition (KO) party would win about 150 MPs, with the remaining 100 divided between the Confederation, Poland 2050, PSL, and the Left. All these parties rule out a coalition with PiS. Given this situation, the first post-election possibility could be the formation of a government composed of representatives of all current opposition parties, led by the KO. However, there are significant ideological differences between these parties, and some parties may consider that a coalition with PiS would allow them to hold more ministerial posts. In my opinion, the latter option is more likely than the former.

What Is on the Table in Brussels?
During EU budget negotiations, Poland and Spain acted as a team in the budget-setting phase and then clashed over the distribution. The two countries have also clashed around debates surrounding EU climate policy. Spain favours rapid decarbonisation and Poland a slower path. Another point of contention was the issue of migration. Poland opposed mandatory quotas for the relocation of migrants, for which was advocated among others by Spain. However, last year Poland accepted 3 million Ukrainian refugees, without waiting for the EU to relocate them. Moreover, Sánchez’s government favours deepening European integration and Morawiecki’s government favours leaving several competences to member states.

The primary focuses of the Spanish EU Council Presidency are: strategic autonomy, energy reform, and the conclusion of new trade agreements with Latin American countries. Poland can support this programme on two conditions: that strategic autonomy does not alter ties with the United States and that energy reform does not mean abandoning coal too quickly without any compensation. 

The revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 will also be an important issue for the Spanish presidency, in relation to new spending needs: support for Ukraine and accelerating the green transformation. Poland, unlike Spain, is likely to focus more on the former. The EU will also have to find new sources of funding. In this regard, Poland and Spain can agree to jointly support, among others, a digital tax and a border carbon tax. On the Polish side, the attitude towards relaxing EU fiscal regulations, which is Spain’s option, remains an open issue.

What Will Change After the Elections?
The current governments of the two countries have differences of opinion, especially on climate and migration policy. Probably they will compete between themselves regarding negotiations of modifications to the EU budget. Poland furthermore will not support any changes to the EU treaties, including the abolition of the unanimity rule in European Council voting. I do not think after the elections, these differences disappear. However, there is space for agreements. If Spain supports the release of reconstruction funds for Poland, Poland can support the relaxation of EU fiscal rules. 

More room for agreement will emerge if at least in one of the countries undergoes a change of government after the elections. If Sánchez retains power in Spain and a KO-led government is created in Poland, positions on climate and migration issues are likely to become more aligned. However, the liberal Polish government will be unlikely to support Spain in relaxing EU fiscal rules.

Conversely, if PiS retains power in Poland and a PP-Vox government is formed in Spain, then the Spanish side will be willing to move closer to Polish positions on climate and migration policy. These governments will also have a similar view of the EU’s strategic autonomy, ensuring that it does not disrupt transatlantic ties. 

The greatest room for agreement would be found in the change of government in both countries. PP and KO belong to the same faction in the EP and are similar parties politically.
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