Dr. Beata Jurkowicz

Beata Jurkowicz (PhD), Researcher at the German Historical Institute Warsaw

A political scientist, journalist, and educator. Ms Jurkowicz is a graduate of the University of Warsaw, where she studied at the Department of Journalism and Political Science, specialising in International Relations. The PhD thesis, entitled German Cultural Goods Left in Poland. The Significance for Polish-German Relations, was completed and submitted at the Institute of Political Science of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University. In 2011, Ms Jurkowicz won the Robert Schuman Scholarship to the European Parliament.

She also completed a postgraduate studies in editing at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, as well as a postgraduate studies “Effective Business Communication” at Chodkowska University.

Ms Jurkowicz was a Senior Specialist in the EPALE National Support Service (the Foundation for the Development of the Education System). She also promoted Erasmus+ Programme and European Solidarity Corps. She is a Team Europe Expert in European Commission Representation in Poland. A member of the Polish Society of the European Studies.

She is the author of many publications within the field of European integration and Polish-German relations.


Research Projekt

Euroscepticism and democratic opposition in communist Poland

On the basis of the research conducted regularly in Poland, it is possible to say that most Poles decisively support Poland’s membership of the EU. According to the survey that took place in November 2020 for “Rzeczpospolita” daily, 81.1% Poles would vote for remaining in the EU if a referendum were to be held. Only 11% of those interviewed voted for leaving the EU (whereas 7.9 % were undecided and replied: I do not know/It is difficult to say). However, Euro-sceptic votes are a permanent element of Polish public debate. The aim of this analysis is to study the sources of Euro-scepticism in Poland. Therefore, the author will analyse democratic opposition in communist Poland in the 1980s and the influence of individual opposition groups on Polish foreign policy after the fall of communism in 1989.

After the democratic transition in the 1990s, the key role was played by politicians whose public activity started in the Solidarity movement (Solidarność), founded in 1980, and in the Workers’ Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Robotników), established as a result of the tragic events in Poland in June 1976. It should be emphasised that due to the geopolitical situation at that time, the opposition members focused primarily on internal problems, while Poland’s foreign affairs were only of secondary importance. However, in order to analyse the sources of Euro-scepticism among Polish post-Solidarity elites, the author will study Solidarity’s stand on both domestic and foreign issues.

It should be observed that opposition in communist Poland was not ideologically uniform. The common element holding various groups together was that they all contested Poland’s political and economic system and the country’s dependence on the Soviet Union. Opposition activists expressed their views in underground publications in Poland or émigré publications that appeared abroad. There is no doubt that opposition at that time was moulded by Paris-based Culture (“Kultura Paryska”) – an independent platform for international debate for émigré intellectuals, opposition activists in Poland, and all those who cherished values such as: freedom of speech, human rights and democracy. It was in Paris-based Culture (no. 10/409, 1981) that the famous essay by Jan Józef Lipski first appeared: “Two Fatherlands – Two Patriotisms. Remarks on the National Megalomania and Xenophobia of the Poles” (“Dwie ojczyzny – dwa patriotyzmy. Uwagi o megalomanii narodowej i ksenofobii Polaków), where the writer emphasised that Poles needed to become reconciled with Germans and Ukrainians. Lipski’s ideas were subsequently referred to by foreign policymakers in free democratic Poland, especially with regard to Poland’s objective to integrate with the Euro-Atlantic structures, which was supported in the international arena by newly unified Germany. There is no doubt that politicians who worked for Poland’s membership of the EU were also advocates of cooperation with Germany since they were aware that “the route to the West” required the support of the German government and the building of enduring instruments for bilateral cooperation. In contrast, those politicians who opposed the idea of strengthening Polish-German relations were also against Poland’s integration with the EU. A good illustration can be Marian Jurczyk, an opposition activist from the city of Szczecin. He was a signatory of the Gdańsk Agreement, took part in the First National Congress of Solidarity Delegates in Gdańsk, and was also a member of the National Executive Committee of Solidarity; however, he would also criticise Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa. As a result, he founded a rival movement – Solidarity 80 (“Solidarność 80”). When his opposition colleagues were shaping the framework of Poland’s foreign policy and loudly voiced their pro-Euro-Atlantic aspirations in the 1990s, Jurczyk expressed disapproval of Poland’s integration. He was also against strengthening Polish-German cooperation. Finally, at the end of his political career, he started to support Self‑Defence of the Republic of Poland, a Euro-sceptical party consisting of farmers. The Self‑Defence party criticised the accession treaty negotiated by Leszek Miler’s government, including that fact that the treaty allowed foreigners to buy land in Poland.

Considering the process of reconciliation between Poland and Germany, it is not possible to omit the role of the Catholic Church as a pioneer of Polish-German dialogue as well as an activator of Poles’ civic engagement. It should be observed, however, that the Polish Episcopate was initially sceptical about Poland’s membership of the EU, since it feared that the country could become secular with Poles abandoning Christian values. The church’s attitude to EU integration evolved only in the second half of the 1990s. Despite this, there are many Catholic clergymen who are still opposed to the EU, who gather around themselves anti-European politicians, both those who started their political career in communist Poland and those younger ones who entered politics after the fall of communism.

The symbol of divide within the democratic opposition in communist Poland is the “Round Table,” i.e. a platform for dialogue between communist authorities, opposition leaders and the Catholic Church. During the Round Table negotiations there emerged different views on Poland’s domestic and foreign policy. This divide was reinforced by the negative consequences of the political and economic transition after the fall of communism. Politicians who criticise the Round Table agreement either did not take part in the actual negotiations or try to diminish their own role in those events; they have a negative attitude to Poland’s membership of the EU. In contrast, those politicians who regard the Round Table negotiations as a success have a positive attitude towards Poland’s integration with the Euro-Atlantic structures and emphasise the need for Polish-German cooperation both in and outside the EU.

Since the aim of the project is to conduct research into Euro-scepticism in Poland, the author will analyse the views and attitudes concerning Poland’s role in the international affairs held by politicians who originated from democratic opposition in communist Poland in the 1980s. Moreover, the analysis will also focus on how these views and attitudes evolved as a result of the decisions taken during the Round Table negotiations. Finally, the author will also analyse their attitudes to Poland’s foreign policy. The author will conduct comparative analysis of politicians’ statements made in the media, their parties’ platforms, political declarations, and their influence on public opinion. Lastly, the sources of divisions within democratic opposition solidified by the Round Table agreement will also be thoroughly analysed.

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