Filip Skawiński, Policy Analyst (EU Commission Representation in Poland) describes the work between the EU Commission in Brussels and Warsaw

Filip Skawiński, on the right hand side, Policy Analyst right side , European Commission Representation in Poland
Filip Skawiński, on the right hand side, Policy Analyst right side , European Commission Representation in Poland

Could you describe the work between the EU Commission in Brussels and Warsaw in both directions? What is the daily work about and what are the most important cornerstones? 

To put it simply, it is about passing information in both directions. The Representations (such as ours in Warsaw, we often call them “Reps”) send to the HQ information about important developments in Poland to help them to understand local context and sensitivities around the Commission’s policies. The Reps also receive information form the HQ to share it with local audiences. For some obligatory tasks, it the HQ which confers them to us, but the Reps also have a lot of flexibility and discretion when deciding about their activities.

 

What kind of information do you provide for the Polish public? Please give us some insights about the public communication work (school groups, events, folders etc.). 

It is much differentiated, depending on the demand and the sector of the Rep that is involved. The Press Sector works mainly with the media, especially those who do not have their correspondents in Brussles. Communication sector’s audience is general public, so the people who do not have specific knowledge or professional link with the EU activities. That could be pupils, pensioners or just people in the street during our outdoor events. For the Political Sector, our audiences typically are stakeholders – people who for professional reasons follow EU policies. For such groups we organise more focused events, usually devoted to a specific aspects of a specific EU policy.

 

What is the image of the EU in the public opinion of the Polish society and how did it develop since 2004?

It is generally very positive. The results of the opinion polls show usually that over 80% of Poles support EU membership, and if there was a hypothetical referendum on Polexit only 9% would vote in favour. Poles tend to think, that the two biggest upsides of the EU, again according to the opinion polls, are single market and EU funding that Poland is receiving under the cohesion policy.

In the first two years after the accession in 2004, the support for the EU was in Poland lower but still quite high: 65-75%. Then, it was swinging around 75% and paradoxically increased to over 80% since 2015 i.e. since Poland is ruled by Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is less enthusiastic about the EU than the previous Polish Governments. 


Could you give us a brief introduction into your daily work at the EU Commission 
representation in Poland and what brought you to EU politics?

First remark, I am dealing with EU policies rather than EU politics. In some languages, including Polish, there is a single word for both, but on substance, there is a difference. Around twice a week a receive from Brussels requests for information, usually through an input to briefings, so I call my contacts and look for information in the Internet. When, the issue is more important or complicated, I try to meet in person people in Poland that should be knowledgeable about the topic concerned. Every day, I receive some questions from Polish stakeholders or citizens and respond it myself or channel it to respective Commission’s services in Brussels. A few times per month, I go to various meetings to speak on behalf of the Commission about some EU-related topics. These could be conferences or just invitations to give a presentation from various organisations.

Around twice per month these are events outside Warsaw, so I spend some time on travelling (preferably by train). Finally, the most exciting part of the job is participation in the visit of Commissioners in Poland. The preparations to these visits require quite a lot of work, but then the visit itself is a great occasion to see the relations between the Commission and Poland happening. And that is sometimes about politics, not just policies.

What brought me to the Commission? I was studying political science and then the European law. It was just in the last years before Poland’s accession to the EU. So the choice was quite obvious – it matched very well with my interests. Besides, I imagined, and that turned out to be true, that the Commission is a good employer.

Because of BREXIT, some of my Polish friends returned to Poland, the uncertainty about their future in the United Kingdom was one of the reasons for their return. How does BREXIT affect the bilateral relationship between Poland and the UK?

As a Commission official should not say too much about policies of the Member States, especially in the areas which are not in a competence of the EU. Personally, I see attempts of the Polish side to maintain very close and friendly relations with the UK despite Brexit. One of the reasons is obviously a big number of Poles still living on British Isles. However, a more important reason probably is that the two countries have a lot of common points in the foreign and defence policies, for instance they are interested in having special ties with the US and perceive Russia as a potential threat for the geopolitical stability in Europe.


Even some EU analysts mention Poland as a country with a huge amount of "Euroscepticism", probably because PIS is a part of ECR at the EU Parliament. On the other hand, according to recent polls, 84% of the population are in favor of the EU. How do you discribe or clarify this contradiction?

You should take note of the fact that even if PiS attained twice (in 2015 and 2019) clear victories in parliamentary elections, its electorate is not fully representative for Poland’s population. In 2019 elections they received around 8 million votes out of 18.5 million people who went to vote and around 30 million of Poland’s adult population. The outcome was so good for PiS (43.5% turned into 235 out 460 seats in Parliament) due to D’Hondt method of calculation of votes, which is favourable for bigger parties. Secondly, even within their electorate a large majority are people who support EU membership. They simply do not people believe PiS could even think of dragging Poland out of the EU and the reasons they chose this party are not related to the EU.