Aleksander Kwaśniewski was president of Poland from 1995 to 2005. In 2008, he became chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation. Kwaśniewski spoke to EurActiv Germany's Michael Kaczmarek.
The member states of the eurozone are integrating their policies very quickly and strongly. Poland is one of the countries that is not part of the eurozone and the enhanced integration process. Do you feel Poland is on the sidelines?
The euro is a strategic choice for us. In my opinion - I am former president, I am not acting president – Poland should be part of the eurozone, because it is the last element to anchor Poland very much in European integration.
Poland can play an extremely important role because of our potential. We are one of the biggest European countries with a good and developing economy. So I think the eurozone should be the next Polish step and it means that in the next – I don’t know how many – three, four or five years we should discuss and decide it.
In my opinion this is a quite realistic plan. We need of course political willingness for that. I think that the ruling party and some opposition parties are very much in favour of such a decision so I expect that Poland finally will decide to be eurozone member in the next years.
Is it dangerous for Poland to be outside the eurozone?
In my opinion this is a danger for the European Union. I understand that integration is an ongoing process and it is very difficult to have the same speed for everybody. But finally, if you want to speak about the European Union as an integrated entity, as an integrated construction, we need to have a majority of EU countries in the eurozone and we need a strong euro as our common currency, we need more common policies, we need a banking union, we need a fiscal union.
We need more integration, not less, because the world is moving forward and if we want to be a strong player between China, the United States, India, Brazil or Russia, we need the European Union. Even the strongest European countries like Germany cannot be a strong player if they act as a single country.
Being a member state of the eurozone means to give up more and more national sovereignty. Is Poland ready to give up national sovereignty considering it has gained full sovereignty only since the '90s?
This is something that creates a crazy debate. ‘Sovereignty’ is a saint word, especially for a country that has been fully sovereign for not a very long time. I think that is a problem: how to explain to the public opinion that this resignation of some parts of sovereignty and to accept this European sovereignty or European decisions is in favour for all of us.
In today’s world we are extremely interconnected. To speak about such pure national sovereignty is a little bit of an abstraction.
Of course we should protect everything that creates the pillars of our sovereignty: meaning our language, our security and a lot of elements of our political system. If we will share our sovereignty with Europe in favour of the European Union, in favour of all of us I think this is acceptable.
For that we need debate and the courage of our politicians, our leaders to speak with the public about this very sensitive issue.