There has been a lot of speculation lately about what the impact of the surprising election of Andrzej Duda as president of Poland could be for Europe and for his country. We did a fact-check to find out what his true views are on policy-making, by analysising his voting behavior as an MEP, a position he held since 2014.
What did we find: judging by his voting record, Mr. Duda has reservations with regard to Juncker’s Commission, is a strong supporter of Ukraine’s European aspirations, favours the inclusion of investor’s protection clause in international trade agreements and supports a bigger EU budget. He prefers security over privacy and shares Israel’s views on Middle East politics. He does not support ambitious targets for renewable energy or gender-based affirmation action and he opposes to promotion of contraception and abortion.
Andrzej Duda, will preside over a country that has become one of Europe’s leading states. Poland was the only EU country not to experience recession during the financial crisis and it is now one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies. Poland’s internal progress allowed it to affirm itself in international politics. Solid proof of this is that in only 10 years since its accession Poland has already given the presidents of two of the most important EU institutions: Jerzy Buzek, who was elected president of the European Parliament in 2009, and now Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.
Moreover, as shown in a special policy brief published by VoteWatch Europe in September 2014, the influence and power of this country in the European Parliament has increased substantially, as Poland now holds key positions in the EP committees (chairs) and the bureau (it is second only to Germany).
Duda was a member of the European Reformist and Conservative Group (ECR), the third biggest group in the EU Parliament. His election as president strengthens the European Conservatives family (of which British prime-minister David Cameron is the leading figure). However, in Poland it is not the president, but the prime-minister that takes part in EU Council summits, which means that for the time being (at least until the Polish parliamentary elections in autumn), the ECR family will still have only one seat at the Council table.
During his time as an MEP, he had a participation rate of 67.62% in the roll-call votes of the EP plenary. However, if we exclude the period in which he was campaigning in Poland, his participation was higher, though slightly below EP average (86% during the July-December 2014 period). He voted in the line of his own national party delegation in 96.09% of those votes.
Reserved about Juncker’s Commission
In October 2014, Mr Duda abstained on the vote on the election of the Juncker Commission, following the official line of the ECR group. This political group was of the opinion that the new Commission was positive and had good priorities, but that some new Commissioners were disappointing.
Strong supporter of Ukraine’s European aspirations
Against the background of the situation in Ukraine and the increased tension between the EU and Russia, in this first year of the 8th term of the EU Parliament, MEPs have voted many times on texts linked to these issues.
A look at Andrzej Duda’s voting behavior shows that he has always voted in favour of greater EU support to Ukraine. In September 2014, he voted in favour, in line with the majority of MEPs, of the very important Association Agreement with Ukraine. The aim of the Agreement is to deepen political and economic ties between the EU countries and Ukraine. It was the first of a new generation of agreements with Eastern Partnership countries.
Another example is the vote on a non-legislative resolution of July 2014 calling on Russia to back Ukrainian peace plan, to respect the ceasefire and stressing the fundamental right of Ukrainian people to freely determine their country’s economic and political future. This resolution was also asking the Council and the Member States to impose further sanctions on Russia and to reduce EU’s dependence on Russian gas.
Supporter of a bigger EU Budget
Unlike his British conservative counterpart, Mr Duda seems to be of the opinion that having a bigger EU budget is a positive thing. For example, on the report on the draft EU budget for 2015, which called for the increase of funding for EU priorities, Mr Duda and his Polish colleagues voted in favour, although the British conservatives and the majority of the ECR group opposed. This resolution by the EU Parliament reversed all Council cuts in the EU draft budget for 2015 and even increased the amount proposed by the Commission for priorities such as growth, jobs, research and education. The fact that Poland is one of the main beneficiaries of EU structural funding certainly plays a role.
Supporter of investor’s protection clause in international trade agreements (ISDS)
The new Polish president seems to favour the inclusion of investor’s protection clause in trade deals. He opposed a provision, inserted by the radical left into a non-binding resolution on the annual report on EU competition policy, which was stating that “the use of investor-state dispute settlement in free-trade agreements serves to remove the democratic right of Member States to implement their own policies” (amendment 7).
This proposal was supported also by the Greens/EFA, the Eurosceptic EFDD group and the nationalist MEPs, but did not reach a majority of votes to be adopted. The centre-right forces, People’s Party, Conservatives and Liberal-Democrats opposed it.
This vote of Mr Duda on the issue of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is important in the context of the ongoing negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), given that this particular clause if currently the most disputed within the agreement.
Fan of a slower transition to renewables
Given its high reliance on coal-based power, Poland has been always less prone than other member states to aim for high targets for transition from classic energy sources to renewables. The new Polish president seems to be inclined to keep the same line.
A telling vote took place at the end of 2014 on the ENVI committee’s resolution against the new controversial fuel quality rules proposed by the EU Commission. The resolution argued that the new proposed Fuel Quality Directive failed to include a separate methodology for assessing greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil and that tar sands oil should not be part of the European fuel mix. The resolution failed to reach the absolute majority required to pass (376 votes), Mr. Duda being among those who opposed it.
Strong supporter of security over privacy
After the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen at the beginning of 2015, the EU Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the acts of terrorism and voted to adopt new anti-terrorism measures in the EU. The most disputed aspect of the resolution was the issue of the passenger name record (PNR) agreement, a mechanism which collects information provided by passengers on international flights. The accord revealed the divergent views of the political parties on whether the EU should retain and analyse this data for the purposes of preventing and detecting terrorist offences.
The ECR group strongly supports the PNR system and this is the case for Mr Duda as well. During his time as an MEP, he voted in favour of this resolution and opposed another text asking for the EU-Canada agreement on the PNR to be referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for an opinion on whether it is compatible with the EU treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights before voting on the new agreement.
The new Polish president has also voted against a very critical resolution addressed to the US in relation to the treatment by the CIA of its prisoners. On that occasion, The Socialists, Liberal democrats, hard left and Eurosceptic MEPs succeeded in forming a majority, defeating opposition from the Christian-democrats and conservatives who would have preferred a more moderate version of the resolution.
Supporter of Israel’s position in relation to Palestine
At the end of 2014, the new President of Poland opposed a resolution supporting, in principle, the recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution on the basis of 1967 borders. Among other things, the text also reiterated that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and strongly condemned all acts of terrorism and violence from both parties.
Mr Duda and the majority of the conservative MEPs where among the minority of Members who voted against the resolution and thus supported Israel’s position.
Skeptical about gender-based affirmative action
Mr Duda, like the majority of the conservative group, voted against the progress report on equality between women and men in the EU in 2013. The camp opposing the text was of the view that special measures to promote women employment, such as obligatory quotas, are detrimental, as these include the implicit assumption that women are less competitive on the job market. Interestingly, Poland currently has a woman as prime-minister (Ewa Kopacz).
Opponent to contraception and abortion
Mr Duda opposed one of the most controversial parts of the report on sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR): he voted against a paragraph underlining that women must have control over their SRHR, “not least by having ready access to contraception and abortion”.
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 VoteWatch Europe individual page: http://www.votewatch.eu/en/term8-andrzej-duda.html