Polish workers are fighting the EU’s green tyranny

Solidarity – the trade union that brought down Poland’s Communist regime – is leading the charge against Net Zero.

Rafał Woś

Topics Politics World

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The Polish trade union famous for helping to bring down Warsaw’s Communist regime has now turned its fire against the EU’s green agenda.

Solidarność (Solidarity) was founded in 1980 by trade unionists and workers at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland. At its peak in 1981, one-third of working-age Poles were members – a total of roughly 10million people. What began as a campaign for workers’ rights soon transformed into a broad, anti-authoritarian social movement. Solidarity’s acts of civil resistance, supported financially by the Vatican and the United States, are widely recognised as having played a significant role in the collapse of Poland’s Communist government in 1989.

Solidarity may not be as significant a force as it once was, but the union is still alive and kicking. With roughly 500,000 registered trade unionists, it remains the largest trade union in Poland. More importantly, Solidarity still has big ambitions for its members. Look no further than its recent campaign against the European Union’s Net Zero agenda.

Earlier this month, the Solidarity farmers’ union held a mass demonstration in Warsaw against the European Green Deal. This is a set of EU policy initiatives designed to make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050. One of its main targets is Europe’s agricultural sector. Solidarity rightly considers these measures anti-worker, anti-development and undemocratic.

At the protest, tens of thousands of Poles waved placards reading ‘Down with the Green Deal’ and ‘Let Brussels eat worms’. Dominik Kolorz, a regional Solidarity leader, pointed out that ‘the [deal] does not only affect farmers, it affects each of us, workers in all industries, and all Polish families. It is an attack on the freedom of each of us.’ This was one of the largest trade-union demonstrations in decades.

Mass demonstrations are a departure from Solidarity’s usual strategy. When the Law and Justice (PiS) party was in power, between 2015 and 2023, the union achieved many of its goals by working with politicians behind the scenes. This was helped by PiS’s pro-worker policies when it came to labour-contract enforcement, the minimum wage and welfare. All of this changed, however, when Donald Tusk returned to power in October last year.

Tusk, a former president of the European Council, is no friend of Solidarity. There was little chance of an open dialogue after he assumed office. Yes, protests by Polish farmers over the past year forced Tusk to reject some aspects of the Green Deal, particularly its agricultural measures, but what remains is still hugely detrimental to many workers. That’s why Solidarity is demanding a binding referendum that would allow Poles to reject the Green Deal.

This referendum would be a real game-changer in Polish politics. The Tusk government knows perfectly well that opposition to the EU’s green agenda is growing fast, especially after the intense farmers’ protests all over Europe earlier this year. Agriculture might not be as important to Poland’s economy as it was in the Communist era, but Poland remains one of Europe’s top food exporters. Polish farmers know their value and they are well prepared to defend their interests.

Still, this is only a part of the story. Polish opposition to the Green Deal is also a result of overwhelming disappointment with the EU itself. As recently as 2019, Poland was the most pro-EU country in Europe. While a majority still support membership, a recent survey found that 37 per cent of Poles now view the work of the European Union in a negative light. Only Austria, Hungary and Czechia are more dissatisfied with the EU’s performance.

The public’s mistrust of Brussels is no doubt partially due to the fact that the EU withheld more than €100 billion in post-Covid recovery funds from the Polish government, in an attempt to punish the populist PiS government. (These funds were unfrozen practically overnight earlier this month, after Tusk was voted into power.) It is also likely a result of ordinary Poles realising that the EU’s green agenda will cost them dearly.

Tusk’s government plans to phase out Poland’s coal power plants, which provide about 70 per cent of the country’s power and countless well-paid jobs. EU car-emissions reduction targets and obligatory energy-efficient building renovations will also come at a steep financial cost. The PiS government managed to keep a lot of these policies at bay, but Tusk offers no such protection.

This is why Solidarity matters. Right now, it is better placed than any other union to show that the EU’s Green Deal will destroy countless well-paid, secure industrial jobs. Ultimately, it is the only force capable of capturing and leading the growing opposition to the EU’s green tyranny.

The battle against the EU’s Green Deal is far from over. Solidarity – just as it did all those years ago – has the power to ensure that the workers prevail.

Rafał Woś is a Polish journalist and commentator.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics World


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