Is Poland an Island? Polish Parliamentary Debates on European Crises 2004-2016

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - G466 (University of Glasgow)
Marcin Napiórkowski , University of Warsaw
Polish public debate on the recent European troubles constitutes a paradoxical case. Despite the fact that Poland was not directly hit by the recent refugee crisis, nor was its economy seriously damaged by the Euro-crisis, the notion of “troubled times” is surprisingly present in the Polish political discourse. Various parties are positioning themselves on the political stage by referring to European crises of values, identity, immigration policy or economy.

The paper drives from the qualitative analysis of several major parliamentary debates directly concerning recent European crises: from the ardent debates on the national vs. European identities after the enlargement in 2004, through the arguments over the crisis of the christian identity of Europe, up to the recent disputes over the economy- and migration-related crises.

Structural, semiotic analysis of this large and consistent corpus of data shows that the main figures used in these seemingly very different debates are surprisingly similar. Poland is very often presented as a lonely island surrounded by the troubled waters of a crisis. This verbal image has its direct equivalents in visual signs presenting Poland as the single green country (growing economy) on the red map of the crisis-struck Europe, or – much more troubling – allegoric pictures of caucasian white Poland surrounded by the racially alien hordes. The roots of these prominent figures of imagination may be traced back to the images of Poland as the bulwark of Christendom or even “Christ of nations” coined in 17th century and reworked during the long Polish romanticism.