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There is joy and jubilation in Poland - what was defined there as one of the most important developments since the country accepted Christianity in 996 has been crowned with success. Around 77 percent of those who voted in the referendum said tak (yes) to joining the European Union.

"We are rejoining the great European family," declared President Aleksander Kwasniewski enthusiastically. The Pope called it "an act of historical justice."

Lech Walensa, the former president and legendary leader of Solidarity also joined the celebration, as did his erstwhile opponent, Wojciech Jaruzelski, the last leader of Poland during the communist era.

According to Kwasniewski, the addition of Poland, "a large, strong, proud and ambitious nation - is also good news for Europe." Is it indeed? People in the know were prepared to swear that after the publication of the results of the referendum, the biggest sigh of relief was heard in the White House.

The deepest of all the stakes President George Bush's administration has planted in the bloc of states that will be joining the EU in 2004 is in Poland.

President Bush calls Poland "our best friend in Europe today."

There are those who see it as the spearhead of the policy of divide and rule that the American administration is pursuing on the old continent. For this reason perhaps, in Israel there were also those who rubbed their hands in satisfaction - Israel wants to exploit the historic enlargement of the EU in 2004 to improve its own standing in it.

In Poland - the largest and most important of the new members - it is investing special effort.

Does all this mean that as opposed to the United States and Israel, "old Europe" - the Europe led by France and Germany - should be sorry about the decision by the citizens of Poland? Does this decision indeed signify a deepening of the cracks in the old European order and perhaps even the end of the EU and its federalist dream?

Ostensibly, it is possible to form this impression on the basis of Poland's moves in recent months: Defying the wishes of the EU, it decided to purchase 48 American F-16 aircraft, which it preferred over the European fighter planes it had been offered. Later it added its signature to the "letter of the eight" that expressed support for the U.S. policy in Iraq.

Finally, it also acceded to the American request and became the only country, apart from Australia, to add its fighters to the American and British forces in Iraq.

These steps led to a strident anti-Polish campaign in the German media. The Poles were called "a Trojan jackass." Commentators criticized "the gall of America's mercenaries."

French President Jacques Chirac did not restrain himself about the perceived treachery of the new members - until yesterday, they were knocking at the doors of the EU like beggars on the threshold. Now, said Chirac in a diatribe after the publication of the letter of the eight, "they have missed an excellent opportunity to be quiet."

Chirac's remarks are still reverberating in Warsaw, joining a long and trenchant account the Poles are conducting with "old Europe." They have not forgotten the German past - the humiliation their ancestors suffered from the Prussians and, of course, from the cruel Nazi occupation.

The French are being reminded of their opposition, in 1933, to Marshall Jozef Plisudski's initiative to launch a preventive war against Hitler.

The Americans, on the other hand, they applaud for having absorbed millions of Poles - it is said Chicago today has more citizens of Polish origin than Warsaw.

They are grateful for the support for Solidarity against the communist regime; for Poland's enthusiastic admittance into NATO in 1999, and for the declared intention to move American military bases from Germany to Poland.

Ultimately, the great importance that Warsaw attributes to NATO lies primarily in the anxiety about instability in Russia that could spill over into neighboring Belarus and Ukraine, and threaten Poland. Security, security and again security - is how the Poles explain their pro-American orientation.

For the same reason, senior officials in Warsaw, despite their reservations about the "paternalism" of "old Europe," declare that Poland will support the establishment of a strong EU that will be based on a clear political identity and a stout security policy.

When President Kwasniewski's national security advisor was asked about the seeming contradiction implied here, he replied: "In matters of defense there is no question of a choice between father and mother - since there is only father."

In other words, Poland will remain in the custody of father (America) - at least until mother (Europe) develops muscle.