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Poland holds a position of economic, strategic, and political importance in Europe. While some former Eastern bloc countries look to Poland as a model of autonomy, the Western European establishment is sending clear messages that Poland may not enjoy the benefits of European Union membership while thwarting EU governance. At the same time, Eurosceptics in Western Europe and Great Britain also look to Poland’s independence as an inspiration when Brexit has proven difficult to attain.
Poland’s expressions of political will through Law and Justice Party court restructuring have triggered an unprecedented invocation of Article 7 by the European Commission and the European Court of Justice mandated that Poland reverse the court reforms.
Warsaw will be the site of an imminent summit to address wide-ranging security issues. Originally considered a platform for considering the threats emanating from Iran, the United States has recently characterized the summit as a discussion of cybersecurity, terrorism, extremism, and anti-missile security.
Germany and France just concluded a “friendship treaty” that is understood to implicitly warn countries like Poland and Hungary that too much “nationalism” is a threat to the common goals of European member states.
Is Poland becoming too autocratic and did court restructuring fundamentally threaten European notions of rule of law? How does the United States maintain a close relationship with this valued ally while balancing NATO and European allegiances?
Prof. Jakub Grygiel, Associate Professor, Catholic University of America
Moderator: Dr. James Jay Carafano, Vice President, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
(Prof. Andrzej Bryk, Professor, Jagiellonian University, Poland, was unable to join in this teleforum.)
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Operator: Welcome to The Federalist Society's Practice Group Podcast. The following podcast, hosted by The Federalist Society's International & National Security Law Practice Group, was recorded on Friday, February 8, 2019 during a live teleforum conference call held exclusively for Federalist Society members.
Wesley Hodges: Welcome to The Federalist Society's teleforum conference call. This afternoon's topic is " Poland: Renegade or Exemplar?" My name is Wesley Hodges, and I'm the Associate Director of Practice Groups at The Federalist Society.
As always, please note that all expressions of opinion are those of the experts on today's call.
Today we are very fortunate to have with us a wonderful panel and moderating it today is Dr. James Jay Carafano, who is Vice President at The Heritage Foundation. After our speakers give their remarks, we will move to an audience Q&A. Thank you very much for speaking with us, Jim. The floor is yours to introduce our panel and begin the conversation.
Dr. James Jay Carafano: Thank you. So we have two excellent discussants today that bridge both sides of the transatlantic community. So Andrzej Bryk is a law professor in Poland and Jakub Grygiel an International Relations professor in Washington D.C. in the United States. And, actually, I'm going to begin by asking Jakub a question because, while the focus of our discussion here really is what is going on in Poland, and how is the debate over judicial reform and transformation -- what does that really mean for the state of democracy in Poland?
As in many issues that we're dealing with in the transatlantic relation of today, there's a political context in which all these debates are happening. And Jakub served in the U.S. State Department until recently when he went back into academia full time. And I think it would be interesting to start our discussion by asking you if you could, one, kind of talk about the transition between the previous administration and this administration into how they viewed what's going on in Europe and how that context has been a filter for how we've been analyzing these debates about -- political debates in countries like Poland and Hungry.
Prof. Jakub Grygiel: Sure. Thanks, Jim, for the introduction, and I'm happy to participate in this. In many ways, I think the whole debate about the legal and the constitutional issues in Poland is, obviously, the one that appears on the front pages much more often than anything else. But I think it's dwarfed, or actually it's less important than the change in the attitudes towards Poland, and in general, particular some group of allies that has been introduced by this administration, the Trump administration, into the foreign policy debate and into the strategy and approach of the U.S. towards Europe. And I think that's true. It's been my sense over the past two years, now, my two cents, my two factors.
One is the realization that we are in a great power competition. And that has been encoded quite clearly in the two key documents of the administration: The National Security Strategy written by the White House, the National Security Council; and the National Defense Strategy, written by the Department of Defense. And one of the key points there is we're entering, and actually, we have been, in a great power competition for several years. We have ignored it, and we are kind of catching up with that in the great power competitions obviously with China, Russia, and, in a slightly different way, with Iran. And so that realization that we're in a great power competition means that we have to rely on certain allies that actually are at the front line of these great power competitions. There are certain things that happen in Asia, and obviously, there are certain things that happen in Europe.
So Poland comes into this as one of the key states that is right there at the line separating us, and actually, it's part of the competition with Russia. Before, even, we start talking about the law, the constitutional, the tribunal, and the political parties in Poland, that I think is the first building block of our approach, the American approach, towards the region and towards Poland. And one of the things that the previous administration, Obama administration, did was -- it was a rhetorical little thing, but actually it was quite telling. They never used -- rarely used the term "allies". They often the term "partners". And partners were both treaty allies, NATO allies, as well as, for instances, China and in some cases, Russia. If you're an ally and you were called a partner, which is the same term we used for Russia or China, that kind of probably worried you a little bit.
So this is a different administration with a different perspective, and allies are allies and the great power rivals are competitors, rivals, and no longer partners. So, again, that's point number one in this changed approach.
The second one, somewhat related, but is the somewhat different attitude towards the EU. And usually that's seen as this administration has given up on the EU. It's an enemy of the European Union and wants to tear it apart, which I think is completely wrong. What I think is different is the realization is that the EU is in some form of crisis. We can date it back to 2008 or even before, Brexit being probably the most visible and loud symptom of that. But the problems are much wider than that, right? It's Greece, it's Italy, it's France, it's tensions among the different European countries. Look at what happened in the past couple of days between France and Italy; Germany being also a problem for fiscal reasons in the 2008 crisis for economic reasons, for political reasons, its relationship with Russia, to a certain degree Iran.
So the question that we had was, in the administration in particular, well, do we have to automatically always support the EU position in the EU line? The previous administration, essentially, took the position, which was traditional to a certain degree in U.S. foreign policy was to stand with the EU. And that worked when the EU was not clashing directly with its member states on a variety of issues. When the clash happened under the Obama administration, Brexit, the Obama administration took the position that we should support the EU and we should oppose any efforts of Brexit. So Obama goes to England, to the U.K. and gives a speech saying, essentially, that thou shalt not exit from the EU, and if you exit, you'll get back to -- the way he put it, not in the speech but in ad lib -- he said the U.K. will get to the end of the line, or some version thereof.
Well, probably that was a tilting point in the public opinion polls in the U.K. that tilted that 0.5 percent towards Brexit. So any intervention that we exercise within the intra-EU squabbles, crisis, however you want to call it, it's probably counterproductive. So this administration decided, well, let's just step back a little bit and let the Europeans figure it out. It's their project, and we should not necessarily align ourselves with the EU position versus the national government in question, whatever the national government may be.
So in the case of Poland, the position was, well, Poland has some debates about its constitutional courts, its laws, its economics, whatever that may be, and the EU—or at least parts of the EU—are strongly opposed to it. Well, we should not necessarily align ourselves with the EU on that division. We don’t necessarily have even an opinion on what goes on in Poland, but the opinion is we're going to be neutral to a certain degree between the EU and the country in question.
So, again, it's not an opposition to the EU, but it's just more of a neutral stance, a neutral position, in that internal squabble. So I don't know if that answered your question, Jim.
Dr. James Jay Carafano: Understanding all the political context that you just let out, still in the U.S. there is a lot of interest in the judiciary changes in Poland and what that means for the future of democracy in Poland. There's a lot of discussion here about the decline of democracy in the world. And one of the bellwethers for that or one of the real measures for that is the Freedom House Index. So this year the Freedom House Index registered a decline in freedom in Poland. And one of the issues that they highlighted was the decline in the independence of the judiciary. The question I wanted to ask you both, now, is as an academic and also when you were in the State Department is that an authoritative measure of whether freedom is actually rising or declining in a country? And if not, what kind of measure does the U.S. government use, or should we be doing, to kind of objectively grade whether we think democracy is advancing or backsliding?
Prof. Jakub Grygiel: You know, it's a great question. And I have all the respect for Freedom House and the people that work there. I know a lot of organizations who work on these issues. But I'm a little bit skeptical of establishing clear, or at least objective, measures of democracy because, fundamentally, they're different democracies. And they're not essentially -- there's no one single measure that we can apply equally to all different countries. And I think that is a particular problem in Europe. I think what the assumption was over the past 20 years or so is that a lot of these skeptical European countries that joined the EU that will have to somehow converge into the same legal structure, and including constitutional arrangements, that are at least similar that all the other previous EU members had. And for the past 15, 20 years we were on that path to a certain degree.
Now, at a certain point, I think there was -- I don't know what you call it, a rebellion or a rejection of that convergence, that mandatory convergence—I'll put it that way—and ideas. Look, I mean, they're different nations, and there's a different relationship between the culture, the nation, including the church, the religious aspects, and politics in country X, let's say Poland, than country Y, say France. So the two of them are slightly different origins in the democratic family.
So saying that democracy has decreased, I think that's a strong statement. I don't have that fear. I think democracy is actually quite vibrant in the country. And if you look at least from here, from the U.S. looking at Poland, the mass media is vibrant. There's a lot of criticism of the government. The political parties -- well, you can come up with your political party, and I think one or two have just popped up in the past couple of weeks. There are strong opponents of the government, and you know, if they win elections, they'll win elections.
So, again, I think that is -- the reliance and, quote/unquote "objective measures", I think can be quite risky and dangerous because that also influences our policy towards this country, and I think that is counterproductive.
Dr. James Jay Carafano: You know, what I hear you saying is a point that I hear many people echo in this debate about democracy is that the process measures of do you have an election, the structure of judiciary, don't necessarily get to the fundamental question that is "Are the conditions for human liberty and freedom advancing or declining?" So we have the case in Venezuela today where we have somebody standing up and saying, "Well, I'm the president because our election wasn't valid." We had that case in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood won an election, but then there were widespread complaints about the Muslim Brotherhood, essentially, trying to be one election, one time. And we recently had an election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- it was quite controversial where the State Department actually came out and said, "Yes, this is a mark of progress and advance because we've had an election here." And many other governments actually rejected the election as legitimate, and there are different agencies in the U.S. government that -- there is this kind of real debate that we have in the democracy community about using these kind of clear process measures as objective measures. And that's where I think your previous point about context matters. The filter through which we are hearing about these debates and understanding how that may change our perception of the facts and what's going on.
Then there's also the methodological question about whether we're actually measuring things that are actually measuring freedom or not, which really gets us to the point of where I think Professor Bryk could be really helpful here because the fundamentals of what are the actual changes doing in terms of impacts on the judiciary system are really important.
So let me just ask you, are these the kind of -- within the debate -- within the State Department, how do they deal with these kinds of issues and debates, particularly when we've seen a lot of controversy over not just Poland, but also Hungry, and really arguments made on very technical questions about management in the judiciary, specific laws, and impact NGOs, specific laws that impact media? So how do they adjudicate these things?
Prof. Jakub Grygiel: Like most things in politics, they are adjudicated through a political process. That's why the role of political appointees is key. But, right, I think without going into the details of the internal debates in the State Department, the reliance on process is risky because -- to give an example, somehow as I understand it, we, and for several years, were pushing the idea that, essentially, Supreme Court justices ought not to be appointed by the executive in countries, including in Poland; that there was no role for the executive in appointing, essentially, the Supreme Court justices. And the idea that -- their justification was, well, the EU does not want that. That's not part of the procedure of the EU. Well, again, we do that. So why is it that we're pushing abroad a process that we ourselves don't espouse? The President appoints a Supreme Court justice, obviously, and the Senate has to approve it, which is the same process, I think, a similar process in Poland. The president appoints and has to go through an approval in parliament.
So you start picking sides and procedural issues, which is quite dangerous because -- well, which one is better? And I'm not sure one is better than the other one. There's a set of traditions. There're certain constitutional issues. There're historical reasons for that particular process that works better for one country and not for another, right? We're not going to have -- hopefully we're not going to change the Constitution and have Supreme Court justices being nominated and approved by Congress, right? I don't know. Maybe at some point in our life, but I don't think it's going to happen any time soon. Well, we're not changing it. Why should we force other countries, which are democratic countries, to alter their own traditional procedures?
That's one issue. The second issue I think is a lot of these debates, political, even procedural, in those countries, and including in Poland, really revolve around a conflict which is not just legal, but it's a cultural conflict. To give you an example, the question of human rights. And the number of human rights have expanded exponentially over the past decades to such a degree that we no longer in some of our statements, first, is recognize the Universal Declaration of Human rights as the primary document because it's antiquated.
Well, in some countries, including more conservative countries, the list of human rights is not as long. It does not include the right to abortion, the right for gay marriage. It doesn't include a right for . . . well, you name it, all the social, cultural rights, in many ways. And so the procedural debates, then, get tinted by a particular definition of human rights. And throughout most of the federal bureaucracy, I think, and the State Department for a variety of reasons there's a much more progressive interpretation of human rights, and we try to, at the bureaucracy does, on a path of pushing that as a measure of liberty. So if you don't recognize, for instance, gay marriage, that's a violation of human rights as opposed to being the will of the people based on a certain tradition, on a certain interpretation of marriage, on a certain understanding of the role of men and women. We can go into several details of this. So it's the procedural issue, therefore, that is used almost as a hammer to push a particular ideological interpretation of a particular substantive issue. Which, again, from a foreign policy perspective has its own issues, but from an analytical perspective, I think it's mistaken because it assumed that every country will accept it.
It also assumed that there's no debate within the U.S. even on these issues. And we're shocked when there's a debate, say, in the case of Poland on these issues, like, how could they have a debate? Well, we have them too in this country, and we don't agree on all of these issues. And that's part of the reason we have particular elections. That's part of the reasons such a fight about Supreme Court. So, again, it's not just a procedural debate if that's what you're asking.
Dr. James Jay Carafano: Well, this gives me a chance to ask Jakub another question, and then after that question, if there are questions, Jakub would be happy to field them. Let me ask you from your research you're doing now, but also from your time at State is how much of this is a power struggle between Berlin, and Paris, and Brussels, and Warsaw, and Budapest? How much of this is part of the natural process of European integration of just attempting to harmonize systems and laws? And how much of these various issues do you think are legitimate concerns about the backsliding of democracy in Central Europe?
Prof. Jakub Grygiel: Well, it's a big set of questions. Starting from the last one, again, I'm a little bit reluctant to jump on the backsliding bandwagon, if you want to put it that way. I just don't see, especially in Poland, the Czech Republic, or Slovak Republic, serious issues with that. Not that I agree with every political stance of this or that government. There're certainly plenty of issues that we can take. But backsliding is a little bit dangerous to argue because I think it also assumes that there's a progressive line that you have to enter, a progressive path that you have to enter in order to be considered a democracy. So in the moment you say no to some key, ideologically charged issues, you're deemed to be backsliding. And that's what I think is really dangerous. I mean, people argue, including Freedom House, that the U.S. is backsliding in democracy because of the Trump administration. I think that's an exaggeration. It's not true. So, again, I think it's a risky term.
Now, how much of all of this is part of a larger process of integration in the EU and how much is a power struggle? Again, a big question, and this would require, probably, a whole, new lecture on this. But, quickly, I think two points. One is I think the process of integration of the EU has reached a stalemate at best. It's not happening. It's not happening in terms of geography. I think enlargement has stalled pretty much, and it's not going to move forward, especially eastward, and I think that is related in particular to the 2014 war in Ukraine. So that enlargement has stalled. And integration within, I think that's a big debate. I think there are forces that insist on further and further integration, including, now, fiscal policies. I mean, most of its monetary policy, the Euro, and fiscal policy was never integrated. Somehow the next step, obviously, naturally should have been fiscal policy. But a lot of political parties within most of these countries are opposed to it. And the moment you have fiscal integration, national parliaments have no meaning because they no longer set the budget.
One of the slides, actually [inaudible 21.35] Poland was about Italy where the national parliament voted a budget that violated the percentage of the deficit of the GDP. And they got reprimanded and were forced to alter the budget by the EU. Well, that creates tensions within those countries and between those countries and the EU authorities. So further integration I think is very, very risky and dangerous. That is why, I think, throughout most of the European countries you have political parties, or rather political movements, that are broadly called Eurosceptical, but it's, again, a term that defines everything and kind of muddles the profound differences among them.
But they are not necessarily into EU. This is not EUkip that wants to leave the EU everywhere. It's more that political parties have that the EU should not dictate first as national laws. The EU commission should not dictate what the budget is, and so on and so forth. And mainly the power struggles, first and foremost, between the forces that insist the EU has to continue on a path of further and further integration and the forces within these different countries that say no, there should be a pause at least, and maybe not even a regression, but a pause or stop for this.
And Poland, given that it's the subject of this discussion, very few people are for exiting the EU. The EU has been seen as an enormous success. It's a historic success of the century, if not more actually, probably the past three centuries. Poland is in Europe again and the EU being the expression of it. So even the most conservative, and including now EU-sceptic parties, don't advocate the withdrawal from the EU. They're all for it. They're happy to be in it. And they just want the EU to be slightly less assertive and aggressive in terms of its process of integration.
Last point, power struggle. Well, balance of power never -- I think we kind of lived in a decade or two decades thinking the balance of power in Europe has been transcended. It's all post-modern. We're entering this great, harmonious era of European happiness and joy, etc. Balance of power is always there, and it was muted to a certain degree, but it was present. It started to perk up, if you want, for two separate reasons, and they're related.
One had to do with the financial crisis starting from 2008 when it became evident that really Germany is truly the dominant economic power and can dictate in many ways the fiscal, and monetary, and economic decisions of particular countries, in this particular case we're talking about the Mediterranean countries and in particular, Greece. That created resentment, that visible, tangible, daily intervention and the Greek economy created resentment not just in Greece but across the Southern European countries – Italy and Spain in particular. So that's one.
The second cause of this balance of power coming back up is the set of threats that have visibly created tension within European, the set of threats from outside – so Russia being one, 2008 region of Georgia, 2014 war in Ukraine and continued aggressive behavior. Two, it's Syria, and the related migration crisis. And three, it's the ongoing but more and more explosive migration problem coming from North Africa and the Sub-Saharan Africa. And the nature of these threats is that some countries are more threatened than others. Italy feels more threatened by the migration crisis coming from Libya, North Africa, and the Sub-Saharan Africa. The Malta countries felt more threatened by the Syrian migration crisis. And the Central Europeans, except for the Balkans, have felt, and rightly so, more threatened by Russia.
Well, how do you adjudicate these fundamentally different threat assessment? The EU was completely incapable as such to give an answer. So what you had is, and it's ongoing, is intra-European debates, some of them more vicious than others, about how to address these threats, what are the priorities, and which threats will be addressed first and how much and in what way. And related to that, what is the role of the U.S. in this? And, obviously, you're seeing a threat of Russia, say in Poland, you want to build Fort Trump as they ask for it in the U.S. with American troops. If you're in Italy, you really don’t hear about Fort Trump. You don’t care about the U.S. You just want to fix Libya, and that creates tensions on a daily basis with France.
So it's the geopolitical environment around Europe has been peaceful for the past decades until the middle, you know, the 2005, 2006, 2008 period, and therefore over the past decade. That stable, that geopolitical environment has created pressures within Europe that are creating a lot of tensions and increasingly more acrimonious diplomatic relations within Europe. So, again, it's a power struggle driven by the inability of the EU to adjudicate these differences by a threatening geopolitical environment.
Dr. James Jay Carafano: Thank you for sharing that context. We'll open it up here to see if there are any questions. Listening to your thoughts, though, one thing that prompts me is we have this kind of fixation on political liberties, and I wonder if, in some respects, that is blinding us to other threats of democracy which might be even more significant. I think particularly in terms of economic freedom, which is, ironically, I think much more easily quantifiable than political freedoms in some cases but where we do see real clear threats that could undermine democracy.
So on the one hand, I point to kind of classic crony capitalism, which is left over from the old managed economy days of the Warsaw Pact era and the influence of oligarchs in places like Ukraine and maybe crony capitalism in Hungry and other countries where you might point to -- or Serbia, where you might point it to that these are not just an economic drag but they're a drag on freedom, which I think is an issue that countries struggle with.
And on the other hand which you increasingly hear a lot from Europeans is the threat to democracy is not judicial issues in Poland, but the increasing influence of not just Russian information and active measures, but Chinese money and influence. And for folks that care about these issues, I like to point to two reports. One is called "Corrosive Capitalism", which is done by the Center for International Private Enterprise which looks at how China and Russia use economic tools in ways that could affect and undermine democracy and political institutions. And then there's also an excellent report from the National Endowment for the Democracy called "Sharp Power". That looks at many manipulations and other instruments. So if you were saying, "Well, where are the real threats to democracy and freedom in Western Europe if it's not more in those categories than it is in these issues?" And I regret that we didn't have Professor Bryk here to really unpack for us the specifics of the judicial maneuvering in Poland. So let me thank Jakub, and then, Wes, are there any questions on the line?
Wesley Hodges: Jim, it does look like we do have one question from the audience so far. Should we go with that caller?
Dr. James Jay Carafano: Great. Thank you.
Wesley Hodges: Wonderful. Caller, you are up.
Caller 1: I'm curious to know as far as the Polish people, what is their perception of the success rate, or lack thereof, of some of the other Western European countries as they have attempted to require assimilation of some of these immigrants from Africa or Syria, or those pockets that have become fairly insulated from Western culture and are insisting not only on keeping their former ways, which in these cases are anti-democratic, and also trying to impose those on the culture around them. Are the Polish people understanding of the difficulties that some other countries, Sweden and Austria, for example, are admitting that they're having?
Prof. Jakub Grygiel: I think it's a great question, and it's obviously a politically, lively question because it has created and continues to create a normal debate within Europe and critics of countries like Poland and Hungry which have projected mandatory quotas on accepting migrants.
So a couple of things. One is, yes, I think the experience for the past couple decades of some of these countries, the Nordic countries – Germany, Austria – but frankly, I think Belgium and France being probably the ones that are on the front pages most often have definitely created certain skepticisms about the possibility of -- I know at least the difficulty of assimilation. So that's one.
Two, Poland, and in general central Europe and the Baltic countries, too, don't have a tradition of accepting people that are so fundamentally different culturally. In some Western European countries, say, France, Italy, Great Britain, you have, first, the colonial tradition and for a variety of reasons, you had people of different culture, different religion, different ethnicity, that have been within that polity for decades, if not even longer. And most Central Europeans never had colonies outside the European continent. They didn't have colonies period. And so there's, again, no tradition of this.
Third point, Poland in particular has taken a lot of migrants and refugees from Ukraine, starting and particularly over the past four years, five years now, since 2014 when the Russians invaded to cover Crimea and invaded Eastern Ukraine. The numbers fluctuate, but it's about a million, which is a lot. Most of these people came just to try to escape the poverty and the war zone of Eastern Ukraine. And so they're working; they're employed, most of them. But they're visible, they're present, and the Polish government says, "Well, they should be counted as also migrants that we're taking because of the proximity with Ukraine." Italy has a different problem with migrants from a different region. Poland has been taken Ukrainians.
Fourth point and last point, and it goes sort of to a bigger question and, in many ways, bigger answer. There's a very strong sense of national unity and the need to preserve the nation, which is a cultural entity defined by a common history and a shared religion. It has deep roots in Poland because as a nation, its understanding is that as a nation you can survive and maintain some modicum of liberty even if you lack a political state. So that was a particular tradition for a hundred plus years since the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century until the end of World War I. Poland as a state did not exist, but the idea was Poland as a nation did. And that's what maintained the possibility of freedom.
And as a matter of fact, even without the Polish state, you could still be free because you maintained a certain sense of who you were, what were your principles, what were your beliefs. So that obviously continued after World War II under the Soviet and Communist domination where the nation as such, again, understood as a cultural entity with a shared religion, maintained freedom. During the Communist years, you could be free in many ways if you went to church and you could speak on a variety of issues, even that were not fully within the Catholic tradition, but you could still be free in that. That was a space of freedom that you could carve out in abscess of political reality.
That idea of that -- that strong idea of a nation for a variety of reasons I think has been lost and is not as present I think in Western Europe or in the Nordic countries. It has to do with the history. World War II for Germany, World War I for France and Italy. And so that sense of the need and necessity of maintaining that cohesiveness and that unity within the nation I think is very much a driving force behind certain political decisions.
Dr. James Jay Carafano: I think those are all excellent points. Let me add to just a few of those. I particularly like your point about it's incorrect to paint many European countries as anti-refugee because many of them have many refugees; they just happen to not be from the Middle East. So in Switzerland, for example, there's a reason why the star of the Swiss soccer team is a Kosovar. That's because there's a large Kosovar population in Switzerland, and indeed, from the Balkans wars people spread out all over Europe, and as you mentioned Ukraine, and also Georgia. And many in these countries have been very welcoming and very supportive of their refugee population. So just painting them as anti-refugee is probably not fair.
I think another important issue for many of the Central European countries is fiscal burden. I mean, Poland's economy is relatively strong. But many of these countries have very slow growth, and the notion of taking on enormous additional social burden of populations that don't speak the language and aren't readily employable and aren't immediately going to add to the GDP and the productivity, that's daunting for, especially a smaller country with a slow growth GDP as compared to, say, a Germany or some of the Nordic countries.
Many of these countries also have had some pretty significant population decline. Again, not so much -- well, Poland went through this, but other countries even more severely. The first thing that happened when they joined the European Union is many of the young people left for parts of Europe where economic growth were higher. And so they've had significant population decline. And I think the notion of large, immigrant, foreign populations really would significantly impact their own countries. So it's not like the United States where you have a population of 320 million people, and if 100,000 people come in, you've got 320 million and 100,000 people. But if your population has shrunk from, say, 6 million to 4 million and you're adding significant new numbers, that's an issue.
And then the other thing, which doesn't get a lot of discussion at all, is particularly for many of the refugees and migrants that have come from the Middle East or North Africa, these are not the countries they want to go to. And regardless of the EU plan to kind of spread them across Western Europe, the reality is is once they're in Western Europe, they can go wherever they want and many of them immediately would leave, even the ones that went to these countries, whether it was the Baltic states or some of the Central European countries, many of them just left and they went to where they wanted to go to, which in many cases was Germany, France, or Belgium, or the Nordic countries.
And I think that too often we take a very complex environment, which is Western Europe, and we overly simplify how these things play out. And I think certainly how Europeans feel about refugees and immigration issues is one of them. How they feel about populist parties is another one. What is populism in Hungry isn't the same as what's populism in the U.K. UKIP is not Fidesz, and if you don't really dig into the diversity of the European experience and you kind of mirror image it from what we think we're experiencing in the U.S. or overly simplify it, you don't really understand the internal challenges and stresses that the Europeans are going through today.
So, Wes, are there other questions on the line?
Wesley Hodges: The queue is empty if anyone would like to ask a question before we wrap up today. And thank you so much, caller, for your question. Feel free to ask another if you'd like. Seeing no immediate bites, Jim, I turn the mic back to you for however else you'd like to direct the conversation.
Dr. James Jay Carafano: Well, I'd like to thank The Federalist Society for organizing this. I'd like to thank Jakub. I'd actually love to come back and dig into this some more. So thanks for having us. It was a super productive and useful discussion. So thank you, guys.
Prof. Jakub Grygiel: Same here. Thank you. Thank you all for organizing it. Thank you, Jim, for running this.
Wesley Hodges: Well, Jim and Jakub, we are very appreciative of your time. Everyone, I'd like to thank them on behalf of The Federalist Society. We want to thank our experts for the benefit of their valuable time and expertise today. We welcome all listener feedback by email at email@example.com. Thank you all for joining. This call is now adjourned.
Operator: Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed this practice group podcast. For materials related to this podcast and other Federalist Society multimedia, please visit The Federalist Society's website at fedsoc.org/multimedia.