As Poland elected its next President over the weekend, there were a lot of people across Europe following the decision. Today’s Times notes the important role the now President-elect, Andrzej Duda, and his Law and Justice Party could play in the forthcoming EU renegotiations.
But who is Duda? He’s currently a Member of the European Parliament – sitting in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group.
It’s only a few years ago that the ECR was founded, when Conservative MEPs left the federalist EPP to try to form something more in keeping with British Tory values. That decision was derided by the Liberal Democrats as condemning the Conservatives to “the lunatic fringe of European politics”. Six years on they are reduced to one MEP, while our so-called “fringe” group just provided the new President of Poland at a crucial time for the future of our relationship with the EU.
The ECR, and its sister project beyond the EU’s boundaries, the AECR, is a Tory and eurosceptic success story. Cameron promised eurosceptics that he would grant their wish to leave the EPP, and in return people like Martin Callanan, Daniel Hannan and Syed Kamall have put in years of hard work to build a functioning alternative to the EPP. Both sides kept their promise, and our party is better off on all counts as a result – no longer sidelined unhappily in a Brussels party that supports endless EU integration, contorting itself to maintain a pretence of alliance with principles it does not share; instead, we have new, real allies from dozens of countries, including Poland’s next President.
Whatever the outcome of the forthcoming renegotiation and referendum, the ECR project should continue. If in a couple of years’ time we find ourselves stuck in an unreformed EU, we will desperately need it as a voice for limited government, parliamentary democracy and liberty before the law. If we find ourselves staying inside a reformed EU, it will have the responsibility to protect and extend those reforms, if at all possible. And if we find ourselves outside the EU, the Conservative Party will still need a place to talk to its like-minded allies abroad.
In whatever circumstance, thanks to a promise kept and great deal of hard work we have more and better allies than before. Some “lunatic fringe”.