Querying the Migration-Populism Nexus: Poland and Greece in Focus

TitleQuerying the Migration-Populism Nexus: Poland and Greece in Focus
Publication TypeKonferencia kiadvány / Conference Paper
Év / Year2017
AuthorsVisvizi, Anna
Publikálás dátuma / Date Published06/2017
Kiadó / PublisherHungarian Europe Society
Konferencia helye / Conference LocationBudapest
Kulcsszavak / Keywordscrisis, Greece, Migration, Poland, Populism

Over 1 million migrants arrived in Greece since 2015. Today, about 70.000 of them are stranded in hot spots and reception centres across Greece. An implicit consensus emerged on the Greek political scene that migration will not be used as a resource of political competition. The resultant debate on migration and its implications remains focused, largely, on technical aspects of the day-to-day migration management. From a different angle, in line with provisions of the Member States' Support to Emergency Relocation Mechanism reached in 2015, Poland was committed to accept 6,182 individualssubject to the relocationscheme (EU, 2017). As of June 29, 2017, these commitments have not been abided by (EU, 2017). The issue of migration nevertheless has established itself as one of the tenets of political discourse on the Polish political scene, fuelling a debate involving a variety of stakeholders and dividing Polish politics and society. In this sense, migration turned into a resource of political competition that boosts populism and awakens wounds and cleavages thought to had been healed in the Polish society long ago. In terms of culture, history, and ideologies that define the socio-political process, Poland and Greece stand far apart. Indeed, also at the level of popular cognition, very few, if any, similarities –that these two countries may share – seem obvious. Still, in several domains, the experiences of Greece and Poland either overlap or complement each other. For instance, whereas Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, successive generations of Poles have shared a deep fascination with Ancient Greece and its heritage. Over centuries, this heritage has had a profound impact on Polish literature, language, and culture in general. From a different angle, modern history of both countries, especially regarding the process of re-storing statehood and sovereignty, exhibits a similar pattern of tragedy, suspense, unfulfilled dreams, and bitter-sweet aftertaste. For Greece, the landmark was the uprising of 1821 that eventually allowed the Greeks to end the 400 years of Ottoman occupation. Still, due to several domestic and external contingencies, the statebuilding process in Greece was handicapped rendering Greece a case study of unfinished modernization. For Poland, the landmark in modern history is defined by the year 1918, when – following the end of the First World War – Poland was brought back on the map of Europe. Nevertheless, Poland’s modern state-building process was stopped abruptly when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939, respectively on September 1 and September 17. The tragic experiences of the Second World War that the Polish society incurred were followed by the imposition of communist regime in 1945. It was not up until 1989 that, following the democratic elections held on June 4, 1989, Poland regained its sovereignty and embarked on a process of modernization. The experiences and contingencies inherent in the processes of state-building and modernization specific to Poland and Greece, have had serious ramifications for the ideological set up of respective political scenes and their dynamics. These experiences weigh in heavily in these countries stance towards migration and their ability to handle respective discourses. By querying the specificity of the cases of Poland and Greece, the objective of this discussion paper is two-fold, i.e. to acquire a better understanding of the logic underpinning the emergence and the evolution of the migration-populism nexusand to puzzle on lessons that the case of Greece can teach us. The argument is structured as follows. First, the conceptual framework employed for the discussion in this paper is outlined. Some aspects of this model are then employed to examine the intricacies of the political scenes in Greece and Poland and their influence on the shaping of the migration-populism nexus. In conclusions, ways of addressing the challenge of instrumental use of migration and lessons that the Greek case teaches are outlined.