Adam Michnik Gallo Images/Getty Images

Insider Interview

Europe’s New Eastern Question


The European Union has been shaken by Brexit, Donald Trump’s election in the United States, and now political uncertainty in Germany. But the future of the EU is also being written in Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, and Russia, with profound implications for democratic institutions and regional security.

With right-wing populists ascendant in Poland and Hungary, and gaining ground elsewhere in the European Union, politics in the West looks increasingly like politics in Russia. For Sławomir Sierakowski, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw, and Adam Michnik, a leading architect of Poland’s Solidarity movement and of the country’s postcommunist transition, Europe’s illiberal turn reflects cultural insecurity and political failure as much as economic distress.

SS: As a leader of Solidarity and architect of Poland’s democratic transition after 1989, do you feel a sense of defeat at the populist Poland that has emerged under the Law and Justice (PiS) government and its de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński?

AM: I do not feel a sense of defeat, because the movement I participated in from 1965 dreamed of a free and independent Poland. What we as a society have done with that freedom is a different matter. 

SS: Do you think you committed any errors? As dissidents you were beloved, but today you are rejected. Why is that?

AM: I do not feel rejected. I am the editor of what remains the largest daily newspaper not only in Poland, but in the entire region. I travel around the country, I have meetings in cities large and small. The rooms are packed.

To continue reading, please subscribe to On Point.

To access On Point, log in or register now now and read two On Point articles for free. For unlimited access to the unrivaled analysis of On Point, subscribe now.


Log in;
  1. MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

    Saving Mothers and Newborns

    • Tens of thousands of mothers and newborns die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every year, which is why maternal and perinatal mortality is still one of world’s most daunting public-health challenges. 

    • But recent research finds that a comprehensive systems-based approach provides reason for hope.

    The AI Debate We Need

    • Rapid advances in artificial intelligence and related technologies have contributed to fears of widespread job losses and social disruptions in the coming years, giving a sense of urgency to debates about the future of work. 

    • But such discussions, though surely worth having, only scratch the surface of what an AI society might look like.
  3. SOPA Images/Getty Images

    Criminalizing the Truth

    • Why is Poland legislating what can and cannot be said about its Holocaust history? 

    • While one reason is that its leaders don't know enough about the subject, the most important factor is the ruling Law and Justice party's increasingly naked appeal to anti-Semitism.
  4. Chinese Yuan Renminbi and Dollar banknotes Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images

    Could the Renminbi Challenge the Dollar?

    • China’s rapid economic growth, coupled with savvy monetary management by its leaders, has internationalized the renminbi to a degree that scarcely could have been imagined just a few decades ago. 

    • But if China’s leaders ever want to challenge the US for global currency dominance, they will need to think and act more radically.