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150 years ago we would have been in the same camp – Interview made by Marcin Celiński and Joanna Łopat

Published on March 18, 2013 by: in: Politics

LIBERTÉ!: Through the speech in Sejm [lower house of the Parliament] regarding works on law projects on civil partnership and the rejection of this opportunity by a group of PO deputies you have become an enemy of freedom. Do not you like freedom?


by DrabikPany

Jarosław Gowin: On the contrary. I may surprise you but, for me, freedom is one of the most important values, at least in politics. My political beliefs were formed by reading the works by, so-called, classical liberalism authors, John Locke, Benjamin Constant, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mille, Lord Acton or neoliberalists of 20th century, such as Hayek or Friedman. If I am a conservative, moderate by the way, it is only because tradition, community, culture, language, they  all create the environment protecting us. I believe that one is truly free when not isolated, when he is in any community that surely restricts him, but protects from solitude at the same time. Freedom is a value which is always present in interpersonal relationship. There is no such thing as Robinson Crusoe’s freedom; to make him free, there had to be Friday. There has to be another human being who defines the limits and is the condition of this freedom.

Is it a freedom „from” or a freedom „to”?

Isaiah Berlin’s liberal tradition of freedom „from” is definitely closer to me. Free from constraints, from government oppression. I may surprise you once again, but I consider our state very oppressive.

We cannot disagree with that…

I do not know if we agree on who and what threaten the freedom. In my opinion we live in a country of soft authoritarianism. This does not apply to Poland only, but to the model created in Europe in the past few decades. The bureaucratic and protective State is a state of this soft authoritarianism which coats us. It tries to solve problems in the name of our good, but in reality it restricts our freedom, unlearning us responsibility for ourselves and our relatives. Today this State is going bankrupt and I must admit I am happy about it. Firstly, this country is too cost-intensive, even the richest societies are not able to maintain so complex structures. Secondly, it is going bankrupt morally as well, the omnipresent crisis of trust in politics is a result of lack of trust in protective state.

You mentioned a state that should be dissolved. We would like to ask, as supporters of such solution, about your main project, meaning deregulation. Why deregulation in your proposal does not mean freedom of practising a profession, but only decreasing the competence threshold while obtaining certificates? Licences remain but they can be obtained by anyone  literate. In the case of, for instance, estate agent, requirements have decreased from higher education to none education at all.

As for licences, it seems to me that this accusal is contradictory. I agree, though, with the first part of your statement that our project is too timid. The shape of this law was a result of very difficult negotiations within the state’s scope. As for estate agents, we had to agree on it with the Ministry of Infrastructure, though this is a profession that we free in almost 100%. I am glad that not only PO deputies, but also PiS deputies in so-called deregulation commission proposed amendments to the deregulation. As for certificates… I am neither against them, nor postgraduate studies, yet I am against licences. Certificates and studies are supposed to be a warranty of the repute, not a condition for practising a profession.

So now we will point out a contradiction in your statement. Why do you leave registers? Now an entry is a proof that someone has bought a stamp for 3,50 zlotys and sent a letter to a proper ministry.

In deregulation commission, deputy Wipler has proposed an amendment that fulfils your demand. Ministry of Transport has been very open there. It was stated that there should be a minimum interference, control – a register. It is a big breakthrough in ministry’s approach. I would like to remind that in the previous tenure, when current coalition was in power (Ministry’s name was slightly different indeed, another person was the head of the Ministry), access to estate agent profession became more rigorous. I think that minister Nowak has changed it in a good way, maybe not completely, but considerably.

If you take a look at deregulation projects, you can conclude that the level of environment organisation played a main role. Legal environment is an environment very loud and perfectly organised in obligatory bars. Shortening of internship period is not very severe in comparison with other profession, for example, trainers whose environment is not associated in any unions.

You would be surprised…

Let’s agree that it is impossible to compare the real lobbying power of barrister or notary bars with the power of the environment of sport trainers or boat conductors. Have not you dealt more cautiously with bigger and stronger ones?

I do not have such impression because as for legal professions my predecessors did what was necessary. It was started in 2004, when both PO and PiS were in the opposition, by two young lawyers: Przemysław Gosiewski and Sebastian Karpiniuk, then continued by ministers Ziobro, Ćwiąkalski, Czuma and Kwiatkowski. They did the biggest share of work. There is only one legal profession that has not been opened – notary. We are introducing revolutionary solutions, the ministry suggested departure from obligatory apprenticeship as a nominee; PO and PiS deputies have suggested even liquidating this apprenticeship. Of course, there are professional groups perfectly making use of their lobbying potential. Surprisingly, this concerns tour guides. As for other professions, PiS have proposed tightening amendments, but for tour guide profession they have proposed an amendment blocking its deregulation. Tour guides had already have support from SLD, Solidarna Polska and PSL, and in the end all will depend on what Ruch Palikota will do. No professional group has proceeded with successful lobbying. We have slightly reduced our suggestions about taxi drivers, it was not though a concession under their pressure, but acknowledging argument from local governments, especially Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz and Rafał Dutkiewicz. They both were telling me: leave us the decision. Let the local governments decide, headquarters do not need to decide about everything.

However, the fact is that you and your co-workers have to into account other circumstances. You are saying that your predecessors did everything for barristers, but it can be solved just like in the United States.  A law graduate after several months without legal practice takes an exam at state board and gets powers. It seems that American lawyers are not on a lower level than Polish lawyers.

We all know that it is exactly on the contrary, the lower the amount of regulations is, the higher the standard of services is. Not by accident American lawyers are far better than Polish ones, we should call a spade a spade. These American solutions were very tempting to me, I remember that I talked about it for the first time many years ago with Janusz Kochanowski. We analysed a possibility of introducing such far-reaching alterations in the ministry. We concluded that such solutions would be effectively sued to Constitutional Tribunal. Polish Constitution indicates a group of professions of public trust that includes all legal professions, and here, unfortunately, corporation supervision and system of legal practice seem unavoidable, unless we change the constitution, but for now we would not have the necessary majority.

Maybe the constitution should be changed only in several points. For instance, in your favourite paragraph no. 18. We would like to return to social matters, this is not letting legislative process of the project on civil union happen. It is commonly known that the solution to the civil partnership dilemma lies in PO. What is so wrong in civil partnership? What prevents you and PO deputies who have similar to yours value system from accepting such solution?

All three projects are against the constitution.

Mister, we do not want to talk about constitution because constitutionalists are not unanimous. It is an argument used because of ideological reasons by both sides.

Yet it is relevant, because if your environment would prepare a project of civil partnership which would not be opposed to the Constitution, I would be for forwarding it to the Commission, but later on, after work in the Commission would be finished, I would be against it. Civil partnership may concern two categories. Firstly, they can be heterosexual relationships. I can see no point in creating a new institution when there is always an opportunity of a church wedding, a civil marriage and a concubinage. From my point view, a new institution would weaken the family, especially those who are the weakest in family relations – children and women. Secondly, the homosexual relationships are the biggest problem, whether we should institutionalise them or not. My answer is: no. I believe that the matter sexual orientation is one’s personal issue. To be honest, I do not care about them at all. I thought about the problem of homosexuality for the first time about 10 years ago, when priests from Poznań asked for my help regarding bishop Paetz harassing clerical students. Never before have I been interested in this matter. I do not see any reason to make homosexual relationships into an institution. Homosexual couples struggle with problems, for instance, concerning inheritance or burial, but they may be solved by civil law. In my opinion, Polish law regulates such issues very well. If someone express any reservations about this law, I am willing to cooperate. But without institutionalising such relationships.

But such approach excludes not only homosexuals, but also heterosexuals. It is not a matter of a few, but thousands people. And they are electors as well.

I do not do politics as polls dictate, I am not a populist. I do not agree with the accusation of exclusion, it would be correct if I claimed that heterosexual partnerships have rights to adopt children while homosexuals do not or that lesbian couple does and gay couple does not.

These examples of adoption are quite abstract…

Why abstract? They are introduced in France or Great Britain.

In Poland they are abstract. For now.

Just for now! This is what honest supporters of civil partnership say. Robert Biedroń or Anna Grodzka honestly say what others leave unsaid. Are you for or against granting adoption rights to homosexual couples?

We are for full equal rights for couples, with possibility of getting married and all its consequences.

Thank you for being honest. I respect such attitude, but I cannot agree with it in no way. Hordes of hypocrites chanting: „Let’s institutionalise homosexual partnerships, but don’t make them equal to marriages” irritate me.

What is the legislation process for? Do the leaders have some vision of good state and they introduce it with the aid of statutory instruments? Should not they, regardless of their vision, notice certain social processes and react to them? There is a chasm between 1992, 2002 and 2012 as for the number of non-formal relationships, number of children in such relationships and perception of homosexual relationships. These issues were touched only in niche media, while at the moment it is at the front page of the newspapers. Should not the politicians  react to what is happening behind the window regardless of their imaginary ideals?

It depends if such democracy is taken seriously. I do take because I remember the times when all we could do was to dream about respecting the rules of liberal democracy by the state. You can vote for Gowin and it is known that he will always be against institutionalising homosexual relationships. But you can vote for other politicians who have different opinion in this case. It is the democracy that decides.

Mister, we will not agree with you, it is an archaic democracy. Democracy is the rule of majority, but also with respect of minorities. You said you are not a populist when we mentioned electors and now you get back to it.

Just like you, I am a supporter of liberal democracy. I just comprehend it in another way. In liberal democracy the minority has the right to express its own opinion, to start in parliamentary election with these opinions, to become parliamentary majority and to put to a vote such solutions. What you expect is to elect me in democratic election, to get into power and to realize your demands. This is how the dictate of political correctness works.

You will not fulfil our demands because they concern not only legalising civil partnership, but also giving full equal rights to homosexual couples. All we expect is some kind of compromise because this phenomenon exists. We have accepted your convention that homosexual couples are the most problematic. But French example shows us that mostly heterosexual couples benefited from civil partnership institution. We do not want to start a new topic, what does a divorce mean in Poland and how traditional, catholic regulations impact the institution of marriage. Marriage in Poland still means something else than in Germany.

This is one of Poland’s advantages.

Maybe if Poland did not have this „advantage” of a marriage that could not be easily dissolved, interest in civil partnership and need of legalising them would be smaller. We are not going to argue about what is better – marriage or civil partnership, however, we are Polish citizens and we would like to be able to choose the option we want to live, option which would not affect the institution of marriage. It is mentioned that the members of your environment are working on developing projects concerning concubinage. Is not it hypocrisy? Instead of making it perfectly clear that civil partnerships do exist, we receive a proposal to use loopholes in law, amended articles and possibility of defending the civil partnership if we have a good lawyer.

As I am a conservative, I am also for compromises. Compromise is a very conservative value. Once I have read a shocking statement that the essence of politics is to compromise. This was not said neither by Machiavelli, nor any political realism thinkers, but by the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – cardinal Ratzinger. I was extremely angry back then, it was as far as during communism. This sentence is stuck in my head and I encounter the problem of compromise limits every day. I agree that we need a compromise, but it should be found elsewhere. For those saying: “Let’s make a compromise by institutionalising civil partnership, not giving them all marital rights” my answer is: “No, I disagree”. Polish law uses the concept of mutual life. In a nutshell, it can be said that Polish law speaks of concubinage, in relation to heterosexual relationship. My proposal, briefly, consists of introducing rights and duties for homosexual couples where Polish law speaks of heterosexual concubinage. This is our compromise proposal.

Do you think that your beliefs might evolve in future? Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said in the  interview with „Corriere della Serra” that it is necessary to protect the institution of marriage, but civil relationships should be introduce as an institution. You surely know this statement.

My interpretation of this statement is different. It was indeed summarised to the version you have evoked, but I asked my friends vaticanists to check what Vincenzo Paglia meant. And it turned out that he wanted to say exactly what I proposed. Let’s recognise the fact that there are both homosexual and heterosexual relationships, let’s give them equal rights on civil law. But please remember that I make politics on my own, not in consultation with bishops, what your environment seems to believe.

You have mentioned the social consequences that would appear after introduction of fourth legalising law. What are these social consequences? What is this fear about?

As for heterosexual relationships, I believe that there would be further erosion of marriage. It is an institution that best ensure everyone’s safety: wife’s, husband’s, children’s. As for homosexual relationships, I do not believe that the compromise line would hold them back. I believe that solution similar to these British or French would be introduced in Poland in next 15 years.

If you are sure about the determinism, such solutions seem inevitable.

No, it is not a determinism. That is why I am a politician – to stop what is considered to be „inevitable”.

There is some kind of precedent, it is the commonly criticised compromise concerning abortion which makes us have one of the most conservative solutions in Europe. Would not it be necessary to find a compromise about civil relationships as well?

I have just offered a compromise.

It is not truly a compromise. I will stop beating you if you do not scream.

When I observe public debate, I have some doubts about who is beating and who is being beaten.

[JŁ]: I am convinced that without such compromises I probably would not have the right to vote and I would not be here. Please do not take it literally, this argument is just a metaphore. It seems to me that there would be no change at all without some concessions and compromises in such troublesome social issues.

As I mentioned, one of my masters was John Stuart Mill. He was one of the major advocate for women’s rights. If we had met 150 years ago, I am sure we would have been fighting together. Liberal environment nowadays go so far that suggested solutions threaten freedom itself.

Could you elaborate? What does this threat consist of? Our beliefs originate from axiological positions, it is secondary for us. It is important to be able to choose your own value system. Until you do not break general laws, you have the opportunity to cohabit if you want to. Civil partnership would secure woman and children. It would not be a security as powerful as marriage, but more powerful than concubinage.

It is true that civil partnership would give them more security than today’s concubinage. But majority of men would take the easy way and choose civil partnerships, not marriages. Definitely more women and children would have less security than now.

We argue if a glass is half empty or half full. 20% of children are born in non-marital relationships. These 20% of children in non-marital relationships would have better security than now.

80% of children, that is these in marital relationships, would be probably born mostly in non-marital relationships if we introduce civil relationships. This is why most of them would have less security than now. Our values are common at the moment, it is a forecast that is different. Regarding freedom, I believe that nowadays one is exposed to pressure from the part of the bureaucratic and protective state. One needs to live in a community in order to remain free. This is why I am an avid supporter of the idea of civil community. We need families, neighbours, associations, we also need such magazines as „Liberté!” or „Znak”, which I used to publish. These are all the niches preserving one’s freedom, certain communities. And there is no bigger community than nation which nowadays a human in this Western world can communicate with. Communities are necessary to let us live freely within them. And this is the difference between us, your environment claims that human is able to defend his freedom without staying in such communities.

No, we cannot agree with that. You probably see this community from above, start to decree it, while we see it from below. Let us use your own examples: choice of creating the family belongs only to me and you are making it a social model. The fact that we issue such magazines as „Znak” and „LIBERTÉ!” is our choice and the choice of our readers who would like to buy and read them. The choice of being a Pole is my own declaration and you seem to see it all from above.

I agree that imposition from above is wrong, but nowhere in my attitude I can see a tendency to impose anything on anyone.

If you are saying „we need”, you are saying it in categories of your own opinion, and we would change this for „we can”, without such determination.

If „we need” contains some charge of oppression, I do not have to use it, though I do not see such charge. If one wants to be free, he will keep his own freedom only in a chosen community of free people. If he does not have such community around, then the state, market and mass culture will stifle his freedom. This is how my conservative component works. I believe we need agent structures, traditional communities. We need them so that the structure remain free. My beliefs are influenced by a book by Robert Putnam who have run a research on civic society in Italy. He proved that the civic society develops where the communities were established in Middle Ages, whereas in Sicily, southern Italy, where despotic monarchy reigned, up to now there is no civil society. The communities were being established freely, spontaneously. I do not rule out that evolution may cause people to seek community in civil partnerships and such relationships will be examples of firm community. But I would like to avoid such evolution. I got rid of illusions of Enlightenment theory of history a long time ago. It stated that there had been an inevitable direction  of world’s evolution and that we would live in a secular and individualised world. Secularization has proven to be false, 21st century is a century of religion renaissance everywhere except Europe and some countries which used to be European colonies, such as Argentina or Australia. As a matter of fact the choice is from different forms of religions, not between secularized and religious world. Or open religiousness, represented Mother Theresa, John Paul II or Dalailama, and fundamentalist religiousness, which is firm not only in Islam, but also in Judaism and Christianity, especially in Protestant churches. Basically only Buddhism is a religion free from fundamentalists.

Are you convinced you will stop this process of change in social relations?

I am convinced I do have a chance. You can believe me I will do anything to prevent your ideals from becoming reality.



Translation: Marta Bożek

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