Minister Witold Waszczykowski on Polish diplomacy priorities in 2017
Polish diplomacy chief Witold Waszczykowski delivered Information of the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Polish foreign policy tasks in 2017. Below is the text of Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski’s address to the Sejm on 9 February 2017.
Madam Prime Minister, Colleagues Ministers,
Members of the House,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The first foreign policy address I delivered as Minister of Foreign Affairs a year ago was not free from concerns and pessimistic assessments of the international environment. At the time, I spoke about three crises Poland had to face: the security crisis, the neighbourhood crisis, and the crisis of the European project. This assessment has proved accurate. These three issues came to the forefront of European politics in 2016, creating a very complex situation that is hardly beneficial to Polish interests. Yet, in such challenging conditions, Poland’s diplomacy passed its difficult test with flying colours. We have fully accomplished the tasks set before the government a year ago.
Twelve months on, we can say with confidence that Poland has become a safer place; Polish policy towards our immediate neighbourhood, including Eastern Europe, has received a positive impetus; our voice is heard and our arguments were reflected in the ongoing EU debate on the future of the European project. The most recent proof of this has been Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Warsaw.
The nature of Polish foreign policy has changed as well. We have empowered it and restored the proper hierarchy of priorities in which our country’s broadly defined interests come first. It is to these interests that we have devoted so much attention and efforts. Instead of standing on the side-lines and cheering on the main players, we have entered the game on the international arena. It turned out that we are able to work out a tactic, set out our arguments, and promote our point of view. We are able to withstand the first wave of aversion, attacks, and even assaults. To build coalitions and to win. This was the case with the missile defence shield, the presence of NATO troops in Poland, and the problem of migration.
But please make no mistake. Placing a high value on Polish interests does not mean that we no longer care about the future of a united Europe, the security of its borders, the stability of Europe’s neighbourhood, or indeed the strength of transatlantic ties. These goals are not at odds with each other.
Our foreign policy is addressed to citizens. This basically means that we recognize the aspirations and needs of Polish citizens in the foreign dimension. The strength of our foreign policy lies in our public mandate. In international affairs, just as in home affairs, we have defined goals which matter to our citizens, and they are the ones we are defending.
We are pursuing Polish foreign policy goals using effective tools of bilateral cooperation. Would our voice in NATO be so widely heard were it not for our close relations with the United States and Great Britain? Would our economy grow so steadily without such a major economic partner as Germany? Would we have more say on European affairs without an active and dynamic regional policy? All of this would certainly not be possible were it not for our allies in Europe and across the Atlantic.
In the 21st century, security is increasingly becoming a common good for all of humanity. The consequences of crises erupting in the most faraway regions are quickly felt in Europe, at Polish borders. This is why Poland joins in initiatives to step up security not only in our country or region, but also in Europe and the world at large. And this is why we are engaged in NATO and EU missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Our soldiers are performing their service as part of the global coalition against terrorism. The watchwords for Poland’s policy are solidarity and responsibility.
International economic activity is underpinned by international stability and mutually beneficial relations with other countries. Support for Polish entrepreneurs is one of the priorities of Polish diplomacy. Today gentlemen but also ladies, as I had the opportunity to observe during the recent debate between Prime Minister Beta Szydło and Chancellor Angela Merkel, do talk about money, and this takes up much more of their time than playing golf. We are consolidating and increasing our diplomatic presence across the world so that Polish businesses may expand.
We also seek to be present in those parts of the world where the memory and love of homeland is still alive in the hearts and minds of the Polish community and Poles living abroad. We partner with them, support their schools and Polish language teaching. If necessary, we stand up for the civic rights that they should rightfully enjoy. The Polish diaspora is and will remain a part of our collective consciousness.
Far too often we still come across deliberate or unintentional falsifications of Polish history, especially depictions of WW2 victims as perpetrators or henchmen. We are determined in our efforts to put an end to lies and manipulations with history and to the permissive climate surrounding them.
Polish foreign policy would not be so successful without a harmonious cooperation between different State institutions. So let me express my gratitude to Mister President, Madam Prime Minister, and the Government Ministers for their assistance and support.
Members of the House,
Last year yielded arrangements which will benefit Poland’s international security. July’s NATO summit in Warsaw decided to reinforce the eastern flank. The Alliance has thus reaffirmed its readiness to fulfil its core mission, which is to deliver collective defence, also in our region. These decisions have given a real boost to Polish security. Our borders are secure; there is no need to put up a fence. What we did put up are warning signs reading “Attention! This is the territory of the Republic of Poland.”
Thousands of US, UK, German and Canadian troops along with modern weaponry will be supporting Poland’s and the Baltic States’ defence efforts in the event of a threat. The first American troops arrived in our country in mid-January. This lends credibility to the Allied obligations under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
NATO and the European Union have decided to enhance their collaboration. Their willingness to work together manifested itself in the declaration signed here in Warsaw last July. Polish diplomacy made a significant contribution to building a bridge between these organizations. A case in point is the conference held in Brussels last November with the participation of European Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini and myself, and my participation in a recent European security panel during the World Economic Forum in Davos, where I was joined by Federica Mogherini and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Polish diplomacy has been playing an active role in all of the discussions on Euro-Atlantic security and the future of the European Union. Despite some initial doubts, Poland’s voice on the migrant crisis and the need for EU reform has been heard and recognized by our partners. In response to the United Kingdom’s intention to leave the European Union, we have engaged in successful efforts to maintain enhanced cooperation with that country. Our relations with Germany have been very busy, as evidenced by five presidential visits, three meetings held by our heads of government, and my permanent contact with the German colleague. We have reinvigorated relationships with our regional partners: the Visegrad Group, the Baltic States, and the Nordic States. We have engaged in an intensive dialogue with countries situated between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas. The Three Seas Summit in Dubrovnik last August, organized on the initiative of the Polish and Croatian Presidents, demonstrated the region’s overall considerable political and economic potential. A similar message was sent from a meeting in Warsaw of foreign ministers from Central and South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, attended by Federica Mogherini in November. Poland has made an important contribution to forging the EU’s migrant policy, as reflected in the decisions of the informal EU summit in Bratislava, and to shaping our energy reality in our part of Europe.
Stability in our neighbourhood and beyond – in the European neighbourhood – is a key task for Poland. This also explains our active role in relations with Ukraine and Belarus, and with countries of the Middle East, and our decisions to engage militarily in the region.
In an effort to strike a balance between different foreign policy components, Poland has taken a sharp turn in its non-European policy by opening more strongly to collaboration with countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In this context, visits by the Polish President to China and by the PRC’s President to Poland were momentous on a practical level, especially in economic terms.
Finally, I should also like to mention the international success, notwithstanding the spiritual and religious dimension, of World Youth Day in Krakow attended by His Holiness Pope Francis.
Members of the House,
In 2017 we will confront many of the same challenges that we saw last year, but with some shift in emphasis. We will also have to take into account new trends which have emerged recently.
Today, there is much discussion about the future of the world’s international order, which looks uncertain. In 2016, some people were saying that, after several decades, the post-war era was coming to an end, at the threshold of which the authors of the United Nations Charter promised to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights […], in the equal rights of nations large and small.” Are we really facing dramatic and inevitable changes in the international order?
It is true that the global balance of power has changed very much since 1945. The Cold War is over, communism has collapsed, decolonization has been completed, and all continents have undergone profound demographic and economic changes. And yet societies are still attached to the ideas of sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, and respect for human rights. What distinguishes our present from the past decades are the aspirations of some countries to undermine this order. The international order based on these universal principles could be weakened permanently, unless it meets with the international community’s reaction.
Deeply marked by the merciless 20th century, Poland and our whole region regard it as a matter of fundamental importance that all states should respect the values and basic principles of international law as laid down in the United Nations Charter. For this reason we will continue our efforts so that Poland is elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the only international body whose decisions are universally binding, and which has the international community’s mandate to react in defence of world peace and security.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Recent years have shown to us again that principles and values can only be upheld effectively if they are backed by force – not only moral, but also military, the force of alliances. This is our security umbrella. We make it stronger to withstand the heaviest rains. Hence, as last year, security policy will be the overriding priority of Polish foreign policy.
We are following with concern the Russian Federation’s aggressive policy in Eastern Europe. The conflict it has been stoking in Ukraine is entering its third year. It is a conflict in which our two neighbours are engaged, which poses a number of real challenges and risks for Poland. Russia was especially vocal about its expectations in October 2016. Its withdrawal from the deal on plutonium disposal with the United States was a chance to learn about Russian ambitions vis-à-vis Central and Eastern Europe, such as, the de facto pulling out of NATO from the entire region, and drawing a dozen or so countries with their tens of millions of citizens into a grey zone condemning them instability and uncertainty. Poland will not accept such a vision of the political order in Europe, and will not condone the carving up of our continent into spheres of influence. Never again Munich or Yalta.
Russia’s political actions go hand-in-hand with concrete military steps. We are concerned by the expansion of the Western Military District, to which three new divisions were added in 2016. The militarization of Kaliningrad Oblast continues, with the deployment of new types of weaponry, such as medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
In these circumstances, an obvious task for Polish foreign policy is to ensure that the decisions taken at the NATO summit in Warsaw and earlier in Newport are fully implemented. We will focus our attention and activities in 2017 on this matter. With this in mind we are preparing for this year’s NATO summit in Brussels. On the practical and operational level, the key is to establish the Alliance’s forward presence in the East in the form of four battalion-sized battlegroups deployed in Poland and the Baltic States. These actions have already started.
US troops are an ever more important security factor in Central Europe. In 2017 we will continue our efforts to increase their presence in Poland. These will include the construction of a missile defence site at Redzikowo, and the organization of exercises involving an armoured brigade, which has just arrived in Poland, and the US air force detachment stationed at Łask and Powidz. We will be welcoming British soldiers to Poland this coming April. In the event of an impending military incident, as many as a dozen or so thousand Allied soldiers can be deployed in our territory as a result of the recent decisions.
We think about Poland’s and Europe’s security in transatlantic terms. Reinforcing US-European security cooperation continues to be our priority. US political leadership and military engagement are indispensable for NATO to remain reliable and coherent. Now is a special time for that in connection with changes in US policy. Many misunderstandings and speculations have built up around it. Some began to doubt the United States’ reliability as the pillar of the North Atlantic Alliance, and as Poland’s strategic ally. The Polish Government is following closely the shaping of US foreign policy under President Donald Trump’s administration. My recent talks with his close advisors have convinced me that our fruitful cooperation with the United States will continue. We will also continue our cooperation with Canada. We greatly appreciate its commitment to our regional security, and the presence of Canadian soldiers on the eastern flank.
The Alliance’s strength lies in its unity, solidarity and allegiance to the values that bind our civilization together. We will have them mind as we strive to ensure security in the Allied territory and stability in our neighbourhood. Cooperation with partner countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Finland, and Sweden is the key tool that lets us do this. This year we will welcome Montenegro to the Alliance as a fully-fledged member. It shows that NATO is adhering to its open-door policy towards countries that are guided by a similar understanding of European security and that share the same values. We hope that this will not be the last stage of NATO’s enlargement.
Poland has consistently looked beyond its own security interests and feels responsible for the security of others. Our Allies see us as a team player who contributes to the security of the entire region. It is in this spirit that we work to reinforce the Alliance’s eastern flank not only in the Baltic Sea region, but also in the Black Sea. Regular consultations and alignment of positions of the so-called Bucharest Nine have already translated into visibly enhanced security of our whole region between the Baltic, Adriatic and the Black Sea.
Our Allied credibility also depends on developing our national defence capabilities. Poland is held up to other member states as an example of a country that takes security seriously. We take a responsible approach to NATO’s target of spending 2% of GDP on defence, of which at least 20% is invested in modernisation. Such an attitude should be the rule, not the exception among the Allies.
We want the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to continue to be effective. However, whether and to what extent this can happen depends on the goodwill of all the participants of this dialogue. And this is not always the case. What I have in mind is the perverse approach to peace and stability demonstrated by our biggest, eastern neighbour. I am confident, though, that the OSCE can be a platform for easing the way back to a predictable and strong security environment in Europe. Poland is open to dialogue that will serve this purpose.
It is worth noting here that the MFA is engaged in talks with the OSCE about its status in Poland. This is all the more important as Warsaw hosts the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which is the biggest institution under the OSCE umbrella. We hope to be able to finalize negotiations of this matter in the first half of this year.
Members of the House,
Europe’s changing security environment calls for fresh, far-sighted solutions. This is especially true of the NATO-EU cooperation mentioned before, which should focus on developing civil and military capabilities in line with the principles of complementarity. We will advocate enhancing this cooperation as much as possible, in particular by fighting terrorism and hybrid threats, building the resilience of partner countries, increasing cybersecurity and holding joint exercises. Part of this concept is also NATO’s support for EU missions in the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea to address the migrant crisis.
Challenges coming from the East and South have contributed to a deeper cooperation under the Common Security and Defence Policy. Poland has joined in efforts to strengthen this policy, e.g. with regard to the proposed permanent planning and command of EU missions, enhancing military and civil capabilities, and unlocking the potential of EU Battle Groups, which are the Union’s rapid response force.
The creation of a European border guard could be another step towards building the CSDP. . With this in mind, negotiations were concluded in late January with the initialling of an agreement regulating the status of FRONTEX and its employees. Warsaw is and will continue to be the seat of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
Let us also remember that under the Treaty of Lisbon the EU may engage in permanent structured cooperation in the framework of the so-called PESCO to deliver the most demanding operations.
For several years, we have been witnessing tragic developments to the south of Europe. Weak state institutions of some North African and Middle East countries have created a vacuum which is filled by non-state actors, including terrorist organizations bent on destroying the Western world. Russia’s ambiguous policy towards the Syrian conflict which dismisses the suffering of the civilian population is a cause for concern.
We are now more alert to terrorist threats than before. Even though Poland is not among those nations that are most at risk of being attacked, a number of our citizens were killed by al-Qaeda and DAESH. What is more, the attacks against Germany, France, Belgium and Turkey hit our allies. As such, they were also directed against the Republic of Poland. Our country or citizens will not feel safe so long as we do not put an end to terrorism. Our response will be continued engagement in operations of the coalition fighting against terrorism. Several hundred soldiers, military staff, and civilian experts are serving in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, and Jordan as part of the coalition forces; our ship Kontradmirał Czernicki is taking part in NATO missions in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea.
Poland will continue to be engaged in NATO- and EU-led operations. Our current role in two NATO and ten EU missions has given us valuable experience and reason to be justly proud of our soldiers, military staff, and civilian experts. We are also in the process of reengaging in UN peacekeeping missions.
Members of the House,
The most difficult challenge that we will be facing in 2017 is the future of the European Union, which has found itself in a very difficult situation. The are many reasons for it, but the most important ones are hasty, out-of-touch initiatives motivated by ideology instead of the wellbeing of EU societies. A gap has been created between Europe’s elites and citizens, who feel they no longer have a say on what happens with their countries and the integration project. And this is precisely why societies pass censure on their elites that instead of questioning the bad marks should see it as a call to rebuild their relations with the citizens.
The lack of mechanisms that allow European policies to be fine-tuned in line with democratic principles has led to a situation when more and more Europeans begin to question the very idea of the European project. Elections and referendums, and public opinion polls clearly show that this is the case. The British EU membership referendum was an unprecedented event and a turning point in the European Union’s history. It has shaken the popular belief that the process of integration is irreversible. At the same time, in many other Member States Eurosceptics on the right and left questioning the idea of a united Europe are no longer confined to the fringes of politics.
Let me emphasize at this point: our government’s priority is to repair the European Union, not to dismantle it. However, returning to a Europe of national egoisms would bring just as much harm as the integration utopias that are not rooted in our continent’s social and political realities. The renovation of the European Union that we are postulating should not be limited to just sprucing up the façade and discussing the details of decoration. Rather, it should involve a thorough examination of the foundations of the whole European edifice. We are not ruling out the possibility that on the foundations of the four freedoms a new European Union will need to be built based on a new European treaty!
This year will mark the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties, which gave rise to the European Union as we know it today. It will be an opportunity to review the integration project’s achievements but also to reflect on its future. Given the scale of today’s challenges, the time has come to hold a rational debate and to look for common solutions. I believe that it is possible to reach a new political compromise about the EU’s future. Poland will take part in creating the groundwork for new solutions that will serve both our national interests and the wider European interests. I am confident that these efforts will succeed because the Treaties and I are of the same age, and I would like to celebrate these two anniversaries in good spirits.
A strong and competitive Union is in the interest of Poland and Europe. That is why we care about strengthening the single market that ensures unity and cohesion in the EU. We consider it a priority to fully utilise this potential in the goods and services sector, enhance entrepreneurship, and improve the competitiveness of European industry. We oppose protectionist practices and imposing new barriers, particularly with regard to the free movement of people. They are reflected among others in the changed regulations on delegating employees and the lack of freedom to provide services, which the united Europe started to implement in 1977, that is forty years ago.
We want the single market to adapt to the challenges of the so-called fourth industrial revolution. The Union must become an area which ensures the free movement of data in addition to the free movement of goods, people, services, and capital. That will open up new opportunities for business. In the course of that process, Poland will seek to ensure that benefits from the digital single market are distributed as evenly as possible across the whole of the EU.
The year 2017 will be important because of the work on the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework. We will be taking an active part in this process to secure our interests, also with regard to the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy.
The debate on the European Union’s future is strongly influenced by negotiations with Great Britain about its EU exit. We respect the democratic choice of the British people. We think that the negotiations should be constructive and level-headed and should focus on future EU-UK relations. We want these relations to be close, but also based on a balance of rights and obligations. Their outcome should not lead to further disintegration of the EU.
The protection of acquired rights of Polish citizens living in the UK will be our priority. These should be guaranteed irrespective of the length of their stay in the UK. We will strive hard for Poland’s interests to be reflected, also in the discussion on the shape of the EU after Brexit. First of all, it should be a discussion focusing on the needed changes in the way the EU has responded to tensions in the European construction that became apparent with the British referendum. We believe that the Member States must also regain their central place in the Union. The EU should focus on building the foundations for economic growth and addressing security and migration challenges. Brexit will also create challenges connected with a major net contributor to the budget, a non-euro zone member like Poland, leaving the EU.
In the wake of the migration crisis, we believe that the current problems should not be resolved by a compulsory relocation of immigrants or forced resettlements, but rather by addressing problems where they emerge and by a more effective protection of the Union’s external borders. The flow of migrants coming to Western Europe will not change its course due to EU directives. As proposed by the Slovak Presidency, the concept of effective solidarity offers an opportunity to build a broad consensus. Poland does not stand idly by. In 2016, Polish border guard and police supported their counterparts in Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia, and Hungary. Polish humanitarian aid also goes to migrants and refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. It will be considerably increased this year.
The recognition by some Western European politicians of Poland’s contribution to managing the migratory pressure from the East is another issue. There are over a million people, mostly citizens of the war- and crisis-torn Ukraine, who live and work here. This huge figure shows that Polish policy in this area has been successful, even though our goals are achieved by different methods. In this light, attempts to push through the deal to relocate migrants by issuing warnings about possible cuts in EU funds for Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries are wholly without merit.
Energy policy will continue to remain an important area of Poland’s engagement in Europe. Opening access to Norwegian gas deposits in the North Sea is a strategic goal. In this context, we are going to carry out investments to enhance our energy independence, especially the Baltic Pipe project. We expect the EU to do the same, where the legal framework and projects have to enhance the security of supplies of all Member States, instead of a dominant supplier like the Nord Stream 2 gas pipe.
Guided by the common good of all humanity, Poland, alongside other 120 states, has ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change, which should reduce the impact of climate anomalies on the lives of societies and on conditions in our part of Europe. At the same time, we see no grounds for increased EU ambitions regarding cuts in greenhouse emission by 2030. Any hasty decisions run counter to economic logic, while such changes could have a negative impact on the EU’s competitiveness. Therefore, we will work towards legal solutions that are beneficial for Poland regarding the earlier agreed emission reduction targets. We will also seek to ensure that Member States have autonomy to develop their own energy mixes.
Members of the House,
Poland’s active European policy is further supported by bilateral ties with our partners and by regional cooperation. Last year saw an institutional strengthening of relations with Great Britain, which was reflected in the first ever Polish-UK inter-governmental consultations. I know that some sceptics are asking whether it makes sense to invest in relations with a country that is leaving the Union. This is not the right question to ask. It pays off to cooperate with a nuclear power, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a partner that continues to be active in European defence policy. It pays off to ensure that the interests of over a million Poles living in the UK are protected. So the answer is clear – such cooperation lies in Poland’s strategic interest. We count on the United Kingdom remaining a close ally of Poland and the EU in stabilising the international environment. We also hope that the acquired rights of Poles living and working in the UK will be respected, of which British Prime Minister Theresa May has also assured the head of the Polish Government many times, also recently.
We want to maintain close relations with Germany – our main partner in the European Union, a priority economic partner, and an important ally in NATO. The numerous meetings of politicians and the 25th anniversary of the Treaty on Good Neighbourship and Friendly Cooperation, attended by the presidents of our two countries, were a measure of the good quality of our relations in 2016. We are going to expand this dialogue. At the same time, we expect the other side to show more openness and understanding for Polish arguments and for our right to pursue Polish interests. Acting jointly and respecting one another, Poland and Germany can do many things for Europe that suffers from an economic and political crisis.
We have not forgotten about the Polish minority in Germany. We will seek to improve their situation, also to ensure adequate access to Polish language learning. We welcome the recent decisions regarding this matter taken by the federal state of Hesse and with the help from our consular services and the local Polish community.
Poland is interested in having the best possible relations with France, based on such strong foundations as shared values and rich history. We share not only a common history, a love for democracy, and a commitment to European process, but also a multi-billion economic and investment cooperation and the traditionally close people-to-people contacts. The future of our bilateral relations should not become hostage to a single commercial contract. In relations with both Paris and Berlin we will be suggesting how to move forward so that we can benefit more from the Weimar Triangle for the sake of harmonious cooperation between our three countries. While drawing comparisons with the Three Musketeers may seem to go too far, the motto “all for one and one for all” (un pour tous, tous pour un) would perfectly fit our relationship. That is because without this cooperation, it would be hard to imagine the future of the European project, with Poland, Germany and France making up a third of the European Union’s territory, and over a third of its population. It would also seem natural to initiate cooperation between the Weimar Triangle and the Visegrad Group linking together two parts of Europe with a political buckle.
It is in our strategic interest that the region of Three Seas, situated between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas, should attain Western Europe’s level of development and security comfort as quickly as possible. To this end we have been engaged in different formats of regional cooperation: from the presidential project involving 12 Three Seas countries and focusing on the north-south infrastructure and energy security, to a reinvigorated Visegrad Group oriented towards the needs of the nine countries on NATO’s eastern flank, to the Bucharest Initiative which focuses on the needs of nine countries of on NATO’s eastern flank, to a dialogue with a number of the region’s states in the V4+ format. Our regional initiatives are not directed against anyone or anything; they add value and substance to European integration, a point we want to strongly make here.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are half way through our presidency of the Visegrad Group. Recent months have reaffirmed that we made the right decision to reinvigorate this forum as the most important vehicle for Polish foreign policy in Central Europe. We are confident that 2017 will turn out to be an equally seminal year in this regard. Close ties with our neighbours help us to formulate a common position in the EU, and to build understanding and support for our demands in other European capitals. At the same time by being engaged in cooperation in Central Europe, Poland has earned the right to be an advocate for the region on some issues.
Thanks to reinvigorated contacts with the Nordic and Baltic countries that were also forged during Poland’s presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, which ended in June 2016, we understand one another better and know how to work together to be more effective. In the coming months I plan to hold bilateral meetings with nearly all of our Nordic and Baltic partners. We also want to engage in a constructive cooperation with the new Lithuanian government, which largely depends on our partners’ good will, most of all when it comes to ensuring the rights of Poles in Lithuania. This is something I have spoken about with my Lithuanian counterpart during his recent visit to Poland. We have made a commitment to test new forms of cooperation.
Romania and Turkey are our important trade and security partners in the Balkans, Black Sea, and Middle East. Cooperation with these countries has been institutionalized as the so-called eastern flank triangle. We follow closely the developments in Turkey, which plays a very important role in the EU’s plans to resolve the migration crisis. We trust that our Turkish allies will succeed in maintaining a right balance between respect for the rule of law and the need for strong actions to counter terrorism.
Poland continues to support the EU enlargement process. We believe that Europe should keep its door open for countries that share the vision of democracies working together. We prefer to extend our hand to greet rather than to bid farewell, as is the case with Great Britain. We want to keep on sharing our accession experience with the Western Balkan countries. For this year we are planning a number of initiatives addressed to the region’s six EU candidate countries: Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Kosovo.
Members of the House,
Poland is the only country in Europe that borders on three Eastern European countries and, inevitably we are interested in stability and peaceful development in this area more than anybody else. Secure as we are in our Polish home, like any good neighbour we cannot be indifferent to what is happening next door. And as a good neighbour we believe that the political order in Eastern Europe, as well as across Europe, can only be based on each society’s sovereign choice of its own path of development.
We respect individual choices of our partners - those who favour closer relations with the European Union, as well as those who prefer looser forms of cooperation. In that vein, we support the idea of adapting the Eastern Partnership to each country’s individual needs. Preparations for this year's Partnership Summit in Brussels should provide an opportunity for a realistic assessment and a new impetus.
Poland pursues its policy of supporting pro-European aspirations of Ukraine. We are of the view that full implementation of the Minsk agreements is key to a peaceful solution of the conflict. The significance and importance of bilateral relations were confirmed by last year's visit of President Andrzej Duda to Kyiv and President Petro Poroshenko’s trip to Warsaw. We support the Ukrainian authorities’ actions in the fields of decentralization, local government reform and the fight against corruption. The year 2016 was good for mutually beneficial Polish-Ukrainian defence cooperation. A joint Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian brigade took part in the Anaconda-2016 exercises. Together with the United States and Canada, among others, we started training Ukrainian soldiers at the training ground in Yavoriv. The Defence Ministries of Poland and Ukraine signed two important agreements: a new general agreement on defence cooperation, and a specific agreement on cooperation between the industries. All this shows that the Polish-Ukrainian strategic partnership is increasingly filled with substance and will help build our neighbour’s resistance to destabilisation. We are sending a clear signal to Ukraine that what is happening to their country today gives us not only cause for concern, but also triggers our concrete reaction. This reaction encompasses over 1.2 million visas issued by our consular offices in Ukraine, including over 650,000 working visas. Such actions also reflect an effort to meet the needs of the Polish labour market, which turns to Ukraine in search of workers in a growing number of economic sectors, and provides a concrete example of foreign policy actions for the benefit of the country’s economic interests.
While we support Ukraine in its reform efforts and pro-European policy, we do not lose sight of historical issues. We believe that a true strategic partnership should be accompanied by truth. At the same time, we do not want our bilateral relations to be held hostage by the past. Mindful of our past and the social dialogue, we have decided to resume a successful format of bilateral cooperation, which is the Polish-Ukrainian Partnership Forum. We also aim at establishing a Polish-Ukrainian Centre for Good Neighbourhood, which would bring the Polish and Ukrainian nations closer through the development of good neighbourly relations, cooperation and cultural exchanges.
Over the past year, Poland’s policy towards Belarus has changed. We have made a number of important visits and held numerous bilateral meetings, which significantly expanded the horizons of our relations. The main task will be to confirm the normalization of bilateral relations by concrete decisions, especially in the field of economic and border cooperation and trade, as well as in terms of
normalising relations with the communities of Poles in Belarus. We are also preparing to launch a Polish-Belarusian Historical Commission.
Our policy towards the Russian Federation is unfortunately determined by Russia’s aggressive actions in Eastern Europe. At the same time, we recognize the need for dialogue with our Russian neighbour. We are going to take steps to develop social dialogue, people-to-people contacts, and cultural cooperation, as well as to restore bilateral economic relations. I hope that the resumption of work by the Polish- Russian Group for Difficult Issues will help to achieve this end. We treat Russia seriously, the way you treat a big country and a neighbour. But when it comes to our relations, it takes two to tango. So we will keep trying to convince our Russian partners that constructive cooperation is possible if we carefully listen to and try to understand the other party’s expectations. We expect that the wreckage of the TU-154 presidential plane will be returned to its rightful owner, which is the Polish state. The return of the Tupolev wreckage is essential for the Law and Justice government, and especially for the chief of Polish diplomacy. I shall not relent in my efforts to execute the will of the Poles who have been waiting for this for nearly seven years. Currently, we are looking at the possibility of submitting a dispute regarding the Russian investigation into the plane crash near Smolensk to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
We intend to make the most of our relations with countries situated further to the east, with the South Caucasus and Central Asia countries, especially in trade and investment cooperation. The Polish Institute in Tbilisi which we are planning to open will help achieve this goal.
Members of the House,
The international standing of states in the twenty-first century is measured, among others, by their ability to cooperate effectively not only in their immediate geographical environment, but also on a global scale. In the past year, we have put much effort in developing relations with non-European partners. These activities will continue in the current year, taking into account various dimensions of foreign policy.
Strategic partnership with the People's Republic of China has become a permanent part of Poland’s foreign policy. We take advantage of the favourable atmosphere in Chinese-Polish relations brought about by last year's contacts at the highest level. We look forward to further developing cooperation in the 16+1 format, that is, between Central European countries and China, including through the Secretariat for Maritime Affairs based in our country. As this Chinese saying has it, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” We have already taken a few steps.
We also want to foster contacts with the other two strategic partners in Asia, i.e. Japan and the Republic of Korea. These are the largest Asian investors, which have been creating many jobs in Poland.
Our cooperation with India has also been gaining momentum, as evidenced by Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Gliński’s recent visit to this country heading a business delegation and his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In parallel to economic relations, we are committed to strengthening dialogue on global security issues, especially amid increasing terrorist threats. We attach key importance to cooperation with Japan, Australia and New Zealand. My visit to these countries next month will serve that purpose.
The Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa have for years been flashpoints on the world map. At the same time, we see this area not only in the context of challenges, but also opportunities, especially in the field of economic cooperation, as evidenced by increased trade with such countries as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of the United Arab Emirates. We have strengthened Poland’s energy security through supplies of Qatari gas to the LNG Terminal in Swinoujscie, which began last summer. Also Gdansk received tankers with oil deliveries from Iran.
Since the start of the present government, bilateral contacts with African and Middle Eastern countries have significantly intensified. We have reopened Polish embassies in Senegal and Tanzania. The Polish President visited Jordan and received in Warsaw the King of Jordan, the Presidents of Senegal and the Palestinian Authority, and the Vice-President of Iran. Madam Prime Minister co-chaired Polish-Israeli intergovernmental consultations in Jerusalem. As minister of foreign affairs I visited Israel and Palestine. I took part in the EU-Arab League ministerial summit in Cairo and attended subsequent conferences on the Middle East peace process which were initiated by France. In 2017, I plan to visit a number of Middle Eastern and African countries: Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the State of the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania.
In response to the dramatic situation of the civilian population affected by the war in Syria, we have taken action to support those suffering, refugees and their host communities in neighbouring countries. Our priority is to provide aid directly in Syria, as well as in Lebanon and Jordan. We extend our hand to help those in need without media hype or political grandstanding. On the initiative of Prime Minister Beata Szydło and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a joint three-year project to rebuild schools in Lebanon was launched in 2016. Poland responded to the humanitarian and migration crisis also by contributing to EU special funds. The total value of aid provided in response to the Syrian conflict and the migration crisis in 2016 exceeded PLN 119m.
Poland is strengthening its political and economic relations with Latin America and the Caribbean region. That was one of the reasons for my participation in the summit of foreign ministers of the EU and the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean States, held in October in the Dominican Republic. In the coming year we want to give a strategic dimension to our partnership with Mexico, which will be the purpose of the Polish President’s planned visit to this country. We will be also steadily reinforcing our cooperation with other countries of the Pacific Alliance: Chile, Colombia, and Peru. Poland will host the President of the last country this year.
Polish diplomatic initiatives in the world have shown concern about the state of human rights. In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution on the role of good governance in the promotion of human rights, proposed jointly by Poland, Australia, Chile, the Republic of Korea, and South Africa.
Poland wants the protection of religious minorities’ rights, including Christians’ rights to be the focus of interest and joint action by the European Union and the United Nations. We are involved in the drafting of documents relating to freedom of religion and belief and we take part in debates on this subject.
Poland is among sponsor states of the UN resolution on freedom of religion and belief. We pay attention to cases of non-compliance with the rights of religious minorities, including the persecution of Christians. During the Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy conference, organized by the MFA in December, one of the sessions was devoted mainly to the protection of the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities.
On the international stage, we point to the alarming human rights developments in Crimea, including the situation of religious and ethnic minorities, especially the Crimean Tatars.
Members of the House,
Supporting Polish enterprises abroad is a priority for Polish diplomacy. For this reason we are extending our network of diplomatic posts. Our companies are increasingly better poised to compete globally, but when they enter new markets, they often have to rely on our diplomatic services. It is often the only weapon against unfair and discriminatory practices.
In 2017, we will focus on promoting Poland as a country of creativity and innovation. We will help Polish start-ups establish contacts on foreign markets. Our aim will also be to reinvigorate cooperation between Polish and foreign scientific centres. Last year I launched such activities during my visits to important centres, such as, in Seattle in the US and in Vancouver in Canada as the head of economic missions.
Our economic promotion will pay much attention to green technologies, especially during the Energy Forum in Vienna and preparations for the COP24 climate conference in Poland in 2018.
We are engaged in efforts to increase Polish companies’ participation in tenders and projects run by international organisations of which Poland is a member. We are glad that close to 1,500 Polish companies have taken part in such initiatives in the last two years.
We are increasingly engaged in supporting international activities of business and local self-governments. Support for Lodz’s bid to organise EXPO in 2022 will feature prominently on our agenda.
Members of the House,
The Polish community and Poles living abroad occupy a special place in Polish foreign policy. They are members of our Polish family, a part of Poland in the most distant corners of the world. That is why we cherish our relationship with the Polish community and Poles abroad more than any other relationship. Last year we worked hard to promote the interests of Polish communities in many countries. In Latvia we stopped a Polish school in Krāslava from being closed down. In Germany, we have successfully negotiated funds for the renovation of the Polish House in Bochum. After long negotiations, we have signed a cooperation agreement with Belarus in the area of education. To accommodate the expectations of our compatriots in the East, we have amended the Act on Polish Card. This year we expect many more people to apply for the Polish Card because of the new rights granted to Card holders. Last year Polish consuls received a record number of over 27 thousand applications.
The government has also taken steps to accelerate the process of repatriating Poles from the East. The largest group of repatriates – over 150 people – arrived from Kazakhstan last year. New legal regulations make it much easier to assist our compatriots from the East who want to settle in Poland. We are prepared to continue these steps.
The Polish authorities will continue to seek respect for the rights of Polish minorities in the East and the rights of Poles living in other parts of the world, specifically those of recent emigrants in Western Europe. The authorities and consular services have reacted quickly and resolutely to aggressive behaviour against Polish citizens and will continue to do so in the future. Support for teaching Polish language and culture will continue to be a priority in our policy towards the Polish diaspora. We intend to allocate much more funds to supporting Polish education abroad through our diplomatic posts. We will place special emphasis on historical education of the young generation.
Partnership obligates also in relations with the Polish community abroad. Fresh initiatives and a new look at the possibilities created by cooperation and dialogue are needed on both sides. In this regard, we specifically count on our compatriot’s active involvement in creating a positive image of Poland in the world. We are interested in seeing effective and close cooperation between our diplomatic missions and the Polish community abroad, and for this reason we will be developing Polish Diaspora Councils at our diplomatic and consular missions.
Members of the House,
Polish diplomats not only promote the interests of the Polish community abroad, but also provide assistance to Polish citizens across the globe. They assist them when they lose their passports and when they are kidnapped. Thanks to our diplomats, Poles who travel abroad can count on their support in difficult situations.
We are extending our network of consulates to ensure that Polish citizens receive more effective assistance. We have opened a Polish Consulate General in Houston, Texas, and are planning to open a consulate in Belfast before the end of this year. In order to streamline telephone assistance for Poles living in the United Kingdom and Ireland, a Consular Information Centre, acting as a consular call centre, was set up and is already operational. Alongside this centre, we have created Consular Emergency Service which facilitates effective contact in emergency situations when Polish citizens need to get in touch with a consul outside normal consular office hours. We plan to extend these services to cover other countries in the future.
Some of the most difficult cases our consuls handle involve the parental responsibility of Polish citizens. This primarily concerns countries that are the targets of intensive migration – Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Polish consulates will use their best efforts to provide parents involved in such cases with due protection and assistance.
2017 will be another year of active and multidirectional public diplomacy coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A diplomacy whose primary goal is to care for Poland’s good name and image. The most important directions this year include the promotion of Polish political thought and history, Poland’s contribution to world humanist heritage, and the promotion of creative and innovative Poland.
This year as last year, we will focus a lot of attention on the Polish historical narrative in the world. The main objective of our efforts will be to present Poland as a modern country that draws on its traditions; as a tolerant country of many nations and cultures. We are also determined to consolidate Poland’s good name on the basis of historical facts and to promote its rightful place in European and world history. We have doubled our efforts to fight against falsehoods about the responsibility for organising and running German Nazi death camps during World War Two. Modern means of communication can be used to put historical facts straight. One such example is the publication of a film Words Matter by our embassy in Washington D.C. on social media.
In 2017 we will focus our historical narrative on the life and work of such outstanding figures as Tadeusz Kościuszko, Józef Piłsudski and Józef Haller. This year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will co-organise large international conferences whose topics will include the situation of European intellectual elites under the German occupation and the Polish Righteous Among Nations, who saved Jews. We will rely extensively on different public diplomacy tools, especially study visits for representatives of foreign opinion-making circles.
In 2008-2015, several dozen Polish diplomatic and consular posts were closed down. This led to extensive swaths of “terra incognita” in some regions of the world – specifically in Africa. Not only was there no diplomatic presence, but no consular assistance for those who needed it as well. Last year we reversed this trend. Now we are gradually recreating the network of Polish embassies and consulates. Embassies in Senegal and Iraq have been opened. We established embassies in Tanzania and Panama this January and a Consulate General in Houston in the first days of February. These posts will become fully operational in the second half of 2017. We are planning to open a new consulate in Belfast in the near future. Depending on budget constraints, we will consider opening an embassy in the Philippines. If security conditions permit it, we will reopen our diplomatic missions in high-risk countries that are important for Polish foreign and economic policy, i.e. in Syria and Libya.
We are modernising many Polish missions abroad as part of an extensive programme to eliminate the effects of many years of neglecting to properly maintain the much needed Foreign Service infrastructure. This year we will start building Embassies in Berlin and Minsk.
2017 will be the first full year of operation of the newly created MFA Diplomatic Academy providing training for future diplomats and continuous professional training for MFA employees. Thirty-two persons, who were selected in a multiple stage recruitment process that was announced in the press, began their diplomatic and consular training in early February this year. This is twice as many trainees as we had in the past.
We began drafting an amendment to the Foreign Service Act with the aim of continuing the process of professionalization of our diplomatic staff. The amendment is intended to help foreign service recruit top specialists, people dedicated to serving Poland and Poles.
Unfortunately, the year 2016 saw an upsurge of cyber-attacks against MFA’s critical infrastructure, also on 15 December 2016. We will continue to take preventive and reactive measures to ensure that our diplomats can work without fear of compromising the security of transmitted data.
Members of the House,
The post-Cold War international order is changing before our eyes, and so is Poland’s international environment. We view this as difficult challenges that we need to confront. Polish diplomacy is taking up this gauntlet. Under such conditions, we shall be guided by special responsibility and prudence and at the same time take far-sighted actions, thanks to which Poland will be even safer and better prepared to tap into its development potential. A strong and developing Poland that enjoys international prestige will be a reliable NATO ally, an important country in Central Europe, and a state that helps to shape the European Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The concept of activities of Polish diplomacy in 2017 presented here today, empowering and oriented at citizens, strongly embedded in multilateral cooperation, and building valuable alliances offers the proper response to the issues we must confront. This is the course we have chosen. This is our navigation in the new reality. Before the debate, which I hope will soon start, let me quote one more Chinese saying: “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”
I ask the House to accept the information of the Government on the tasks of Polish foreign policy in 2017.
Thank you for your attention.