News Foreign policy Ministry Travel to Poland
20 March 2013
ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ON THE GOALS OF POLISH FOREIGN POLICY IN 2013
Prime Minister, Government Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors,
Members of the House,
It is my honour to present this information on the goals of Poland’s foreign policy for the sixth time running. As I stand here today, I can say with satisfaction: Poland’s international position is strong. We are cementing our standing in the European Union, which continues to integrate and grow – in spite of the crisis.
Without forgetting about our past, first and foremost we look to the future. We think like free men and women living in a free and prosperous country. We know that today, more than ever before, we are the masters of our own fate. We are shaping our foreign policy independently, in line with our own conscience and to the best of our knowledge.
What is an effective foreign policy today? It is no more and no less than the result of a correlation of forces, meaning the mutual impact of material and immaterial factors that influence a country’s ability to achieve its goals. It is the art of reinforcing propitious circumstances and making optimal use of the amassed potential. To quote the French statesman Aristide Briand, “the art of reconciling the desirable with the possible.”
The most important tool when building a country’s international position is naturally diplomacy, but its efficiency depends on the strength of the country as a whole, which in turn varies over time. It must always be measured relative to other subjects of international relations. In order to correctly assess Poland’s geostrategic position today, we must take a look at our country from an historical perspective. It is thus crucial to evaluate our past significance, our position in the present-day hierarchy of countries, and feasible future scenarios.
We have faced strategic dilemmas many a time in history. Our fate would depend on the sense of responsibility of the nation’s leaders – on their conscience and their understanding of the rules governing political and social life. First and foremost – on a realistic assessment of our capabilities. As Józef Piłsudski once said, “I can think for five Polands, but implement only that which the one [Poland] is capable of.”
We were on the peripheries when capitalism was on the rise in modern Europe. The first manufactories were built in the west of Europe in the 13th century, but only arrived in Poland by the end of the 16th century. During the Middle Ages, Polish gross domestic product per capita was close to the average of rich Western European countries, amounting to approximately 80% of their levels in the 14th and 15th centuries. Similarly, we were not yet far behind in terms of fiscal strength, i.e. the ability of state administration to collect taxes and, in turn, pursue public investments.
Delays and obstructions to the process of modernization were to become the fundamental cause of Polish problems and tragedies. They resulted in weaker growth and backwardness, as well as inefficient state structures. Even though Poles were still relatively well off, the royal coffers lay empty.
In other words, our country’s fiscal strength did not correspond with our still large tax collection potential, which remained strong. On the eve of the Great Sejm, in 1788 Poland’s GDP fell to just 16% of its British equivalent.
Meanwhile, our neighbours and their armies continued to grow stronger. Poland still existed – at least formally – but no longer played a role on the international stage. Contrary to Poland’s national interest and nominal sovereignty, foreign armies stationed in our territory. Under the partitions most of Poland had not experienced the industrial revolution. The Second Polish Republic was thus unable to join the global economic vanguard of the time. Despite flagship initiatives like the port in Gdynia or the Central Industrial Region, Poland was economically lagging behind its neighbours. The customs war with Germany lasted 10 years, blocking bilateral trade altogether. To better picture the scope of such a challenge, just imagine where we would be if we were unable to export goods to our main output market today.
Poland remained an island of relative freedom bounded by consolidating totalitarianisms. Their leaders were more or less overt in their hostility towards our country. As it would later turn out, we could not count on the solidarity of our allies. At the same time, the military chasm separating Poland and its bellicose neighbours continued to grow. In 1933-1939 Poland’s military spending – although totalling 20% of our GDP – amounted to just 7 percent of German expenditures. We all know how that ended.
Poland’s situation 30 years ago was equally tragic, though for altogether different reasons. During the long darkness of martial law, a depressing stability was imposed on us by the bipolar world order. The country’s rulers failed to make use of their absolute power to implement the necessary reforms and steer the country out of the economic doldrums. In 1981 our GDP per capita amounted to a paltry 41 percent of the Western European average, only to fall to 30 percent – the lowest level in history – a decade later, at the start of the transformation. Today we are nearing 59 percent, or as much as 64 percent when compared with the EU average. I dedicate these numbers to the apologists for statism seated on both sides of this chamber.
So how does our situation today measure up against this backdrop? The age-old dilemmas that every country must face – which the historian Paul Kennedy boils down to the single question of “guns, butter, or investments” in his book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers – have never before been so easy to reconcile. We are one of the few NATO countries to maintain military spending at recommended levels, all the while preserving fiscal stability and not forgetting about our commitment to future generations. Only Poland and a few other NATO countries have increased their defence spending since the onset of the crisis.
The last twenty years are a period of continued economic growth. One full generation of Poles knows recession only from textbooks on economics, and from news from other countries. We are registering constant GDP growth, which has translated into a marked improvement in living standards. The forecasts are promising: analysts reckon that by 2030 Poland’s nominal GDP will grow by 70 percent. We are making efficient use of EU funds. Here I would like to pay my compliments to Minister Elżbieta Bieńkowska, whom I believe is absent today.
We are improving our position in national brand rankings. The findings of one report show that Poland ranks 20th globally – among around 200 UN member countries – with the value of the Polish brand rising by 75 percent. Solutions such as the “fiscal anchor”, inscribed in our constitution, are today a source of inspiration for other countries. It is also thanks to our successful EU presidency and efficient preparations for Euro 2012 that others are acknowledging Poland’s accomplishments and organizational skills. All credit goes to all those Poles who built this free homeland, which so many generations had dreamt of! Other challenges, however, remain: a negative demographic outlook that limits our fiscal potential, low levels of private investment, and declining productivity growth rates. Poland must start to create new competitive advantages and enhance its growth model – based on increasing productivity – with the ability to innovate.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House,
The history of our country has shown time and again that periods of stagnation and recession have given way to moments of rapid acceleration. Measured in decades, they had more significant consequences than any other individual events – suffice it to mention the intense bids for modernization under King Casimir the Great, King Stanisław August, or Prime Minister Władysław Grabski. All of these periods have two things in common: first, they would shape Poland’s statehood for decades to come; second, they were never 100% successful, in the sense that they failed to close the growth gap between Poland and Western Europe.
Our dilemmas today come at precisely this kind of time – when we already have reason to be proud. Following a successful transformation, Poland is tempted to slow down and bask in its own undisputed achievements. After all, our country has never been more prosperous. But the role of diplomacy – as I perceive it – is to wisely support the process of modernization and to ensure that Poland thrives in a stable and friendly international environment.
Looking at International Monetary Fund projections, if we are consistent in our stance and the economic climate remains favourable, within two decades Poland’s GDP per capita will reach Western European levels. This will not, however, mean that we will have reached the end of the road and that our living standards and wealth levels will have become aligned with the West’s. For historical reasons, Poland’s delayed process of wealth accumulation – be it personal or national – will take longer still. Last year, the average Pole put aside just 3% of his income, compared to almost 7% for the average Czech, and as much as 10% for the typical German. We are still building the roads, railways, stadiums and theatres that other countries already have. To sum up – we need a generation of stable growth to achieve the production capacity of Western Europe and around 30 years to reach its quality of life levels.
Members of the House,
I stand before you to report on Poland’s foreign policy just a few weeks after the European Council took its decision on the Multiannual Financial Framework. This was an issue of such importance for the government and for Poland’s future growth perspectives that Prime Minister Donald Tusk assumed personal responsibility for the negotiations. The sum of 106 billion euros that was secured, including almost 73 billion towards cohesion policy and almost 29 billion euros towards agriculture, is the fulfilment of the electoral promise made by the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party. Standing before the President of the Republic and the entire Sejm, I take pride in these words: Prime Minister, you have more than honoured your promise to the People.
These massive sums are also evidence of the fact that, thanks to our methodical and bottom-up approach, we are capable of executing momentous political projects on the international stage. In spite of the crisis raging across Europe, we have patiently worked our way towards this success: from the election of Janusz Lewandowski as the EU Budget Commissioner, to the establishment of the Friends of Cohesion Group and the negotiation pact with the Visegrad Group, to cooperating with France and convincing Germany and the UK that they should support an austere budget, albeit one in which cuts would not mainly affect countries that are on their way up. My first deputy – Minister Piotr Serafin – efficiently supported PM Tusk in steering clear of troubled waters. In these budget negotiations, Poland proved a long-distance runner capable of wisely balancing its energy reserves and winning the race – both individually and as a team.
Members of the House,
Now that the battle has been won, it is time to reflect. Indeed, a reformed European architecture is being constructed before our very eyes. Integration is increasingly being spurred on by cooperation in the areas of finance and banking. The eurozone has changed considerably since the crisis first erupted. We appreciate the great efforts taken by the EU-17. A lot has been done to turn the euro area into a future zone of stability and predictability. We will be able to safely join the eurozone – which we are today helping to fix – only if it undergoes such changes and reforms. But choosing to permanently remain outside the euro area would limit our room for manoeuvre. We will thus face a choice: we can either stay in the mainstream of economic, financial, and political integration, or we can stand on the sidelines, squandering the opportunity to achieve faster growth and have our say in EU policies.
Europe is still grappling with the crisis, but European integration continues to progress. This is evidenced by a continuation of the EU policy of enlargement and the adoption of the Fiscal Compact signed by 25 Member States. Prime Minister Tusk has managed to let Poland shape the architecture of the eurozone – even though we are not yet members of the bloc. The next phase of the process of closer integration is the plan to create a banking union. We subscribe to the idea, though we must be sure that our rights and interests will be respected. The first stage of negotiations on this union – the establishment of European supervision – looks promising.
Today’s Europe is also increasingly divided into circles of integration. Whether we like it or not, what was once the stuff of theory is fast becoming political reality. The interested Member States may at any moment initiate enhanced cooperation, all the while undertaking to maintain its open-ended nature.
Today, the countries that use the euro undoubtedly make up the European core.
They are complemented by the Schengen zone...
... and the Fiscal Compact.
What is Poland’s position within these circles of integration, or as some say – within a Europe of many “speeds”? In light of the turmoil in the south and the insular British approach, we stand a chance of becoming part of the hard core of European decision-makers. Even though we are already a Member State to be reckoned with, to further boost our significance we should be ready to adopt the euro. But only in a way that bolsters our economy. Just like Slovakia did four years ago; despite widespread fears to the contrary, inflation in the country fell immediately and big supermarket chains rounded prices down, not up. The common currency will soon become legal tender in other countries in our region – Latvia and Lithuania are set to follow in Estonia's footsteps.
Poland’s membership of the eurozone will bring tangible benefits that will depend on the strength and state of preparation of our economy, as well as on the final zloty-to-euro exchange rate. This means benefits for consumers as well as businesses: cheaper loans, no more exchanging currencies when going abroad, easier Internet shopping, greater ease of doing international transactions, simpler EU fund accounting for companies and, last but not least, greater trust among foreign investors. The common currency is also about depriving politicians of the right to act irresponsibly or spoil good money. If you’re serious about public finance, you shouldn’t fear being fined for dealing recklessly with future generations’ money. After all, what we get in exchange is the guarantee that we won’t be left to your own devices in the event of a crisis. If so, I would like to quote Józef Ignacy Kraszewski and ask those who remain in doubt: why are you afraid of change, even when it’s for the better?
Members of the House,
Faced with the rise of a new European Union centred on the eurozone, we must honestly ask ourselves what type of EU relations will best suit our national interest. And I’m not just talking about the mid-term perspective, which I have outlined here, meaning when and at what exchange rate to implement stage three of the Economic and Monetary Union. We must wisely and carefully assess the timeframe and conditions for making this step, but let it be clear: joining the eurozone lies in Poland’s strategic interest. What is at stake is the geopolitical consolidation of our country for decades and perhaps – hopefully! – for centuries to come.
Indeed, the European Union is home to decentralist forces. Buoyed by the crisis, national egoisms have surfaced. Sadly, the interest of the Union as a whole tends to be pushed aside and subordinated to domestic politics. Some think they can order à la carte, playing pick-and-mix with just those items on the menu that tickle their taste buds. In other words, they think they can profit from the benefits of integration without doing their share of the work. They are under the illusion that once outside the EU, they could carry more weight and enjoy greater freedoms. But if the European Union were to be but a temporary free trade area, then the question once posed by a certain MEP would be an adequate one: why should the British taxpayer co-fund the construction of the Warsaw underground? Solidarity and cohesion only make sense if we perceive our own fate as the common fate of all Europeans.
The share of EU economies in the global GDP, meanwhile, has fallen by almost one-fourth over the last 20 years and is set to fall further still. The opposite is true for non-European powers, which will witness dynamic growth. If China manages to avoid a debt crisis, 2016 may already be the year in which the country overtakes the EU in terms of economic might.
And so my warning is: visions of EU countries going it alone on the global stage are dangerous fantasies. This also applies to the UK, whose share in the EU GDP is 14%, not to mention Poland, which has a 5% share. Demographic trends are another adverse factor for Europe, and one that is even more inexorable.
Our continent accounted for almost 20 percent of the global population in 1960, but for less than 12 percent in 2000. In 2040 the figure will dwindle to just over 8 percent.
Faced with these changes, we should create a transatlantic free trade area agreement – the European Union and the United States – especially since it is yet another argument in favour of a strong global voice for the EU. No European country would be capable of going solo and negotiating such a good deal for itself. We Poles have experienced firsthand that the common European interest is not an abstract concept, but a tangible phenomenon. This was the case when we lifted the Russian embargo on imports of Polish foodstuffs, or during our negotiations on a new gas agreement. There is no need for lofty rhetoric. Joint EU actions simply pay off.
Madam Speaker, Members of the House,
Bearing in mind that every historical comparison is only partly justified, I would say that the European Union is like the Roman Empire – an entity which, in Western Europe at least, defined the settlement structure, road network and legal acquis that is still being used today. Only our Union is better, since it was not created through conquest, but through voluntary membership. We all feel that the question about the frontiers of European integration is a question about our security and might of the Western civilization.
The question about the frontiers of the Continent is as old as the dream of European unity. For some, Europe exists wherever there are Medieval town halls and cathedrals. For many in the West, the mental frontier – solidified by half a century of cold war – extends only as far as the ancient Roman roads. Meaning somewhere between the Rhine and Elbe rivers, and along the Danube – but only in Vienna. In my view, buildings are the result of laws and institutions, so the European border extends to where European laws apply. After German reunification, the borderline moved east to the Oder. In 2004 – to the Bug. But is it permanent? Or can it extend further still?
The Roman limes would sometimes retract – even during the glory days. In the British Isles, the northern border takes the form of Hadrian’s Wall, but for some twenty years the empire tried to move it to the Antonine Wall. By staying outside the eurozone, we would once again risk being marginalized, thereby self-limiting ourselves to a zone of partial and perhaps even temporary integration. Instead, Poles want to be fully-fledged citizens of the Union – cives Romani instead of second-rate foederati. We are not in it for the prestige, but for the ability to influence and jointly shape the future of the European Union.
Rome was not just limited to the Western Roman Empire, but also included the Orthodox Byzantine Empire with its constant procession of emperors until 1453. Our great countryman, John Paul II, said that Europe can only fully be itself when it breathes with both lungs – the East and the West. And so, should the Eastern Slavic, Orthodox world one day be willing and able to adopt the legal and institutional acquis of our Union, the European horizon would extend not just to the Dnieper river, but far beyond, all the way to the Chinese and Korean borders. Poland would overcome its “periphery syndrome” once and for all and sit safely in the centre. The West expanded as such – complete with Russian resources, the EU’s economic strength and American military might – would stand a chance of retaining influence in a world dominated by rising powers from outside Europe.
Some will ask why we shouldn’t just pursue our own Polish path, why we can’t become an axis of integration ourselves – after all, we had this chance during our Golden Age. My answer is simple: indeed, we had our chance – and we blew it. Today, neither our eastern neighbours nor we are willing to integrate with one another. Doing things alone would require a level of social, financial and military mobilization that is unthinkable in a democratic system. And so the only feasible practical application of the Jagiellonian ideal in today’s world is EU enlargement. There is no alternative. This decade will likely determine whether our democratic European empire will retain its pulling power.
And to those who, in spite of our limited resources, dream of the re-nationalization of European politics and a return to the selfish framework of the nation-state, I say: be careful what you wish for! You might just get it – and faster than you’d expect. The European Union is still in crisis and its survival is by no means guaranteed. Yes, its collapse would restore full powers to us – but also to all the others. Yes, we would thus be self-governing and independent – but also left to our own devices. And once again serve as a bulwark.
Members of the House,
A strong Poland in the EU also means a stronger Visegrad Group. This is because Central Europe is no longer – as Milan Kundera once wrote in his famous essay – a land of tragedy. It is more reminiscent of the dream, at last fulfilled, of the free and prosperous region described by the Hungarian writer György Konrád, or of the integrated region of Czechoslovakian Prime Minister Milan Hodža. The potential of our part of Europe is already quite significant – and getting ever stronger. In recent years, the growth rate of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary surpassed the EU average. In the mid-1990s, the GDP of the four Visegrad Group countries amounted to almost USD 270 billion. Today, it is almost four times larger. Together, we are Germany’s biggest trading partner – more important than, for example, France.
Pursuant to the still applicable law, in the Council of the European Union our four countries hold 58 weighted votes – as many as Germany and France combined. We want to reinforce these propitious trends. I initiated our Visegrad Group presidency with visits to Bratislava, Prague, and Budapest. I hope that this will start a tradition of visits at the outset of each presidency. Less than two years ago, we opened a gas interconnector pipeline with the Czech Republic. Work has also begun on an analogous interconnector with Slovakia. Similar projects are being developed jointly by Slovakia and Hungary. We are almost done building roads that link Poland with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. We are preparing a joint bid with Slovakia to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
We have reiterated our decision to launch the Visegrad Battle Group in three years’ time. We will continue to pursue the tried-and-tested format of meetings of prime ministers, foreign ministers, and Europe ministers ahead of EU summits. Our joint efforts are producing good results, for example when negotiating the Multiannual Financial Framework. Together, we are supporting the European aspirations of the Eastern Partnership countries. We hold regular political consultations with the Nordic states. We jointly advocate for EU enlargement to include the Western Balkans. We are looking forward to welcoming Croatia to the EU as the 28th Member State.
Members of the House,
As I have already said, a key issue both for us and for Europe in the 21st century is what civilisation the nations of Eastern Europe will choose to be part of. We are an active promoter of the EU partnership policy. Nevertheless, we are aware of the fact that it is mainly up to them if they wish to progress on the path to democracy, rule of law, and modernization.
We have high hopes for the Eastern Partnership Summit to be held in Vilnius in November. Full success will come with the signing of association and free trade agreements with Ukraine and the conclusion of negotiations on similar agreements with Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia. We aspire to achieve visa-free travel for the citizens of Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova – as well as Russia.
Although we will welcome the future abolition of visas, since visas still exist we are also glad that our eastern neighbours are mainly applying for the documents at Polish consulates. In 2008 we issued 534,000 such documents, and as many as 1.3 million last year; an increase of 143% over the course of four years. We have abolished national visa fees for Ukrainians, Belarusians, and – most recently – Moldovans.
Thanks to Polish efforts, an EU fund to the tune of EUR 37 million has been set up with the civil societies of the six Eastern Partnership countries in mind. We advocate making the Erasmus for All programme fully available to thousands of students from these countries.
We will also mainly support civil society in Belarus, for example via the European Endowment for Democracy. We are glad that we were successful in our efforts to establish the Endowment, and that a Polish candidate – Jerzy Pomianowski – was chosen as its first director. The Endowment will promote democracy in the entire EU neighbourhood. In Poland it will partner with the Solidarity Fund PL. Such initiatives are evidence of our determination to maintain and develop civil society dialogue – especially in unwelcoming political environments. We are also bolstering the Community of Democracies – we have created a solid legal framework to support the operations of its Permanent Secretariat in Warsaw. We are setting up a generous Solidarity Prize, to be awarded for the first time this year on the anniversary of the 1980 August Agreements.
We see that Ukraine is facing a genuine dilemma, not unlike the ones it saw in the mid-17th and early 20th centuries. From Kiev’s perspective, this is a choice between modernity and democracy on the one hand, and a different civilizational model on the other. Should Ukraine create the conditions for signing the association agreement, Poland will endeavour to grant the country a “European perspective” at the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Volhynia massacre in which tens of thousands of our countrymen lost their lives. We welcome the recent address by the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to commemorate those tragic events. At the same time we are deeply convinced that reconciliation must occur in a spirit of respect for the historical truth.
Bilateral trade with Russia is growing rapidly, expanding by over 10 percent last year and amounting to almost USD 38 billion.
Exports alone were up by 16 percent, an increase of over 50% on 2007. We are glad to see Polish businesses prosper in Eastern Europe. Our companies are doing construction work on the St. Petersburg underground. PESA, a company from Bydgoszcz, is providing trams to Kaliningrad.
We are interested in cooperation with Russia, in particular between regions and local communities. This project is ably overseen by the Polish-Russian Forum of Regions. Both Poland and Russia have established Centres for Dialogue and Understanding which deal with difficult topics. The Russian national exhibition opened on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp shows that we are ready to speak with one voice on important and uneasy historical issues. We believe that last year’s visit to Poland by Patriarch Kirill I and the joint memorandum of the Polish Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church will help reconcile our two nations.
The local border traffic agreement is working well, which enables the inhabitants of northern Poland and the Kaliningrad Oblast to get to know one another. Increasingly open borders also lead to notable economic benefits. It is also thanks to this agreement with Russia and a similar one with Ukraine, the expenditures of foreigners crossing our border in the north and east reached 6.6 billion zlotys in 2012 – an increase of over one-fourth on 2011.
We regret that Russia is inconsistent when it comes to modernizing its institutions and its society, and that it is taking a step back on the path toward democracy. We are unwavering in our demands that Russia return the Katyń crime files and hand over the Tu-154wreckage, as well as the entire documentation pertaining to the crash. We will continue to support the Polish prosecutors’ office in its efforts to enforce legal assistance in this matter. Disappointed with the hitherto impasse, we sought – and received – European Union assistance. But I want to say this to all those who want to boil our entire foreign policy down to the wreckage: when another country fails to fulfil its international obligations towards us – as is the case here – I would expect those who call themselves patriots to join in solidarity with their government and direct their complaints to the right people.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House,
We maintain our closest bilateral ties with our partners in the European Union. With Germany we share a strategic vision of the EU, and we see eye to eye when it comes to finding a way out of the crisis. Together we look after our neighbourhood, in particular in the East. At the same time, we continue to remind our partners that even a country with a potential as big as the Federal Republic of Germany’s cannot go it alone in the EU. Such potential should entail a feeling of special responsibility for the future of Europe.
This past year bore key significance with regard to Polish-French relations. The election of new authorities served as the basis to forge closer political ties. The new opening is especially visible on the EU stage, where we fought to maintain an ambitious common agricultural policy and a growth-oriented cohesion policy. Our intergovernmental consultations – provided for under our strategic partnership agreement – are now back on track.
We congratulate Germany and France on the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty. We recall how, 20 years ago, it served as the inspiration for Polish-German reconciliation. We cooperate with both countries in the framework of the Weimar Triangle; indeed, the Triangle itself is becoming more and more equilateral. As a square inscribed within a triangle, the recent Visegrad-Weimar summit in Warsaw was an ambitious exercise in political geometry. I want to say this to those who criticize our policies: the stronger our ties with France and Germany, the stronger Poland is regionally. And the better our regional cooperation, the greater the ability of Poland to represent regional interests.
The United States remains our most important non-European partner. We are glad to see that, while pursuing its interests in other global regions, the United States is not forgetting about its old friends in Europe. Poland will continue to advocate close cooperation between both halves of the Western civilisation in the area of trade, commerce, security, and fostering democracy.
Polish is the most popular foreign language England and Wales. We would like the large Polish community in Britain to help bring our two traditionally friendly countries even closer together. We regret the fact that Great Britain is distancing itself from Europe. I have this to say to my British friends: the EU needs you. We need your pragmatism, your competence, and your military might. We can work together for the sake of enlargement policy. We can finish building the EU’s common market. We can fight for new methods of extracting oil and gas. You need the EU, too: with it, you yield more clout, especially when it comes to Europe’s closest neighbours. Overcoming the debt crisis, meanwhile, is not looking so easy outside the eurozone, either.
We have traditionally close relations with Sweden: last November we initiated a joint security dialogue at the level of foreign and defence ministers. Relations with other Baltic Sea partners – Denmark, Estonia and Finland, as well as Latvia – are developing very well. Today we are already preparing for Poland’s presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. Polish-Norwegian cooperation is dynamically developing in both the energy and defence sectors, as well as in disarmament initiatives. We highly value our political and military cooperation with Romania. We are upholding the tradition of intergovernmental consultations with Spain. We appreciate the efforts taken by the previous Italian government in combating the crisis and we are open to cooperation with the new cabinet.
We thank Benedict XVI for continuing the mission of John Paul the Great, for his memorable pilgrimage to Poland in 2006, and for his kind approach towards our country. We congratulate Pope Francis – the first Pontiff from the New World – on his election. We count on further seminal cooperation with the Holy See, also in the area of protecting Christians’ rights around the world.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the January Uprising. Alongside the Polish Eagle and Archangel Michael, banners from the uprising also depict the Lithuanian Pahonia, reminding us of our common history. Mindful of this joint heritage, we count all the more on cooperation with the new government of Lithuania. We hope that resolving the most pressing issues, such as the question of Polish minority rights in the country, will help implement bilateral projects – including road, rail and energy connections. We wish Lithuania a successful EU presidency in the second half of 2013.
As we discuss the EU future, we must not forget about countries that have the right to be part of the European family. Poland’s support for EU enlargement policy is not just about political declarations – we also provide specific assistance, especially for the Western Balkan countries. Relations with Turkey are also high on our agenda – the country is a key NATO ally and one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Preparations are under way for the celebrations to mark an extraordinary occasion – the 600th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Turkish state. Speaking of countries in Europe’s south-east, we are glad that economic indicators seem to be marking the end of the worst phase of the crisis in Greece – the cradle of democracy.
Members of the House,
Public diplomacy is becoming an increasingly important tool of Poland’s foreign policy. It is the main instrument of soft power, which in today’s world is used more often and sometimes more effectively than hard, military power. We want our message to reach a broad spectrum of people. We are showcasing our history and our heroes to the world. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we opened an exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York devoted to the life and work of Jan Karski. Poland remains an advocate of historical truth. We react firmly and effectively whenever we see attempts to distort our history.
Poland’s peaceful transformation experiences are the main driver of our development cooperation. They seem most useful in the post-Soviet East, but we are also hosting specialized training courses for civil servants from countries in or on the verge of transition, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Myanmar or Tunisia. In cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, this year we are setting up a new scholarship programme – the Stefan Banach Scholarship – for top students from the Eastern Partnership countries.
We are seeking to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in the 2018-2019 rotation, for the sixth time in our history and the first in over twenty years. This year, Poland chairs the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. We view being entrusted with this function as recognition of our hitherto engagement.
In the Arab world, we will continue to focus on supporting democratization, both bilaterally and in the southern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The tenth anniversary of the intervention in Iraq reminds us of the threat posed by extremism. We are watching the civilian situation in Syria with grave concern and sympathy. We warn the government in Damascus against using chemical weapons in the conflict, which has been burning for almost two years. As a member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission tasked with monitoring the Korean armistice, we are concerned with yet another North Korean nuclear test.
We see the vast and as yet untapped potential of Africa. We are taking part in implementing EU common policies – including its development policy – vis-à-vis African countries. Together with other government ministries we are reinvigorating intergovernmental ties with the most important actors in Sub-Saharan Africa – the Republic of South Africa and Nigeria.
We note Asia’s growing significance. The continent is already responsible for over one-third of global GDP. Aware of this potential, we are expanding our diplomatic presence in Asia. We have opened Polish Institutes in Tokyo and New Delhi, with another one due to open soon in Beijing. We are building up our network of honorary consulates.
We have a strategic partnership with China, as reaffirmed during last year’s Warsaw summit that was also attended by leaders from our region. We see the Middle Kingdom as a supra-regional power that should play an increasingly active role in solving global problems. We are ready to share our experiences should China one day opt for a system of political pluralism. We will continue to pursue good cooperation with Japan, an outpost of democracy in the Pacific region.
Polish companies are consistently solidifying their positions on international markets, especially non-European ones. Last year, Polish exports were up by nearly 4%, with sales increasing most in Latin America (17.6%), Africa (over 16%) and Asia (over 12%). Our exports are finally adopting a truly global portfolio.
This rising interest means that we must strengthen ties with faraway and lesser-known markets. We are supporting Polish entrepreneurs by developing a modern database of treaties. We continue to respect the role played by the Ministry of Economy in business promotion, and we call for the adoption of a relevant act of parliament. We are in touch with hundreds of Polish companies active in the energy, defence, transport, food processing, and innovation sectors. We have joined the European Space Agency. Business leaders accompany Foreign Ministry officials on visits outside Europe. Last year we travelled to Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, Mexico, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia. This year we will visit Australia, India, Mongolia and New Zealand.
We are keeping a close eye on changes in the American energy market and their geopolitical consequences. By 2020, the United States will have become a net exporter of natural gas. The European economy may profit from this. Indeed, over the course of the next decade, a new energy market will open up, making it possible to diversify raw material imports, which we will be able to make use of once we open our LNG terminal. Poland is also laying the foundation for cooperation in exploring alternative sources of energy and developing innovative technologies. We are also engaged in an intensive dialogue with Canada on these issues. But it will be our continued priority to make full use of Poland’s own domestic sources of energy – including, but not limited to, shale gas deposits.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House,
History teaches us that Poland must look to itself to look after its security – also in the military sense – and that this security largely depends on our own defence potential. As Jan Nowak-Jeziorański once wrote, “you must not base your security on your allies alone, even the most formidable ones, if you cannot use your own forces to enable these allies to come to your help. A feeling of security […] cannot become a myth that leads to mental disarmament and gives rise to laziness of military thought.” The modernization of our armed forces is thus one of the top priorities for the upcoming decade. Over the course of these ten years, we will devote a hefty sum of 140 billion zlotys to this goal. We are creating a deterrent force by acquiring missiles, helicopters, armoured vehicles, submarines and UAVs.
We will have our own air defence system. The Polish missile defence shield, together with the US shield – elements of which will be installed on Polish territory in 2018 – will become part of the NATO system. The North Atlantic Alliance is, after all, our most important external guarantor of security. We will endeavour to make sure that collective defence – a key issue from the Polish perspective – remains NATO’s supreme task. This autumn we will witness the first ever NATO exercises on Polish territory, nicknamed Steadfast Jazz. We welcome the considerable contribution declared by our NATO partners, first and foremost France and the United States. In line with earlier arrangements, for several months now Poland has been hosting a US Air Force Aviation Detachment, which operates a rotating presence of F-16 fighter aircraft and C-130 transporters.
We are also working with the Americans in Afghanistan. The NATO operation in the country is entering its final phase. The 1,800-strong Polish contingent will be scaled down to 1,000 men in October. Together with our allies, by the end of next year we will have terminated the ISAF stabilization mission – in line with our commitments. We are proud that the Afghan nation highly appreciates the engagement and sacrifice of Polish soldiers and diplomats.
The strong European Union we are building also means developing European defence capabilities. By the end of this year, the European Council will decide on the future directions of the Common Security and Defence Policy. We will consistently advocate the further strengthening of this policy, even though we harbour no illusions about it replacing NATO by the end of this decade. We take part in EU Battle Groups and we do not rule out using them. Our forces are present on the ground in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia. We are taking part in the EU training mission in Mali, thus supporting our allies in eradicating terrorism from the Sahel. A strong EU is one that possesses an efficient diplomacy. We support Catherine Ashton and the European External Action Service, especially in its tough discussions with Iran.
Members of the House,
Last year, this Chamber voted for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to administer funds earmarked for supporting the Polish diaspora. This is the full first year in which the new rules apply. As part of a recent call for proposals, we will allocate over PLN 50 million towards cooperation with the Polish diaspora, even though applications were filed for a total of PLN 224 million. I understand the disappointment of those of you whose requests were turned down. I encourage you to take part in next year’s edition. We are especially looking for projects that strengthen economic cooperation between the diaspora and Poland, as well as projects that encourage Poles living abroad to return home. We will also make new types of TV and radio broadcasts available internationally – both in Polish and in foreign languages.
We are changing the philosophy governing our Polish diaspora policy. We want our fellow countrymen living abroad to become an influential subject of Polish foreign policy and to boost Poland’s image, standing and economic and political interests through their activities. We remember about our obligations to Poles living in the East. Both in the West and in the East, we ask not only what Poland can do for the diaspora, but primarily what the diaspora can do for Poland.
Members of the House,
We continue to modernize our diplomatic corps. We are implementing new forms of Polish diplomatic presence, for example the joint use of diplomatic premises with third countries, or appointing visiting ambassadors, for example in Malta. Such solutions ensure that Polish diplomats are present in new locations, all the while significantly lowering financial outlays.
This is accompanied by a rationalization of the Polish foreign service post network. We are boosting our presence in regions that are home to key Polish interests, especially our economic interests. That is why, for example, we are moving our consulate from Vancouver to Edmonton – the capital of Canada’s extraction industry. We have selected the winner of an international design competition for the new embassy building in Berlin – preparation work is now under way to start construction. At the same time we are selling buildings that have fulfilled their role, like the former embassy of the Polish People’s Republic in Cologne, or in locations where we no longer have a diplomatic presence.
Our consular service is working effectively. Last year we performed over two million registered consular functions – 16% more than in 2011, raking in over 200 million zlotys for the state treasury. We have set up a Consular Assistance Team, which helps Polish diplomatic missions in dealing with crisis situations within as little as 24 hours from the initial notification. Poles like to travel and are becoming increasingly mobile. We are more open and more comfortable in benefiting from globalization. Last year, Polish consulates issued almost 177,000 passports – almost 65% more than on the eve of our EU accession in 2003.
In order to effectively implement our foreign policy – after all, drawing-room diplomacy is no longer the way we do things – we are providing Polish diplomats with modern tools.
Thanks to satellite imagery we are able to precisely analyze threats and effectively organize assistance for Polish citizens in crisis situations. In what amounts to one of the most ambitious projects the Polish Internet landscape has ever seen, we have launched a user-friendly website which is integrated with the sites of our diplomatic missions. We are implementing an Electronic Workflow System – the most modern such system in the Polish public administration.
With a view to enhancing personal and physical security as well as data protection, we have created the Foreign Service Inspectorate. We are also working to establish the category of ‘diplomatic secret’ which would cover sensitive but unclassified information.
The European External Action Service is currently undergoing a review. We hope that the Service will ensure geographic balance among its staff. We also believe that it should become more engaged in strictly diplomatic measures. I am glad to note the rising number of Polish diplomats serving in the EEAS. The EU diplomatic corps currently employs 66 Poles as core staff – 48 in Brussels and 18 in the delegations. Our countryman, Maciej Popowski, is a Deputy Secretary General of the Service. Last year, another two Poles were selected to represent the EU as its ambassadors: Jan Tombiński in Ukraine and Adam Kułach in Saudi Arabia. Every seventh nomination goes to one of our diplomats. They are also assuming important posts in NATO, heading the Alliance’s missions in Ukraine and Russia. A Polish representative will soon take up the position of head of the NATO Budget Committee.
We cooperate closely with Polish research institutes and think tanks, which are fast making a name for themselves in Europe. The Polish Institute of International Affairs and the Centre for Eastern Studies register regular plaudits for their work.
We consult our policies with local government bodies and NGOs. Regional International Debate Centres are being set up in each voivodeship, meaning that the needs of local governments are reflected in national foreign policy priorities.
Members of the House,
To conclude, I would like to mention a recent analogy by a European politician who compared the EU to Thomas Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks: the first generation establishes a promising family company, the second generation does a good job at managing it, and the third generation squanders everything. Continuing the metaphor, the politician added that today’s Europe is being governed by members of the third generation, who received the Nobel Prize in honour of the first. The politician meant it as a word of caution not to take our hard-earned achievements for granted and treat them as self-evident. We accept this analogy – and we also try to apply it to our Polish history. After all, there were several occasions in our history where our state edifice – erected with the utmost effort – would first shine with splendour, only to be mismanaged and, with time, allowed to fall into ruin.
Our history is that of greatness and downfall, of heroes and traitors. It is a story of bewildering successes. It is about a country that covered a million square kilometres and extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea, from Greater Poland all the way to Kiev. A multinational, multi-faith, welcoming and hospitable country – but one that remained true to its traditions and roots. That’s one side of the story. The other is that of reprehensible omissions. Of the inability to turn military victories into political and diplomatic ones. Of frustrated development chances and of foolhardy optimism that – in the name of the motto that “nothing is impossible to a willing mind” – took on insurmountable tasks, only to lament when the easy-to-predict consequences inevitably led to disasters that were to affect many generations of Poles.
Today we are bolstering Poland’s global strength and position faster than ever before. All thanks to the work of millions of Poles, the successes of our businesses, the sound policies of successive governments and local governments – but also thanks to our effective diplomacy. We are doing this with our Polish determination and our Polish persistence. When we joined the European Union, we made an historic choice. If we wish to avoid the sin of omission of our forefathers, we must be consistent in our approach and join the hard core of decision makers. We must conduct our foreign policy like Donald Tusk conducted the EU budget negotiations. Thanks to this negotiating success, we now have the funds we need to make the civilizational leap forward. Let’s not squander this historic opportunity!
Madam Speaker, Members of the House – I ask you to accept this information. Thank you for your attention.See more
- Farewell address by Minister R. Sikorski
- “We are on the right track” – Minister Radosław Sikorski about his seven years as chief of Poland’s diplomacy
- Schetyna: it is a great challenge, especially in the eastern context, PAP dispatch 22.09.2014
- Radosław Sikorski 16 XI 2007 - 22 IX 2014
- Minister of Foreign Affairs is handed flags and seals of Polish Consulate General in Sevastopol