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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » May 14, 2008
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
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EU, NATO Our Key Priorities: FM
May 14, 2008 By W.Ż.    
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Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski presented the main tenets of the government's foreign policy in the lower house of parliament May 7.

Sikorski listed five key priorities of Poland's foreign policy, saying that the country should be: first, a strong member of the European Union that will particularly promote the bloc's Eastern policy; second, a strong link within NATO; third, an "attractive national brand;" fourth, a country that supports its diaspora; and fifth, a state that has a modern and effective diplomatic service.

Poland's EU membership provides an inspiration for the country to make a major leap forward in terms of development, Sikorski said. He added that Poland's national interest was in line with the process of European integration. "We shouldn't be afraid of this process, let's not scare our fellow citizens with the threat of a European super-state" in which small and weak nations must serve those who are larger and stronger, Sikorski said.

"Our place in the European family of nations and the world at large is not defined by arrogant words that are often full of complexes," Sikorski said, in what commentators interpreted as a reference to Euroskeptical statements made by officials from the previous conservative government coalition of Law and Justice (PiS), Samoobrona and the League of Polish Families (LPR). "Our role will be defined by completely different things: the vigor of our democracy, the level of our economic development, the competence and effectiveness of the state administration and local governments, an independent and efficient judiciary, independent media, a highly active civil society, the strong position of nongovernmental organizations, and an ability to work together with our social partners, both domestically and internationally. In other words, our role will be defined by an awareness of shared goals, professionalism and effectiveness," Sikorski said.

Speaking about challenges faced by the EU, Sikorski mentioned a review of the bloc's 2007-2013 budget, the need to develop a new long-term financial perspective for the EU in the next seven years, and the need to reform the bloc's agricultural and cohesion policies. He voiced his support for the Lisbon Strategy and for maintaining the EU's budget at a level exceeding 1 percent of the bloc's overall GDP. He declared that adopting the euro remained a long-term objective for Poland.

Sikorski said that "Poland will be a normal European country when it has normal European neighbors on both sides of its border." He added that Ukraine was becoming an increasingly credible candidate for membership in Western institutions, and that Ukraine's integration with the EU "will confirm the power of the European model of civilization."

The EU's eastern foreign policy should remain "a Polish specialty," Sikorski said, though, according to the foreign ministry, Warsaw should share this "eastern specialization" with its closest partners in the region, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and also Sweden.

Sikorski declared that Poland would not block negotiations on a new agreement on partnership and cooperation between the EU and Russia. "Poland's requests that the Russian embargo on Polish animal and plant product exports be lifted and that the European Commission assume the burden of negotiations with Russia in a spirit of energy solidarity have been met," he said, adding that the latest EU-Russia negotiation crisis shows that the EU should speak with "a single, carefully weighed and firm voice" if it wants to be effective.

One of the most widely commented parts of Sikorski's statement touched on Russia. "We Poles, like other members of the EU, believe that the trust of both parties would increase if it were based on shared values," Sikorski said. However, if Russia insists that bilateral cooperation must be based on its own value system, which results from its own traditions and culture codes, Sikorski added, Poland will have to settle for a situation in which it will be working with Russia on the basis of rules of the game agreed between Russia and the EU as a whole.

In another reference to Russia, Sikorski said that a common EU stance on energy security issues would be a test of how EU values are put into practice. He added that the EU should "firmly resist any pressure or blackmail attempts from non-EU suppliers."

Sikorski said Poland intended to remain an active member in NATO. "The time is ripe for NATO to develop a new strategy with a vision of enlargement as its integral element," he said. One harbinger of this strategy is a recent announcement that Ukraine and Georgia are prospective candidates for membership, Sikorski added.

Speaking about ways of improving Poland's image abroad, Sikorski said that "most foreigners visiting Poland leave the country with a better opinion of it than they had before they came here." And this means that "our brand image is worse than our real value," Sikorski said.

Sikorski said that Poland needed a more focused, competent diplomatic service, open to new challenges, including "business diplomacy" and revived contacts with expatriate Poles. This purpose will be served by diplomatic missions smaller in number but stronger in terms of infrastructure, competence and communication, Sikorski said. As he put it, Poland's diplomatic service will now be "smaller but better paid."

President Lech Kaczyński did not show up in parliament to listen to Sikorski's speech, a fact that Prime Minister Donald Tusk described as "a very unpleasant occurrence," especially as the president "has often shown his determination to have his say on how Poland's foreign policy should be shaped." Kaczyński's absence sent a negative signal for both Polish politicians and foreign diplomats who turned out in strength for Sikorski's speech, Tusk said.

The president was represented in parliament by the head of his office, Anna Fotyga, Sikorski's predecessor as foreign minister. She stayed until the end of the speech, in which Sikorski made several critical remarks about the ministry's work when she was in charge.

Before he outlined the priorities of Poland's foreign policy under the governing coalition of the economically liberal Civic Platform (PO) and the Polish People's Party (PSL), Sikorski said that foreign policy reflected the everyday cooperation and conflicting interests of various countries and nations as well as their overlapping objectives. In this sense, "foreign policy is like a mirror in which we can look at ourselves as a community," he said. "What we can see there is either our greatness or meanness, prestige or condescension, development or decline. The variability of these factors over time shows where we have come from, who we are and what we should do to strengthen the country."
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