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The Warsaw Voice » From the News Editor » January 26, 2012
From the News Editor
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Internal Foreign Policy
January 26, 2012   
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For more than 10 years after the collapse of the Soviet bloc in Central and Eastern Europe—and after Poland regained full sovereignty in 1989—foreign policy was probably the only area where the government and the opposition spoke with one voice. No major political force in the country questioned Poland’s foreign policy priorities, which included the withdrawal of Russian forces stationed in Poland, and the country’s entry into NATO and the European Union.

But that changed in the middle of the last decade after a coalition led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power. This marked the beginning of a “madcap race to prove who has the stronger patriotic credentials,” as one political commentator put it. This patriotism, at least according to PiS, was reflected by emphasizing national interests in the international arena as strongly as possible. There is nothing wrong with this approach as long as it does not harm the country’s dialogue with its partners in Europe and elsewhere. But this dialogue was often disturbed from 2005 to 2007. Relations with Russia, which were never easy, plunged into deep freeze at that time, while Poland’s dialogue with Germany, its key partner in the European Union, also became difficult. A major Polish-German summit was canceled after a third-rate German satirical newspaper published an irreverent article about the Polish prime minister.

Taking offense as a way of conducting foreign policy? It’s hard to think of anything more absurd. But today, when Poland has calmed down in its relations with partners in Europe as well as Russia and the United States, PiS is accusing the government of being inept, incompetent and unpatriotic by failing to safeguard national interests. Instead, the party is proposing a return to what they call a “policy of dignity.” It claims that Poland has lost its sovereignty and calls Poland a German-Russian sphere of influence. When the Polish foreign minister delivers a speech in Berlin calling on the Germans to become more active in EU affairs, back in Warsaw the opposition demands that he should be brought before the Tribunal of State for treason.

While assessing Poland’s turn at the rotating presidency of the EU, Polish EU deputies from the opposition tell the European Parliament that the presidency was “weak, withdrawn and passive.” They add they are ashamed that their country did such a poor job. Meanwhile, EU diplomats say that although many of the bloc’s problems remained unresolved during the six months when Poland was at the helm, dialogue continued at this difficult time of crisis, the emergence of new contentious issues was prevented, and an attempt was made to resume the debate on the future of Europe. All this took place amid problems that threatened the very existence of the eurozone.

What can be concluded from all this? That foreign policy has become yet another battlefield in Polish politics. Broad, cross-party agreement on international issues has become a thing of the past, and this is not now likely to ever change. That is bad news for Poland in Europe and beyond.
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