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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » April 25, 2013
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Poland’s Foreign Policy Priorities
April 25, 2013   
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Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski outlined Poland’s foreign policy priorities in the coming months in an annual speech to parliament March 20. The priorities include further integration with the European Union.

Sikorski told the deputies that Poland is growing stronger internationally and consolidating its position in the EU, which continues to expand despite the global economic crisis. He noted that Poland’s economy has been growing steadily for 20 years. Analysts estimate its nominal GDP will grow more than 70 percent by 2030.

According to the International Monetary Fund, per capita GDP will catch up with Western Europe in 20 years.

Discussing the main accomplishments of Poland’s foreign policy in recent months, Sikorski hailed the European Council’s decisions on the EU’s long-term budget. Poland secured 106 billion euros, including 73 billion euros for the cohesion fund and nearly 29 billion euros for agriculture. Sikorski said the negotiations fulfilled the promises the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party, the governing coalition partners, made before the parliamentary elections.

Addressing Poland’s potential adoption of the euro, Sikorski said the benefits of such a move will depend on how well prepared the Polish economy is for the switch. The Polish currency’s eventual exchange rate to the euro would play an important part as well. “The common currency will also deny politicians the right to act irresponsibly,” Sikorski said.

Sikorski said a strong Poland in the EU means a stronger Visegrad Group, which comprises Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Economic growth in the four Visegrad states has been above the EU average in recent years. Their joint GDP in the mid-1990s totaled less than $270 billion, while at present it is almost four times that amount.

Poland is expecting substantial progress at a meeting focusing on the EU’s Eastern Partnership program that will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania, in November. Sikorski said the meeting will be successful if it results in the signing of association and free-trade agreements between the EU and Ukraine and the closing of negotiations on similar agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia.

Poland has been also lobbying for the inclusion of citizens of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Russia in the EU visa waiver program.

Sikorski told deputies that Poland’s experience of a peaceful transition to a different political system was the primary motivation behind the development aid Poland has offered to many countries around the world, including former Soviet bloc countries, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

Poland has applied to be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2018-2019, which would mark its sixth term in such a role and the first in over two decades. This year, Poland is chairing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

On the economy, Sikorski said Poland was closely watching changes taking place on the U.S. energy market, which will have geopolitical consequences. The United States will be a net exporter of natural gas until 2020, which will boost the European economy because a new trading market for energy will open up over the coming decade. This will enable more diversified imports of energy raw materials, which will benefit Poland once it launches a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. Poland is also preparing to start joint projects with U.S. companies aimed at searching for alternative energy sources and developing new technology. A priority for Poland is to make the most of its own energy resources, including shale gas deposits.

Regarding security matters, Sikorski said Poland needs to provide for its security on its own and that includes military issues. One priority for Poland is to modernize its military in the coming decade, which will cost nearly zl.140 billion. Poland has been obtaining missiles, helicopters, combat vehicles, submarines and drones and will also have a national missile defense system. The Polish system and the U.S. missile defense system in Poland will become part of NATO defenses.

Sikorski said now that the NATO operation in Afghanistan has entered its final phase, the Polish contingent of 1,800 troops would be downsized to 1,000 in October. The ISAF stabilization mission in Afghanistan will be completed by the end of next year.

According to Sikorski, the EU needs to enhance its defense capacity. At the end of this year, the European Council will decide how the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy should develop. Poland will advocate a stronger European security policy, although Sikorski said there is no way the policy could replace NATO before 2020.
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