In the period after 1989, Polish society has been marked by a high degree of consensus in terms of foreign policy for a long time. This has applied particularly to the Polish NATO entry, but also to the country’s EU membership to a certain extent which was objected above all by agrarian blocs (Polish People’s Party and Self-Defence) as well as a part of clerical-national right gathered predominantly within the League of Polish Families (LPR) after 2001.
Either way in the case of fundamental issues a consensus between the Polish right and left mainstreams was prevailing. Close ties with the United States were among the subject of consensus in terms of foreign policy as well. Ties with the US are conditioned on historical principles, namely by the existence of a numerous Polish diaspora as well as the period of the so called Cold War in which the US was the chief adversary of the USSR. Later on in 1990’s, it was the US that supported the NATO enlargement most fiercely. The relations with Germany, which have been showing signs of certain tension nowadays, have also a long-lasting, stable and positive character. After the EU entry, however, the discussion on foreign policy within Polish society has become more intensive and certain shifts in country’s foreign policy have appeared. These changes have been highlighted particularly after the 2005 parliamentary and presidential elections, but they have their roots in the previous period as well.
The relations between Poland and the United States
In spite of the last year’s threats of the President Lech Kaczyński that if the US didn’t abolish visa for Polish citizens, his country would take reciprocal measures, Poland had to accept the decision according to which it doesn’t meet this year’s criteria. Thus in the present the key topic of bilateral contacts remains the collaboration in the military and security field, namely the participation of Polish military troops in the post-war administration of Iraq and the extension of the anti-missile shield NMD to the countries of Central Europe which would result in the construction of a US military base in Polish territory.
The strongest opposition party, Civic Platform (PO), which is very likely to partake in the constitution of a new government after the early parliamentary elections, has supported the preservation of good relations with the US in the long run. In 2003, it upheld the Leszek Miller’s (Democratic Left Alliance, SLD) then government’s decision on the participation in the War on Iraq. However, PO is restrained about the anti-missile defence shield extension.
Yet in February 2007, there was a consensus between governmental and opposition forces as to this matter. The representatives of deputy clubs in Sejm concurred as regards the need for negotiations with the US and considered the deployment of US military bases a step towards the strengthening of the security of Poland. Even SLD representatives (1) didn’t raise unfavourable objections. Polish People’s Party (PSL) and Self-Defence were the only ones to show protests claiming to conduct a referendum on this issue. Self-Defence as a member of the ruling coalition had an escape route in the form of the statement made by its chair Andrzej Lepper that Poland “cannot yield to the pressure from Russia.” (2)
The consensus in terms of the anti-missile defence shield begun to fall apart gradually on the Polish political scene. The opposition criticised the government mainly for ill informing about the course of negotiations with the US and the advantages emerging for Poland from the deployment of these bases. (3) Thus, for instance, PO demanded that the bilateral treaty should comprise the deployment of the Patriot missiles which would protect Poland against medium and low range missiles that could be deployed in the Kaliningrad region or possibly in Belarus by the Russian side in response to the NMD system extension. Also the former Defence Minister Radosław Sikorski, who was the member of the Law and Justice (PiS) deputy club even after the recall from his office, but in September 2007 joined the PO, pointed out the risks which could emerge from the extension of the US anti-missile shield to the countries of Central Europe. Although PO and primarily this party’s shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Bronisław Komorovski refuses the deployment of the US anti-missile base in the present, they don’t rule out that Poland could voice approval in the future. This, however, would have to be preceded by concrete forthcoming steps from the US side, for example, in the form of the strengthening of bilateral military cooperation. A formal confirmation of bilateral military alliance between Poland and the United States is also a priority to PiS. The representatives of the current establishment exclude the option that the bases would have an exterritorial character and would be expelled from Polish jurisdiction (4).
The US agrees with the demand that the bases are supposed to remain Polish property and that Polish laws apply to them. In addition to this the Polish Government requires explicitly the deployment of Patriot missiles (5). Not even after the visit of the Polish President Lech Kaczyński to Washington in July has Warsaw obtained any concrete guarantee. The United States has accepted Polish claims to become their privileged partner in the area of international security equal to Great Britain and Israel, to develop close collaboration between the secret services of both countries and to provide the Polish army with state-of-the-art equipment including medium-range anti-missile systems (6). None of the guarantees mentioned, however, had been binding from the US side until L. Kaczyński stated after a meeting with the US President George Bush that the base question had been dealt with. The course of his visit as well as negotiations in the White House have clearly shown that even if Poland manages to acquire the status of a strategic partner of the US on a declarative level, it will play the role of a minor partner in such an alliance.
Although in terms of bilateral military cooperation between Poland and the US, particularly as to weapon supplies and aid during the training and education of officer’s staff, PO and PiS are likely to reach agreement, their opinions on the form in which the partnership should develop vary. Whereas PiS prefers a bilateral military partnership with the US which may become de facto an alternative to NATO, according to PO a multilateral cooperation in the form of NATO and the intensifying of European integration are supposed to be the mainstay of Polish security policy (7). Similarly to Platform’s partners from European People’s Party (EPP), for instance, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also PO would give preference to the construction of a joint anti-missile system in terms of NATO.
Let’s not forget about the fact that Poland, irrespective of the election results, won’t be able to change its attitude to US military bases in a fundamental way owing to the advancement of negotiations. Not even the current opposition would then be capable of pushing through the Komorowski concept according to which Poland should be the mediator of a compromise between the United States and European partners. In the spirit of this compromise the concept of a separate US anti-missile defence would be replaced by the building of a joint NATO system.
The further advancement of Poland during the talks with the US will be dependent on the shape of the ruling coalition emerging from the early elections. In the case of PO’s victory we may expect that it is Komorowski who will hold the office of the Head of Diplomacy. The question remains to what extent he will be able to carry out foreign policy in line with his previous declarations. If PO establishes a coalition with the bloc of left-centric forces (Left and Democrats, LiD), the former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, the LiD election leader, will have a say in the shaping of foreign policy. Although SLD, as the most powerful element of this bloc, rejects the deployment of US military bases, it is simultaneously dependent on Kwaśniewski’s popularity to a large degree. The deployment of US bases is supported also by the relatively small Democratic Party acting within LiD. It is the Democrats that despite their faint influence enable the leftists to get rid of the post-communist bloc stigma and thus to become an acceptable partner for PO.
If the PO – PiS coalition, which is still not out of the competition despite negative statements of the Civic Platform leaders, becomes real the main opposition party will have to modify its hostile attitude to NMD. The same holds true in the case of PO constituting a minority government upheld by a part of PiS deputies who would refuse to obey the Kaczyński brothers.
Not even in the case of an independent PO government, or rather, with the support of PSL, is an essential twist in the form of an immediate cessation of NMD system negotiations probable. It is likely, however, that sooner or later Poland will be obliged to respect the multilateral dimension of security policy. Appeals to behave in this way have been launched within the EU and by the pressure of political partners from European People’s Party as well as domestic public opinion. If Russia steps up the confrontation with Poland, Warsaw won’t be able to suspend US military bases anyway. To what extent PiS manages to come together with European partners in terms of the future European treaty and EU policy in relation to Russia and Ukraine plays also an important role.
No sudden turnabout is to be expected in relation to the United States. In contrast to other European countries, none of the relevant parties explicitly formulates the demand for the withdrawal of Polish troops from Iraq. There has been an overall change in perception of the US policy within Polish society since the beginning of the War on Iraq. Yet in 2003 did the majority of population object this war as well as the participation of Poland in it. Nowadays, even such rightist politicians like Sikorski or Komorowski concur that this step was a mistake and Poland must maintain more rigorous attitudes in the negotiations with the US.
The Polish public is similarly bad-tempered as to the deployment of US anti-missile base in country’s territory as well. One has to point out that the better the public is informed the faster the negative attitude grows. While in September 2006 only 37 per cent of respondents knew of the planned base according to an opinion poll conducted by the TNS OBOP centre, in March 2007 the number amounted to 64 per cent already. One year ago, 26 per cent of respondents assumed that its installation would increase the security of Poland. In March only 19 per cent were of the same opinion. In March, the construction of the US military base was supported by 28 per cent of citizens while 56 per cent were against it (8).
The same view proportion on the installation of anti-missile shield elements was maintained also in August 2007 according to a poll conducted by the CBOS agency. Nearly one third of respondents (i.e. 34 per cent) assumed that it would have a negative impact on the position of Poland on the international scene. An opposite view was shared by 21 per cent of citizens. The respondents had almost similar stance as far as the question, whether this step would influence the position of Poland in the EU, was concerned (32 per cent answered that in a negative way, 21 per cent in a positive one) (9).
Poland in the European Union
Polish society takes a highly positive attitude in relation to the EU. According to comparative opinion polls Poland ranks among the top member states from the viewpoint of the EU membership support, but also in regard to the support of its further development. Regardless of the official Euro-sceptic propaganda the trust of Polish citizens in the EU has grown. In autumn 2006, 62 per cent of Polish citizens believed that the EU membership is a good thing, whereas in spring 2007, the figure increased already to 67 per cent. Yet higher percentage reached those who saw also practical benefits of the membership of their country in the EU. While in autumn 2006 it was 73 per cent, in spring the number rose to 78 per cent. The EU retains in the eyes of the public a perpetually positive image (57, or rather 64 per cent). Although the Cabinet of the Prime Minister J Kaczyński took a negative attitude to the adoption of the EU constitution, as far as this issue was concerned the Polish belonged to the greatest Euro-optimists as well (64, or rather, 69 per cent). As for the future of the EU Poland is the most supportive country of the EU integration from among all EU member states, i.e. up to 82 per cent of respondents see the future of European integration optimistically or at least rather optimistically (10).
Despite the fact that the general attitude of the Polish public to the EU is still very favourable, in regard with opinions on particular questions of its future layout the situation is a bit different. Although the Polish political representation, namely the President Aleksander Kwaśniewsky, upheld the concept of political union yet in the period from 2000 to 2001, nowadays, there is a consensus as to the support of the United States of Europe concept in Polish society. This line was followed yet in the past by the President A. Kwaśniewski and post–communist SLD which is at the same time the most “Euro-optimistic” party. This concept of political elites has found support also among the public. In June, according to the CBOS agency 59 per cent of Polish shared the EU concept as a union of sovereign states. The concept of European federation with joint foreign and defence policy is endorsed by solely 30 per cent of respondents. Up to half of the respondents dread the too powerful role of Germany within the EU. This phenomenon might be attributed to successful propaganda of the governmental PiS and partially also LPR. Nevertheless, just a minority of respondents (30 per cent) assess positively the attitude of the Kaczyński brothers to European integration which is objected by up to 43 per cent of Polish. These would welcome a more forthcoming course. The same negative attitude reigned on the eve of the Brussels EU Summit in connection with a possible Polish veto of the proposed EU treaty in the case of not passing the voting system, which is based on the square root of the number of inhabitants of the country given, as Poland suggested. The dismissal of the draft treaty would be backed by 38 per cent of respondents, more than 53 per cent assumed that Poland should respect the majority’s decision (11).
Despite the predominantly pro-European discourse in society the new government is likely to become a captive of atmosphere evoked by the campaign for the preservation of voting system decreed in the Treaty of Nice (2000). While on the eve of Polish EU entry, it was the prospective election winner’s candidate for Prime Minister Jan Rokita who had brought into the European discussion the motto “Nice or death”. In June, it was PiS that used similar ultimate way when introducing the issue of voting system based on square root. Meanwhile, in February 2007, PO abandoned the confrontational course.
The ruling coalition dispute’s subject matter is also the application of the Joanina compromise which enables a delay of the solution of controversial questions in the absence of consensus. Whereas PiS desires to push through the two-year delay period, B. Komorowski of PO surmises that instead of an efficient defence of weaker members’ interests through an obstruction of disadvantageous decisions such a decision leads in reality to their postponement. As far as this issue is concerned, PO doesn’t uphold the Cabinet and considers the dispute initiated by the Foreign Affairs Minister Anna Fotyga to be a result of her incompetence. The reason is that she failed to explain the essence of this dispute to the members of Sejm’s Foreign Committee,
Even if a Euro-optimistic coalition lead by PO and possible participation of LiD originates, it will have to face a strong pressure of the clerical-nationalist media network represented by Radio Maryja, the Trwam TV channel and the daily Dziennik as well as a part of the conservative wing within PO itself. In the case of coalition with PSL, PO will have to take into account the Euro-sceptic orientation of potential coalition partner not to speak of conceivable coalition with PiS or with a part of deputies from this party. From among relevant parliamentary subjects the coalition of left-centric parties is the only one which is for a quick adoption of the new contractual arrangement. In either case, a Euro-optimistic government will have to consider the opinions of the President Lech Kaczyński as well. That’s why the position of national-conservative forces in the process of the shaping of Polish politics on the EU ground is not to be ignored for the foreseeable future. Anyway, PO perceives the integration of Poland among the strongest countries of the region to be a strategic interest, but not at the cost of confrontation or the isolation of the country obviously.
Polish “Eastern Policy”
The up-to-date policy on Ukraine, Belarus and Russia remains the subject matter of political consensus. As far as this question is concerned, there is a consensus among the relevant political parties in Poland. Possible changes may be a consequence of external factors rather than internal political changes in Poland itself. Furthermore, as regards the relations with Russia Poland may feel strengthened by the European Commission’s supportive stance on Russian embargo on the supplies of Polish meat. The consensus in terms of a close cooperation with Ukraine regardless of the general elections’ result as well as the support of democratic development in Belarus goes round the whole of relevant political parties apart from Self-Defence representing a bit of exception.
The relations between Poland and Germany
The relations with Germany have gone through a complicated development after 2002. Germany used to be among the most enthusiastic adherents of Polish integration into the EU. Meanwhile, it has come to certain changes in the politics of both states. Whereas Poland struggles to play a role of an independent subject within the EU and strives to join the group of the most significant members of this union, i.e. Germany, France, Great Britain and maybe Italy, Germany revises its policy of unqualified support of European integration and modifies it in accordance with own interests. Simultaneously also the German view on its own history, which thus enters a conflict with the Polish perception of recent past, alters. The tension is on the one hand stirred up by controversial projects relating, for instance, to the establishment of the so called Centre Against Expulsion initiated by the Federation of Expellees and its chairperson Erika Steinbach who is at the same time the member of the leadership of Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but on the other hand also by the subsequent reactions of the leaders of Polish political parties who transform such statements into instruments of the mobilisation of their own voters. As a case in point may serve the affair from August 2007, namely the statements of the German negotiator for the recovery of works of art Tono Eitel who demanded the recovery of works of art from German collections which ended up in Polish territory after World War II.
PiS above all, but also LPR will struggle to use anti-German moods during the election campaign. For example, the PM Kaczyński has signalled it claiming that after PO wins the elections, “the abandonment of our hard policy on the forging of partnership ties with Berlin in particular” will come about. According to his words PO is, as a result of its membership of the European People’s Party (EPP), “too much dependent on the Germans”. Simultaneously he hinted at the Kashub descent of the PO leader Donald Tusk, who lives in Danzig, when he spoke of “intellectual fascination of the Danzig environment by the German disposition.” (12) Similar argumentation, though in a substantially more brutal form, made certain success in the 2005 presidential campaign when the PiS electoral staff released the information on his grandfather allegedly fighting on the side of German Wehrmacht during World War II.
Current confrontational course towards Germany taken up by the Kaczyński brothers is the subject matter of the opposition’s criticism. PO on the contrary, regards the Polish-German reconciliation a key condition of the strengthening of the Polish position within the EU. This party’s shadow Head of Diplomacy B. Komorowski proposes as one of the moves the establishment of a mechanism of permanent Polish-German bilateral consultations according to the pattern of the so called Blaesheim process the essence of which are regular German-French consultations held every 6-8 weeks. This process was put into practice after the French-German dispute at the Summit in Nice 2000.
It is highly probable that the current strongest opposition party, Civic Platform, will owing to its coalition potential have some say in the conceptual defining as well as practical realisation of the foreign political priorities of Poland. In the case of a coalition with the left-centric bloc Lid PO will more actively encourage the institutional reform of the EU and the deepening of European integration. For the sake of the former President Kwasniewki’s attitude and a very cautious critique of the project of NMD extension to Central Europe, motivated by the way the up-to-date government has accepted it rather than substantial objections, the government headed by PO will not undertake any fundamental changes as to this problem as well.
Possible open or “tacit” coalition with PiS or a part of its deputy club, which is the most attractive variant for the PO leadership, will force PO, however, to modify its attitudes also in the area of foreign policy. The position of the party’s conservative wing will become mightier and the changes, for instance, in “European” policy or in relation to Germany won’t be much noticeable.
The latest distribution of election preferences along with the traditionally low participation of citizens in the elections prevents to define the post-election arrangement of power in the country clearly. The experience gained in the 2005 parliamentary and presidential elections confirms, however, that the attitude to European integration and foreign political questions in all don’t have the decisive effect on the Polish voters’ decision. Like in 2005, it will be the inner-political questions that will play the key role nowadays as well. Nonetheless, there are potential dissensions as to the opinions on foreign policy in almost every parliamentary party ,or rather in every bloc, except PiS. Irrespective of the fact what kind of government will be constituted after the elections in Poland, a certain rate of continuity will be secured by the President L. Kaczyński who hasn’t interrupted his personal ties with the current ruling party although he was elected as the head of the state.
(2) Lepper: Referendum w sprawie tarczy antyrakietowej. PAP, 24. 1. 2007.
(3) Kalužin, Rafał: PO zmienia kurs w polityce zagranicznej. Gazeta Wyborcza 18. 2. 2007.
(4) Sojusz z USA na piśmie?Nie ma mowy o eksterytorialności bazy tarczy antyrakietowej. TVN 24.pl, 19. 7. 2007.
(5) Tarcza do końca roku? Gazeta Wyborcza, 5. 9. 2007.
(6) adziński, Marcin: Kaczyński w USA: Tarcza przesądzona, Gazeta Wyborcza, 17. 7. 2007.
(7) Debata “Gazety”: Po co nam tarcza antyrakietowa? Gazeta Wyborcza 3. 3. 2007
(8) Wroński, Paweł: OBOP. Przeciwnicy tarczy biorą górę. Rząd się martwi. Gazeta.pl, 15. 3. 2007.
(9) Większość Polaków przeciwna tarczy, Onet.pl 24. 8. 2007.
(10) Eurobarometer 67. Public Opinion on the European Union. First Results, June 2007. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb67/eb_67_first_en.pdf
(11) Sondaż Gazety: Silne Niemcy mogą być groźne. Gazeta Wyborcza, 22. 6. 2007.
(12) Jarosław Kaczyński: Bez żartów. Czy Janusz Kaczmarek padł ofiarą Zbigniewa Ziobry? Wprost, 20. 8. 2007.