October 23, 2009
Stationed in Poland?
The visit of the American VP, Joe Biden, to Poland, his words and the revised anti-missile shield offer which he brought with him met with an optimistic response. However, there are still a number of issues that still need resolving. As the American administration’s officials stressed yesterday, it still remains unknown just how many missiles would be located in Poland. What is known, however, is that the project’s implementation will start no sooner than 2015 and end before 2018. This timeline would reflect the successive stages of retrofitting the SM-3 missiles that have primarily been designed to be used solely on battleships. Such a distant date for implementing the revised plan is a cause for concern in Warsaw. There is also the matter of the still unresolved legal status of American soldiers stationed in Poland; an issue about which negotiations are still under way. Despite numerous declarations of the will to reach an agreement from both parties, a joint position on the soldiers’ liability is yet to be worked out. “There are some difficulties here but I hope that they will be resolved by making compromises on both sides,” said the Polish President after meeting with Biden. However, the head of the National Security Bureau (BBN), Aleksander Szczygło, was critical of the Polish PM’s optimistic declarations. “The perspective of 6 to 9 years needed for the shield to become a reality is a distant one. The PM’s statement is surprising. It is a shame that the government did not adopt the previous agreement this quickly. It is astonishing that it is agreeing to something that is very distant and drags on the talks on the status of American soldiers which is crucial for Patriot missiles to arrive in Poland along with any kind of American military presence on our soil,” commented Szczygło for Rzeczpospolita.
October 23, 2009
A Different Kind of Polish Patriot
After meeting American Vice-President Joe Biden, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk confirms that Poland will accept SM-3 launchers. Warsaw welcomed Joseph Biden in the cold and rain but the American guest had many warm words to say to the Poles. “Poland is one of our closest allies. We share the same values and ideals,” Biden said after the meeting with the Polish PM. Later on during the joint conference with the Polish President, Lech Kaczyński, the American VP said, “We have Poland in our hearts”. Biden came to Poland to neutralize the bad impression left by the unfortunate way Obama’s administration presented the new shield concept. He also came to confirm the US revised offer which Tusk later declared that Poland will accept. “Poland is willing to participate in the SM-3 project,” he said. After the meeting with Biden, Tusk explained that “the new plan for the world needs Poland to be more than a country that just needs help”. He added, “For Americans we have become a partner expected to take action and joint responsibility for all the good that is supposed to happen in the world”.
His guest was clearly pleased with such a declaration. “The US appreciates Poland’s willingness to take this step and to have the system’s elements installed,” Biden said and went on to add that “the shield will not only work for America’s benefit but also to increase NATO and Polish security”. He assured the Polish authorities that the US treats its obligations to its allies seriously. Various Polish diplomats told Rzeczpospolita that Warsaw did not expect any specifics from this visit; rather a formal confirmation of the American will to locate the modified SM-3 missiles in Poland. Wess Mitchell, the head of the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, says that the significance of Biden’s visit is quite substantial. “It is a step in the right direction. The Central-European allies needed to be thoroughly run through the workings of the new anti-missile defence system. They also needed a specific offer inviting them to become a part of this system. The offer that was put on the table is very fair but for the time being it is too removed in the future for its details to be of any greater significance. What is important, however, is that America has shown its allies that it remains a credible partner which fulfils its obligations,” Mitchell told Rzeczpospolita. “We have good reason to feel satisfied,” according to Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, Radosław Sikorski, summing up Biden’s visit for Polsat News. He went on to say that he will be flying to Washington in November where, in all likelihood, he will meet up with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
July 29, 2009
“The role of victim does not command respect,” believe experts when asked about the battle against anti-Polish feeling. One in two respondents feels that Poles are perceived unfavourably abroad according to a GfK Polonia poll published by Rzeczpospolita. For years now, Rzeczpospolita has been battling the misuse of inaccurate terms which slander Poland’s name. Proving to be a large success in this regard was the campaign against the term “Polish death camps” which had been regularly appearing in foreign newspapers such as the Guardian or New York Times. Over 15,000 people backed the appeal. Also, it met with the endorsement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a result, the number of interventions made in the media by its officials and Polish ambassadors who demanded rectification is in the hundreds. “It is a very good campaign. I am convinced that it has made the foreign media choose their words more carefully,” believes PO MEP and former head of the Polish Foreign Affairs Committee Paweł Zalewski. Thanks to the campaign the frequency with which such alarming expressions surface and are brought to our attention has dropped. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs seconds this opinion. “We are observing a significant drop in the regularity with which these terms are used,” say Piotr Paszkowski, the ministerial spokesperson in an interview with Rzeczpospolita. He continues, “in recent weeks we noted but one case in which the term ‘Polish death camp’ was used and of course it was met with a swift reaction from our diplomats”. Paszkowski emphasises the fact also that it is always when the debate on concentration camps gains momentum that such terms start surfacing more frequently.
Flying the Flag
The media coverage on the extradition of John Demyanyuk, a presumed war criminal and a former guard at Sobibór death camp, is a good illustration of such a tendency. But the campaigns alone will never solve the problem. Experts say that the government is not promoting Poland properly. “If the authorities focus all their attention solely on admonishing foreign journalists for their use of absurd terms instead of backing it up by conducting campaigns that would promote, for example, publications revealing the historical truths about Poland, then they have only themselves to blame,” says Dr Wojciech Jabłoński, an expert in political marketing from the department of Political Sciences at the University of Warsaw. The authorities are going into hysteria and instead of improving Poland’s image, they are hurting it. Jabłoński stresses the fact that building an image on the past and martyrdom is counter-productive because it casts Poles in the role of victim which instead of being respected is rather pitied. By constantly reprimanding journalists Poland is losing the media’s sympathy. Foreign reporters are often surprised at Polish people’s over-sensitivity when it comes to Polish history. Others say that when they made a mistake they were mistreated to such an extent that despite having previously presenting Poland in a good light from that moment on they decided to stay as far away as possible from anything Polish.
March 31, 2009
Not a Happy Chappy
“I am deeply shocked with the President’s declaration that he will attend the EU-USA summit. We agreed that it is the PM only who is going there,” says the Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski. The summit will take place in Prague in several days’ time, but it is now almost certain that it will be Lech Kaczyński, the President, who will meet the US President Barack Obama. It seems that the agreement was as follows: the President attends the NATO summit, the PM attends the EU-USA summit. In the latter’s agenda, a meeting between Mr Tusk and Mr Obama was planned in order to discuss the fate of the missile defence system to be installed in Poland. It is said that perhaps Mr Kaczyński felt he should talk to Mr Obama because it will be the first meeting of the two administrations. The hosts of the summit are somewhat confused. “At the meeting with Mr Obama, each member state is represented by one person: either the president or the PM. Poland is an exception because both will come,” says Jirzi Potużnik, the Czech PM spokesperson. Why does Mr Kaczyński want to accompany Mr Tusk in Prague? One of the President’s aides claims that “every EU summit is important to him” and notes that the talks in Prague will cover not only the worldwide financial crisis, but also security issues. What troubles the PM is whether such disagreements will be the case for all EU summits in the future. Therefore, he has officially asked the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) to ultimately decide who is responsible for forming delegations for EU summits. The session of the TK has been suspended since last Friday, so all Poles need to be patient in waiting for the solution to the PM-President disagreement.
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March 22, 2009
Not so Happy
Washington’s recent declaration has sealed Radosław Sikorski’s fate with regard to NATO. It is now almost certain that he will not become the head of the organisation because the USA will not support his candidacy. The person actually supported by the USA is the Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen. According to the Polish Foreign Affairs Ministry, however, “this information remains unofficial and negotiations continue”. However, the American diplomacy has already officially informed all their allies that they are supporting the Dutch PM. Therefore, the entire offensive on the part of the Polish diplomacy to put Sikorski’s candidacy forward has come to nothing. The Polish Foreign Minister’s candidature was lobbied for not only by Mr Sikorski himself but also by PM Donald Tusk and, what surprised many, also President Lech Kaczyński, known for his open dislike for the Polish foreign minister. The matter is not yet settled, though, according to Piotr Paszkowski, the Polish National Defence Ministry spokesperson. He claims informal consultations and negotiations in respect to appointing a new NATO Secretary General are still open. The fact that the Danish PM might become the head of NATO has been discussed before. The leaders of Germany, Great Britain and France are believed to have already agreed to support Mr Rasmussen’s candidacy. According to the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung Mr Sikorski had been at the top of the candidates’ list, but lost due to his hard-line stance on relations with Russia. In turn, one of the drawbacks of Mr Rasmussen’s candidacy is his rather moderate reaction to the publication of the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish press in 2006: he did not approve of them, but strongly emphasised freedom of speech as a value of utmost importance. Despite this, he continued to be considered the most serious candidate to head NATO, also due to his renowned talent for organisation. In December 2002, he chaired the EU summit in Copenhagen at which as many as 10 candidate countries, including Poland, finalised their accession talks.
March 13, 2009
“On the 10th anniversary of Poland’s accession to NATO we should pay tribute to Professor Bronisław Geremek, as he was the one who signed the accession document. It was Geremek’s great triumph and at the same time a tangible end to the divisions within Europe set down in Yalta,” said Radosław Sikorski yesterday, during a conference dedicated to the professor. The conference was organized in Warsaw by the Community of Democracies (which unites democratic countries), the founders of which were Professor Geremek and the American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Professor Geremek died in a car accident in July 2008. “He was a dreamer. Just like Wałęsa and Martin Luther King, he dreamt of a better world. As a politician, his aim was to eliminate fears in society and build hope in people. At the same time, he was also a political realist,” said Minister Sikorski. “Geremek never gave up on fundamental values like truth in order to be effective in his doings. He showed us that it is possible to follow an ethical political programme in order to overthrow a totalitarian government,” said Carl Gershman, President of the American National Endowment for Democracy.
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March 8, 2009
No NATO for Radek
The heads of France, Germany, and Great Britain have agreed that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen should take the position of Secretary General of NATO, according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Apart from the Dane another potential candidate for the head of the Alliance who has been taken into consideration is, among others, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski. Nonetheless, “Minister Radosław Sikorski, who until recently had a strong lead among the candidates, has squandered his chances by taking an overly critical stance on Russia. On the other hand, candidates from other new members of NATO are simply perceived as too week,” remarked the German paper. However, Sueddeutsche Zeitung does not fail to point out the fact that when in 2006 caricatures of the prophet Muhammad were published in the Danish press the PM hit the headlines by stressing that although he condemned the pictures he considered freedom of speech to be more important.
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January 17, 2009
President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has snubbed Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski. Although the visit concerning the prolonged gas row between Ukraine and Russia was arranged two weeks ago, Sikorski had to wait all day for the meeting, which never took place. “I’m terribly sorry but before we begin discussions with Russia we need to think it over ourselves.” Allegedly such an explanation was given to the Polish delegation. Representatives from Kiev and Moscow are supposed to broker yet another deal this weekend in an attempt to end the crisis.
January 6, 2009
According to a report produced by the National Bank of Poland (NBP) the advantages of entering the euro zone by Poland are greater than the costs of loss of its autonomous monetary policy according to Witold Koziński, deputy chairman of NBP. “The report does not answer the question when Poland will enter the euro zone, however, its positive conclusion can help make this decision. But when it will actually happen, I do not know. (…) The implementation of the euro depends on whether Poland enters the ERM2 system. When it comes to the change in Poland’s monetary system through entering the ERM2 system, I think that 2009 is far too early,” Koziński added. He said that on 10th of December BISE presented a document to NBP. “We want to also present this document to the Monetary Policy Council and listen to what they have to say. After some minor corrections, the report will be presented to the public,” said Koziński.