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  • Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

     

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  • 8 May 2014

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski delivered his annual foreign policy address to the Sejm on 8 May.

    ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ON FOREIGN POLICY IN 2014

     

    Mr President,

     

    Madam Speaker,

     

    Prime Minister, Government Ministers,

     

    Members of the House,

     

    Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

     

    My foreign policy address this year, the seventh in succession, falls on a special moment. On the one hand, I am proud of Poland’s and Poles’ achievements, which we are reminded of by three important anniversaries. On the other hand, I see the deteriorating international situation in our neighbourhood. History is shifting to a higher gear before our eyes. We are witnessing a crisis around our borders. Military operations are carried out, the consequences of which can be felt not only in our country and in Europe, but around the world, too. In this context, we are not forgetting about the day we are commemorating today – the sixty-ninth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the bloodiest conflict in the history of mankind.

     

    “What we may be witnessing is not only the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such.” Twenty-five years ago Francis Fukuyama, the US political scientist, made this remark carried by a wave of optimism. He wasn’t being naïve. He did not say that this is the end of all armed conflicts as we know them. Observing the West’s history, he only drew attention to the evolutionary nature of history and the triumph of democracy over Communism. Unfortunately, democracy has not taken root in all parts of the East, while history – whimsical, uncontrollable, wresting itself free from chains of reason – has prevailed. Its continuation is affirmed by conflicts in the Caucasus, specifically by the partial occupation of Georgia, the uncertain situation in Moldova’s Transnistria, and ongoing attempts to destabilise Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea.

     

    Russian operations in Ukraine evidently violate the principles of peaceful coexistence of nations. The use of armed forces under the pretext of protecting a national minority, which – let’s be clear – is not persecuted in Ukraine, is legally unacceptable and politically dangerous.

    Poland has been following all this with growing concern. The fundamental principles of the UN Charter and of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe are the cornerstones of diplomacy of a free Poland. And we shall defend peace in Europe for the sake of these principles. For no other country on our continent has learned its value as we have.

     

    Poland’s foreign policy follows the classical maxim which the Jagiellonian University embraced as its motto: Plus ratio quam vis. Let reason prevail over force. In his first address to the House, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Poland would conduct its policy toward Russia “such as it is.” This logic remains the only reasonable option. When Russia cooperates with the international community and respects its rules, we welcome this fact and are the first to collaborate. But when Russia annexes its neighbours’ territories and threatens them with the use of force, we quickly draw conclusions. I will go further and say that we will be the first to welcome Russia’s decision to abandon the path of aggression. But we are not arrogant enough to believe that if a Polish politician angrily stamps his foot or resorts to flowery rhetoric, Russia will change.

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

     

    Poland has taken good advantage of the period of peace and the end of the two-bloc confrontation. It went from bankruptcy at the end of the 1980s to assuming the role of an anchor of stability in the European Union. Paraphrasing one of our poets, we can say that we are living in a normal country at last – not on entrenchments, a bulwark, but simply in a normal country. Poland’s success story is attractive, particularly to countries in the East. Three historic anniversaries remind us of this success. The first – twenty-five years of Poland’s sovereignty, the beginnings of our independent foreign policy; the second – Poland’s entry into NATO, the world’s strongest alliance to which many like Colonel Ryszard Kukliński, had aspired during the Communist era. And the third – ten years of European Union membership which sealed Poland’s presence in the West. In just a quarter of a century we have transformed our country that had been politically and economically devastated by Communism into a sovereign and democratic state capable of ensuring a decent quality of life to an increasingly larger group of its citizens.

     

    As Stanisław Cat-Mackiewicz put it, “what matters most in politics is where we are heading; ‘where we are heading’ (…) is more important than ‘where we are at this moment.’” Today we cannot enjoy our accomplishments without being concerned about Ukraine. But also about where President Putin’s doctrine might lead Russia. For the Ukrainian crisis is a benchmark against which we have to measure the real value of Poland’s and Europe’s accomplishments.

     

    The outcome of the Polish transformation gives us the right to wish our eastern neighbours similar changes. Our experience makes us confident that these countries will be strong and independent once they go through a similar process of reconstruction. Hence the idea of the Eastern Partnership embedded in the European Union’s Neighbourhood Policy. The Eastern Partnership is intended to support reforms and help to transform these countries into modern democracies with sound economies, if they so much as manifest such willingness. The Eastern Partnership programme, which as a matter of fact Russia has an option to join, cannot possibly threaten anyone.

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the House,

     

    Let me recall our starting point. Poles were the first to break the monopoly of the Communist party, setting an example for others. The 4 June elections, even though only partially free, triggered great changes. Today they have been raised to a symbol of Poland’s regained subjectivity, also in foreign policy.

     

    The patron of foreign policy of a free post-1989 Poland is Jerzy Giedroyć. During the Communist era when Ukraine was just one of many Soviet republics, people grouped around the Paris-based journal Kultura rightly argued that once Kyiv declares independence it should be immediately recognised without questioning the line of its borders. This we did, because our Eastern policy is predicated on the existence of not only Ukraine, but also Belarus, and the Baltic States (the latter now finding themselves in a completely different geopolitical reality) as strong and independent countries that live at peace with Poland. Let me recall that Giedroyć also argued in favour of normalising relations with Russia. We have also tried to do just that.

     

    We have modernised Giedroyć’s doctrine. We proposed to create the Eastern Partnership and won support for this idea first from the Swedes and later from the whole of the European Union. Its programme now covers countries beyond our immediate neighbourhood. We have offered cooperation to Moldova and the Caucasus countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

     

    Not everyone in Poland supported the Eastern Partnership project. It was criticised for being a “German project.” An offer of hurried membership of the European Union presented to the Eastern and Central European and Caucasus countries was believed to be an alternative; whereas the real alternative was reinforcing the European limes on the Bug River.

     

    The Eastern Partnership has yielded results. Visa free travel regime was introduced with Moldova just two weeks ago. The majority of European Union Member States, also thanks to the Eastern partnership, speak about the East in a similar tone to Warsaw’s. Let the best answer to the claims of Polish critics of the Eastern Partnership be the fact that President Putin considers it – unjustifiably, in my view – to be the main political challenge to his concepts of the post-Soviet order. At the start of the Eastern Partnership I said that it was a project without geopolitical ambitions, but one which could have geopolitical consequences. I did not think that what I said then would turn out to be true in just five years.

     

    The Ukrainian crisis has also laid bare the shortcomings of Community policies. The EU’s ability to respond to crisis situations is still limited. This has become apparent both during the Ukrainian crisis, and earlier during the Arab Spring. The Neighbourhood Policy continues to be inconsistent at times because it lacks the sense of co-responsibility of all Member States for its two dimensions – the Eastern and Southern one. Also, there are no solidarity mechanisms that would protect Member States and EU’s partners against such forms of pressure as trade embargoes or energy blackmail. We finally came to realise one thing: when kleptocracies collapse under the weight of their elites’ greed, as was the case with Ukraine, European integration of countries covered by the Eastern Partnership will reappear as the only attractive civilisation option.

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

     

    Despite the crisis in Ukraine, the Partnership continues to develop. At the summit in Vilnius, at the end of last year, we initialled Association Agreements and Free Trade Agreements with Georgia and Moldova. We hope to sign them soon and to implement them consistently. This year will see the implementation of the EU’s new multiannual financial framework. The Eastern Partnership countries, especially Ukraine, will receive more funds for reforms. Let me recall that the European Union together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development committed themselves to allocating, in the form of loans or development assistance, an additional sum of eleven billion euros to Ukraine alone. This is not much less than the entire budget of the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy. The existing rules for allocating funds remain unchanged: “more for more, less for less.”

     

    Modernisation processes in the Eastern neighbourhood turned out to be more difficult than in Central and Eastern Europe. This is all the more reason to support them. They could yield success when their hosts demonstrate their determination.

     

    We shall continue to support the development of the civil society in the East and to this end we will use, among others, the new EU Erasmus+ programme – tens of thousands of people from the Eastern Partnership countries are already studying in Poland. Poland’s priorities when it comes to expert assistance will continue to be: the promotion of democracy and the rule of law, fighting corruption, cooperation of border services, energy coordination and support for the development of rural regions.

     

    We count on improved relations with Belarus, even though it would be easier to believe in the sincerity of declarations of its authorities if prisoners of conscience were not behind bars, the Polish minority could organise itself freely, and each year did not see more Russian military infrastructure in Belarus. Yet, we do look for areas of agreement, as evidenced by the recent telephone conversation between Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Alexandr Lukashenko. We have been supporting the development of people-to-people contacts, also through grant programmes for Belarusian non-governmental organisations and student scholarships. We maintain our readiness to open local border traffic and to finalise an education agreement. We support talks on visa facilitation and readmission between Belarus and the European Union.

     

    Members of the House,

     

    Today Ukrainians are demanding that their country’s territorial integrity be respected. Not long ago they were demanding in the Maidan an association with the EU. Let us recall that tectonic changes in Ukraine were catalysed by the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. It was there that Ukraine’s president, against the will of the majority of his fellow countrymen, dismissed the association agreement with the European Union that had been drafted during the Polish presidency.

     

    The deal brokered between the government and opposition on 21 February put an end to the bloodshed in Kyiv. Ukrainians reached this compromise thanks to mediation by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland. The Weimar Triangle proved that it can be effective.

     

    The deal could not be implemented in full, as the Ukrainian president refused to sign the reinstated constitution and then left the country. This prompted the Verkhovna Rada, in the spirit of the 21 February agreement, to form a new government, which won a parliamentary majority, including the votes of many Party of Regions deputies.

     

    Even as the Ukrainians were making a collective effort to rebuild government structures, their country fell prey to Russian aggression. On the pretext of defending minority rights, Russia annexed Crimea, and is now destabilizing eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s actions contravene the fundamental principles of international law. Let me remind the House that the Charter of the Commonwealth of Independent States also contains a clause about the inviolability of borders. This leads me to believe that today other post-Soviet countries may feel worried, too.

     

    What happened in Crimea was a war, a strange war. With few shots and explosions, and Russian soldiers wearing uniforms without insignia. But an atmosphere of fear and coercion prevailed. The Russian president belatedly admitted that Russia did intervene militarily in Crimea, something we had been saying all along. Apart from the strange war in Ukraine and around Ukraine, a global information war is being waged. It has a global reach. Poland has been accused of actions and intentions that we find unthinkable. We have been hearing about Polish combatants fighting allegedly in Ukraine, about training camps for the Ukrainian opposition in our country, and even about plans of declaring autonomy by the Polish minority in Ukraine. I must disappoint the editors of newspapers who are circulating such scoops: there is not a grain of truth in your reports. But this goes to show the important role that information plays in today’s society. We should give some serious thought to the pan-European project of a Russian language television broadcaster, an idea advocated by our allies from the Baltic countries. This is also an argument in favour of reforming our foreign language media.

     

    We consider the referendum held by Crimea’s self-proclaimed authorities to be illegal both under international and domestic Ukrainian law. We cannot recognize its outcome. In a civilized world you do not hold social consultations under the barrel of a Kalashnikov. Nor do we accept the Kremlin’s unilateral decisions to incorporate Crimea. We and the whole West will respond adequately to such conduct by Russia.

    We look forward to early presidential elections in Ukraine. Poland will send as many observers as possible – over a hundred. I also encourage members of this House and our Western allies to join in. The democratic nature of elections should also be important to those who call into question the legitimacy of the government in Kyiv.

     

    Members of the House,

     

    In view of Russia’s actions in Ukraine we should take a broader look not only at Russian foreign policy, but above all at its ideology. For in the centennial year of the outbreak of the First World War Moscow challenges us to an ideological confrontation. A confrontation, I should add, that Russia is in no position to win. In terms of economic potential, the European Union leads eight to one, and when you add the US and Canada, the ratio is eighteen to one. Rather than becoming more democratic and modern, Russia is taking another turn in its tortuous history.

     

    President Putin was right when he said in his address after the annexation of Crimea, “Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades.” For we have come to realise that Russia does not accept rules which the international community took several decades to develop, mindful of the enormous extent of the tragedy of the two world wars. What is more, the Russian state seems to harbour its own vision of the world. In this vision, the collapse of the Soviet Union was a catastrophe and a humiliation, and the choice of former Soviet republics to become independent nations was an historical injustice. It seems to me that Russia has yet to fully grasp what a defeat Sovietism was for the world and for Russia. Russia is trying to play extra time because it has failed to learn the lesson of its own totalitarian past.

     

    Modern-day Russia views itself as the hub of the Christian Orthodox civilisation, and the sole heir to ancient Rus. It reserves for itself the right to “collect Russian lands,” as the grand dukes of Moscow once did in the late Middle Ages. This philosophy is ahistoric, for if any one country can consider itself to be the heir to Kyivan Rus it is Ukraine rather than Russia. But experience tells us that even if an ideology proves disastrous, and the policy of a leader or a state is based on myths, it does not mean that it will not be carried out.

     

    The consequences of such worldview raise grave concerns. If the Russian viewpoint were to be accepted, international relations in the 21st century would be governed by the law of the strong. The post-Soviet area would be Russia’s exclusive sphere of influence. According to this vision, Belarus would be nothing more than Russia’s future governorates, whilst Little Russia would take up half of Ukraine. The West is first and foremost a model opponent, and Russia stands as a besieged bastion defending itself against decadent critics and subversive enemies at home. Should defeating the West prove impossible, trying to thwart all its plans will become a foreign policy axiom. It is equally unsettling when you think that every citizen of Russia who does not agree with this philosophy of history becomes a potential dissident.

    Let me make one thing clear – contrary to what the Kremlin has been saying the West, including Poland, has never strived to exclude Russia from the international community. On the contrary, for years we have been trying to foster relations with Russia through many institutions and instruments: the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the World Trade Organization and the Polish-Russian Group for Difficult Issues. Given its centuries-old experience, Poland has aimed and will continue to aim for partner-like and good neighbourly relations with Russia.

     

    I once said that it would be in our interest if Russia satisfied NATO membership criteria. As recently as last year, standing here I took the liberty of echoing St. John Paul the Great’s dream of Europe breathing with two lungs, the Western and the Eastern. It was not the West that spurned Russia. It was Russia that chose to return to the path of an outdated development model. As Vladimir Putin wrote in his 1999 policy article, “. . . an ideological approach to the economy resulted in Russia’s lagging behind developed countries. Bitter as it may taste, for nearly seven decades we moved along a road to nowhere, a road that was far from the main path of civilisation development.” The then Russian prime minister went on to say that “. . . responsible social and political forces should present to the people a strategy for Russia’s renaissance and prosperity, a scheme that would tap into all achievements of democratic and free-market reforms, and would be implemented by evolutionary methods.” Unfortunately, Russia has deviated from this path. Hopefully not for good.

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the House,

     

    The Ukraine crisis may have taken the world by surprise, but we were well prepared for it. This is manifested, for instance, by the network of consulates – the largest one of all EU and NATO countries – that we have established in Ukraine over the past seven years. I am referring specifically to the posts in Sevastopol and Donetsk, which were set up on my initiative. The last few months have proved their usefulness. It is from them that we get the most reliable news from south-eastern Ukraine. The other day the Polish Consulate in Donetsk issued – despite the crisis – its first visas and a passport. The latter was presented to the Polish Army major and OSCE observer who was abducted in Slavyansk.

     

    In the face of developments that have claimed hundreds of lives and led to the occupation of Ukraine’s territory in recent months, we believe that Poland and Europe must react in a strong yet balanced way. The EU has recently imposed sanctions against decision-makers who are responsible for this crisis. On the one hand, you have sanctions. On the other hand, we stand ready to back diplomatic efforts that would calm down the situation in Ukraine under a new constitution which provides for devolution of power. We are canvassing the entire Union, but it is not easy to obtain unanimity among twenty eight Member States promptly and convincingly enough to change the calculations of the other side.

     

    Ukraine needs both political and economic stability. We have also admitted over a hundred people who were injured in the Maidan for medical treatment in Poland. We have been helping with local government reform. Poland is their inspiration.

     

    The EU assistance package I have mentioned is complemented by a deal with the International Monetary Fund worth seventeen billion dollars. The World Bank has pledged another three and a half billion. We hope that this aid – contingent on reforms and fight against corruption – will send a message to foreign investors that Ukraine is determined to make a breakthrough this time round. For this reason we have appealed to the government in Kyiv to lift groundless restrictions imposed on Polish foodstuffs.

     

    We have already signed the political part of the association agreement with Ukraine. No matter how soon its economic component is signed, we are already offering concrete help to Ukrainian businesspeople and Polish entrepreneurs doing business in Ukraine. The European Union has unilaterally abolished customs tariffs on ninety-eight percent of Ukraine’s exports. Ukraine will gain almost half a billion euros a year thanks to this measure. Moreover, the European Commission and Member States are also taking steps to enable long-running gas transmissions from Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to Ukraine. We welcome the first deal struck by Slovak and Ukrainian companies.

    There is also help for Ukraine coming from across the Atlantic. The US Congress has approved one billion dollars’ worth of loan guarantees for the government in Kyiv. Support has been declared by Canada, a country with a sizeable Ukrainian diaspora, as well as Japan, a friend of the Eastern Partnership, which has pledged one and a half billion dollars to Kyiv, too.

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

     

    In all my previous annual addresses, I have made a reference to the 3 May Constitution, which reads “The nation bears a duty to its own defence from attack and for the safeguarding of its integrity.” Only a domestically stable country that continues to rebuild its strength can count on allies.

     

    The North Atlantic Alliance is the best defence treaty Poland has ever had. We want to stress the significance of the 15th anniversary of Poland’s accession to NATO. We see how it has improved both Poland’s and Allies’ security. Today, our army is 18th in the world, according to an international ranking; it is well-trained and very experienced in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Balkans. Cooperation with Allies, primarily with the United States, should give our army access to state-of-the art military equipment.

     

    We appreciate the presence of the armed forces of the United States and other countries in Poland. I would like to recall that US aircrafts were able to land in Lask, Powidz and Krzesiny because our government had successfully negotiated a missile defence agreement. We were compensated for the unfulfilled promise of permanent deployment of Patriot missiles in Poland with an air force subunit that is permanently stationed in our country. It is unfortunate that all this is happening in the heat of the crisis in Ukraine, but today we are implementing a long-term security policy goal: we are increasing the actual presence of NATO units, materiel and infrastructure in our territory. AWACS surveillance aircrafts fly over Poland and Romania. The US has deployed a paratrooper company and Canada, a paratrooper platoon in Poland. A group of anti-mine ships is on permanent standby in the Baltic Sea. NATO naval forces will soon be performing their exercises. We have permanently strengthened the Baltic Air Policing mission; we are now in charge of the current mission, supported by the British, Danes and the French. The number of NATO forces in our region will increase.

     

    In doing so we are dispelling the fears of some people and quashing the hopes of others that Poland will be a second-class member of NATO. And that we will be left to fend off for ourselves in case of real danger. Just when our region is in the midst of one of the most serious crises after the end of the Cold War, Poland’s membership of NATO is becoming a real component of our country’s security. The EU’s military integration would also make Poland more secure.

     

    In our opinion, last year’s Exercise Steadfast Jazz was only partially successful. Some of our allies, France specifically, demonstrated their real solidarity with us. However, some other contingents were below their capabilities and smaller than initially declared.

     

    Another NATO summit is due to take place in Wales in September. Decisions taken by its members have to reflect changes in the security situation. NATO’s new Secretary General has assured me that he would make defence capacity building on the eastern flank one of the priorities of his term of office.

     

    Together with our friends from Sweden and the United Kingdom, we have suggested sending an EU police mission to Ukraine under the auspices of the Common Security and Defence Policy. We need an ambitious European defence policy. Such policy would require a separate budget and a mechanism of ongoing structural cooperation.

     

    Poland has also supported the OSCE observation mission in Ukraine, in which many Polish experts are taking part. During its organisation, the mission was headed by a Polish diplomat, Adam Kobieracki. We are also monitoring the military situation in the region by carrying out inspections pursuant to the Vienna Document.

     

    We are reducing our military contingent in Afghanistan. After a decade of Polish presence in this country, we are planning to pull out from the ISAF stabilisation mission by end of the year. The funds thus saved will be used to develop the Polish armed forces and to consolidate the experience we have gained. We will continue to be engaged in Georgia and the Balkans. We are prepared to help our citizens in unstable countries, just like we helped Polish missionaries in Africa.

     

    We are also aware of global challenges. We are engaged in measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We are involved in the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons which is slowly but surely coming to an end.

     

    Last year, the international community entrusted Poland with the chair of the most important United Nations body dedicated to human rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. We want to apply Poland’s growing potential also to pursue a global agenda. For this reason we are seeking a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2018-2019.

     

    Members of the House,

     

    Despite the adverse political climate, we still want to develop our economic relations with Russia, the fifth largest market for Polish products, in the spirit of pragmatism. Last year, our exports to Russia were worth approximately USD 11 billion, an increase by almost one-tenth. Imports from Russia decreased by a comparable amount, totalling USD 25 billion. We are interested in good cooperation between all services involved in product quality inspections to ensure an undisturbed flow of trade. We stress the high quality of Polish products which is proven by their success on demanding Western markets.

     

    We are optimistic about both the social and the economic success of local border traffic with the Kaliningrad Oblast, which some call the “Eastern Prussia” project. In the first half of last year, inhabitants of this Russian exclave spent at least PLN 238 million in Poland. Frequent contacts with Russians fuelled tourism and trade.

     

    We will continue to support the Polish prosecutor’s office in its efforts to enforce legal assistance concerning the handing over of the TU-154M wreckage and the entire documentation pertaining to the Smolensk crash. We have also requested Russia to hand over to us the diplomatic real estate assets in Poland that it does not use. It is our government that has terminated the relevant agreement on that issue dating back to Communist times.

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the House,

     

    We must brace ourselves for a continued instability in the East and possible disruptions in oil and gas supplies to Europe resulting from it. That is why Prime Minister Tusk has presented his own proposal to establish an energy union, which has already enlisted the support of many Member States.

     

    Its core lies in the solidarity mechanism—the European Union must be able to utilise its full potential in order to prevent disruptions in oil and gas transmission. The Union should also introduce common purchasing of oil and gas, to make their prices more competitive. Another premise of such an energy union involves the development of domestic energy sources. We want to make better use of opportunities offered by shale gas and effective coal combustion technologies. Finally, we wish to reinforce the energy security of European Union neighbours. We will encourage countries such as Ukraine or Moldova to implement transparent rules of the third energy package. We need more interconnector pipelines, particularly gas pipelines, such as the North-South gas corridor, with our neighbours. The LNG terminal in Świnoujście, which forms a part of the corridor, will soon become a gas window on the world not only for Poland, but also for the whole region.

     

    Members of the House,

     

    As the minister for European affairs, I can claim with full responsibility that we have been skilfully taking advantage of our ten years’ presence in the Union to pursue our strategic national interests. Poland has noticeably advanced in the European Union’s political hierarchy—from a country which looked at the Union from the perspective of financial security only, to becoming a state that is taking on increasingly more responsibility for the future of the entire Union.

     

    At the accession’s tenth anniversary, we can attest: Eurosceptics were wrong. The grim visions of seven plagues that were to have struck Poland as a result of its EU accession failed to materialise. We have not seen “the Regained Territories being peacefully taken over”; the Union is neither “Euro-Germany” nor a “godless, Masonic idea.” The majority of our businesses have not gone bankrupt, and eight million Poles have not lost their jobs. What is more, the unemployment rate has fallen, from almost 20 percent in the year of accession to the current 13.5 percent (less than 10 percent according to Eurostat’s methodology). The Union has not forced us to amend our abortion law or to legalise civil partnerships. We are free to regulate these issues in our own judgement.

     

    Our Eurosceptics are, on the one hand, criticising the Union for not being enough firm towards Russia, and, on the other, calling for a European Union to be exclusively a free-trade zone. In line with this logic, the Union is supposed to feed and defend us but on condition that it is others—not us—who will agree to "communitize" their sovereignty. Ladies and gentlemen who profess Euroscepticism: make up your minds! No free-trade zone has ever defended anybody against anything or even imposed tough sanctions on anyone. If the European Union is to fulfil the hopes pinned on it, it must be a political union, more closely integrated than today.

     

    Let us remember that this year will bring a new line-up at European Union institutions. Soon we will be electing members of the European Parliament. We will also learn the names of the new President of the European Council and new Commissioners, among them our compatriot who will receive an important portfolio again.

     

    Today the European Union needs a stronger leadership more than ever before. We want to see Europe engage more actively in areas that directly affect the prosperity of its citizens—for instance, by more effectively tackling unemployment or tax havens. We need more Europe where the national state is powerless and less intervention where it is efficient.

     

    I call on my fellow countrymen to take part in the European elections. I ask Polish citizens abroad to go to the polls where you reside. Let the politicians there see your strength.

     

    The European elections will heavily influence the direction in which the European integration, particularly the euro zone, will evolve. Poland cannot afford to stay on the side-lines of this process. The developments in Ukraine should mobilise us into faster integration with the euro zone. The decision whether to adopt the single currency will not only be financial and economic, but most of all political, one that will also affect our security. The euro zone’s rule “one for all, all for one” applies unconditionally, because any serious threats to one country automatically mean perturbations in all. In today’s complex international situation it is in our interest to establish such interdependencies between Poland and the other European states. For this reason, after our demands were met, we finished negotiations on the banking union.

     

    It is our invariable view that Ukraine should have a membership perspective, which follows directly from the Treaty of the European Union. That is why we welcomed the conclusions of the extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers which, on Poland’s motion, provide that the association treaty is not the ultimate goal of co-operation with Ukraine.

     

    Naturally, we are aware of the distance separating Ukraine from the goal of its integration with Europe. However, as Krzysztof Pomian points out, Europe has inherently been a “civilisation of transgression.” It goes beyond its own boundaries, also the boundary between what it considered possible and a flight of fancy.

     

    The crisis in Ukraine has shown that we can rely on most of our European partners, also as regards the Eastern policy. We have been developing energy co-operation in the Visegrad Group formula. With the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary we share not only a common history and political goals, but also a growing trade exchange. We are bidding to co-host the 2022 Winter Olympics with the Slovaks. Together with our Visegrad partners, we are opening up to the North—to Scandinavian and Baltic states. As recently as two months ago, I attended another in a series of meetings in this format in Estonia’s Narva. Such forums respond well to the creation of a North–South communication axis, in which Poland is playing a leading role. The very good bilateral relations with Latvia and Estonia stem from similar experiences, caring for the growth and security of the region, and from common interests in the European Union.

     

    Germany remains Poland’s key political partner in Europe. The visit of Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Warsaw in December, just two days after the swearing in of a new government, symbolically acknowledged the closeness of our relations. The chief of German diplomacy will also be a guest of the Polish Ambassadors’ Conference in July. After all, our close partnership does not mean we see eye to eye on all issues and that sometimes we do not act to change Berlin’s position on matters that are important to us. We are in talks on, among others, ways in which Germany is fulfilling its alliance commitments, and the reliability of NATO’s contingency plans.

     

    In our relations with France, we intend to continue the new opening, which has allowed establishing a strategic partnership. This year our troops are serving shoulder to shoulder in Mali and in the Central African Republic, where the religious conflict has claimed thousands of lives and driven close to a million people into exile.

     

    We are going to intensify our dialogue with the United Kingdom. It is our unchanging view that the UK belongs to the European Union. A possible UK exit from the EU would be detrimental to all Member States, including us. We enjoy privileged political relations and economic ties with Italy and Spain. Just a while ago, together with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in the Vatican, we celebrated the canonisation of John Paul the Great, a teacher of responsibility. We welcomed the decision to choose the city of Krakow as host of the World Youth Day in 2016. We have also been developing political and military dialogue with Romania. We congratulate our Romanian allies on their successful modernisation of its armed forces and declare our readiness to share experience —for instance as regards the F-16 fighter jets.

     

    Last year, we were happy to welcome Croatia as a new Member State of the European Union. We will be supporting other Western Balkan countries on their path towards the European Union. We note with satisfaction the progress in normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. This year also marks the six hundredth anniversary of establishing Polish-Turkish diplomatic relations. The official visit of President Bronisław Komorowski to Turkey inaugurated the extensive programme of political, cultural and business events.

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

     

    We are looking with hope at the opportunities offered by the continent of Asia, without disregarding the political, ethnic and religious tensions in that region. What goes on in Asia affects the Polish trade. The share of exports in our gross domestic product, which stands at around 40 percent, ranks us among economies which are highly integrated with the global system.

     

    China’s economy has been growing for more than thirty years at a pace unprecedented in the history of mankind. Beijing has noticed that Poland, and the region of Central and Eastern Europe, is an important area of growth in Europe. We have seen a reinvigoration of Polish-Chinese relations—in the form of a strategic partnership—and the CEE region’s relations with China; there was a reason why Poland hosted the first summit of prime ministers from 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe plus China. We are already seeing its first results—Chinese investments in Poland and increased Polish exports. Łódź stands a chance of becoming a city which handles the trade of companies from across the region with China.

     

    We have been intensifying our relations with other states of Asia and the Pacific, too. We are working more closely with India: this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between our countries. Our congratulations go to the Afghan people for their effective organisation of their presidential elections.

     

    Australia and New Zealand remain on Poland’s list of unvaryingly important partners. We are pleased with the rising trade and the fact that we speak with one voice on many global issues.

     

    The process of Polish diplomacy going global responds well to the development of strategic relations between Asia and the European Union. It is not always worthwhile to act alone. We will co-operate closely with our EU partners whenever possible and financially advisable. This year we are planning to make available part of the premises in our New Delhi embassy to the EU delegation. It will be a clear message signalling we are open to collaboration outside Europe. We have capabilities to contribute to building Europe’s subjectivity and prestige worldwide. After all, the EU is still a heavyweight player in the global economy. Its driving force lies in key projects such as free trade agreements, at various stages of implementation, with South Korea, Canada, India, Japan and the United States. The transatlantic agreement on free trade and investment partnership is an economic offshoot of Europe’s alliance with the US.

     

    Latin America and the Caribbean remain a relatively stable region politically. In spite of the global slowdown, last year its economic growth amounted to 2.6 percent and is projected to reach 3.2 percent this year. This inspires the Polish diplomacy to actively engage in a political as well as an economic dialogue with this region’s countries.

     

    We welcome the fact that Israelis and Palestinians have made an attempt to negotiate. We hope that—despite the current deadlock—the talks will be resumed. The situation in Syria looks tragic. The war there has already claimed more than 140,000 lives, with more than 2.5 million people being forced into exile. This places even more responsibility on the Geneva conference participants. We call on both parties to cease the hostilities and to continue peace talks. It is with cautious joy that we take note of the detente in relations between the West and Iran, with which Poland is celebrating the 540th anniversary of the first diplomatic contacts. We hope that the interim nuclear agreement will acquire a lasting character. We will continue to appeal to countries of Africa and the Middle East to respect the rights of religious minorities, especially of Christians.

     

    We will be intensifying contacts with select countries of Sub-Saharan Africa focusing on economic co-operation—in line with the Government programme “Go Africa.” This year we also want to host a reunion for African graduates of Polish universities. We wish to get them more involved in actions that promote Poland and Polish-African contacts. In a joint effort with other ministries, we are working to increase the scholarships offered to Africans and other non-Europeans, who already represent over a one-third of all foreign students.

     

    Members of the House,

     

    The last year has seen many new developments in international trade. Polish exports to South Korea grew by over thirty percent, while our exports to the United Arab Emirates, for instance, went up by two-thirds.

     

    Some reliable analyses say that Polish exports will expand by more than a half in 2016-20, a trend boosted chiefly by Asian markets. The growth of exports will likely outstrip the growth of GDP. In effect, Poland’s interdependence with global markets will continue to grow.

     

    With its network of diplomatic posts spread around the globe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been advising and helping our investors and economic missions that promote the Polska brand. By the way, let me tell you that last year its value increased five percent, to nearly five hundred billion dollars. We have drawn up Rules for Communicating the POLSKA brand. I sincerely encourage you to check the website of our ministry for more information on the subject. Each and every day Polish diplomatic posts answer over two hundred questions from entrepreneurs. Every month Polish diplomats provide various forms of support to around forty economic missions our entrepreneurs send to all continents. Over the last two years, MFA senior officials have been accompanied on their foreign visits by representatives of more than four hundred Polish companies. To provide more incentives to our diplomats who support Polish companies, I endowed an Amicus Oeconomiae prize for the most effective Polish diplomat. I also established an award for a Polish Diaspora Product of the Year that is made abroad by a Pole or a person of Polish extraction. The distinction is bestowed annually on 2 May, which marks the Day of Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad. We also plan to set up a databank that will let us tap into the knowledge and experience of Polish experts on non-European affairs.

     

    The economy is a clear priority in contacts with non-European countries. But we do not forget about the values we cherish. Poles love freedom. Today a number of countries, including Egypt, Myanmar and Tunisia, look up to us as a model of transition from a totalitarian regime to a free-market democracy. We want to use celebrations of 4 June to highlight the achievements of “Solidarity” which are so dear to us. This also applies to the people whose civil courage and imagination during Communism chipped away at walls, before they came down spectacularly.

     

    Yesterday I announced that the first-ever Solidarity Prize, to be presented on 3 June, will go to Mustafa Dzhemilev, the spiritual leader of Crimean Tatars. He earned his reputation as a moral authority already during Soviet times, when he was a dissident. He served almost ten years in labour camps. It was Dzhemilev who triggered the first wave of Tatar returns to Crimea from their forced exile on Stalin’s orders. A deputy to the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv, he is an advocate of keeping Crimea within Ukraine. Little wonder that he has recently been banned from entering the Russian Federation for five years. Nor is he allowed into Crimea. The cash prize of a million zlotys that will go to the laureate will be supplemented by additional three million zlotys allocated to development programmes chosen by the prize winner.

     

    This year’s anniversaries are more than just an opportunity to reflect on the past. They are also a chance to take stock of and appreciate the importance of historical issues for pursuing a modern foreign policy. This was one of the reasons why I appointed an MFA Historian and established a Board of Historians to advise the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Board’s mission is to support research into the history of Poland’s foreign policy, and to promote knowledge of Polish history abroad.

     

    We want our compatriots to return home, but before they do, we want them to get a better understanding of Poland’s national interest. To build a positive image of Poland in the world, and friendly ties with their countries of residence. On the other hand, we are aware of our obligations towards Poles in the east – people who found themselves outside Poland against their will. We want them to keep in touch with Polish culture and, if that is their wish, settle in the country of their ancestors.

     

    In the context of the demographic situation, we are supporting legal immigration. We are facilitating the settlement of young foreigners in our country, specifically those who have Polish ancestors. We are encouraging them to apply for Polish citizenship. The new Aliens Act has made it easier to obtain a residence permit by persons of Polish extraction and holders of the Card of the Pole, who can receive citizenship having resided in Poland for just three years. The scope of my address today does not permit me to present Polish diaspora issues with an insight such issues deserve to be discussed. I agreed with the Marshal of the Senate that I will present an in-depth information about our policy toward the Polish diaspora and Poles abroad to the Higher Chamber.

     

    We plan to expand our existing TV offer. In cooperation with Polish Television we want to launch a new channel for viewers abroad. It will be a showcase of contemporary Poland, the Poland audiences at home can watch every day.

     

    For several years now we have been consistently modernizing our foreign service. Our overriding goal is to build a competent, efficient and citizen-friendly staff. We have been developing the network of foreign missions. We are creating the institution of visiting ambassadors – in Malta, Myanmar, Mongolia or the Philippines. We have been seconding our diplomats to EU delegations and posts of other Member States.

    We continue to digitize. The other day I approved a six-year IT Strategy for the ministry and foreign service posts.

     

    Our diplomacy receives competent support from the Polish Institute of International Affairs, which has is becoming increasingly recognisable around the world. The Ignacy Jan Paderewski Polish Institute of Diplomacy is also growing in strength, training diplomats also from the Eastern Partnership countries.

     

    We have been improving the working conditions of Polish diplomats. We have launched a new press centre, with an interior décor created by Poland’s top designers. We are building an MFA reception centre. We would also like all MFA bureaus and departments that are now scattered across Warsaw to move into one location.

     

    Despite its limited resources, the ministry has been carrying out important foreign investments: the construction of new embassy seats in Berlin and Minsk. The imagery of these buildings will evoke modern Poland, a country that is ever more prosperous and stands ready to share its culture and scientific accomplishments. At the same time, we have been selling real property that we no longer need, and moving foreign service posts to new locations, thanks to which we have made major savings. In 2014 we will strengthen the existing posts and set up new ones in Asia and Africa, albeit in more economical and unconventional formulas.

     

    Members of the House,

     

    The purpose of changes in Poland was not to build up a political and economic power that would be directed against anybody. Addressing this house two years ago, I said that today’s Poland is the best Poland we have ever had. To this we can add with total confidence that this is the best Poland our neighbours could wish for. All neighbours without exception.

     

    Looking back over the past years we see that we have sized our opportunities resulting from transformation. As recently as 1992, on the eve of transformation, Poland was at a stage of development comparable to that of Ukraine. We had a similar gross domestic product per capita. Modernization was painful at times, but we kept pushing it. A great lesson that transformation has taught us is that reforms can unlock some of the best features in a society: ingenuity, resourcefulness, industriousness. Today our GDP per capita is nearly three times higher than Ukraine’s.

     

    I’m saying this not to brag about the Polish success – Napoleon used to say that “enthusiasm is the mind’s delirium” – but to show our friends from Ukraine that change for the better is possible. Poland’s road over the past quarter of a century has cut across seemingly relentless geopolitics. The same could be true for Ukraine. Let’s hope that nothing is more contagious than an example.

     

    As the foreign minister of a free Poland I have always tried to present to this House issues as they stand. Without illusions or wishful thinking. Today I am making no secret of the fact that Europe is going through its most serious crisis since the collapse of Communism. Poland can make no decisive impact on the course of events, but the impact it does have is growing. Our country will use this impact to create a free and strong Europe, where Poles can feel secure. I count on the Sejm to help us achieve this aim.

     

    Thank you for your attention.

     

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