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  • Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

     

  • NEWS

  • 30 June 2017

    The agenda of the talks with US President Trump will include security and energy cooperation, Polish Press Agency (PAP) was told by Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski. “The fact that we establish economic relations beyond the EU does not mean we are betting on the Union’s demise. Rather, we are meeting an obligation that falls to those who are responsible for the country’s prosperity,” he emphasized.

    The foreign minister gave PAP an interview several days ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Poland. Among other things, he spoke about the main topics of the talks with the American leader. He also referred to the European agenda, including a new multiannual budget for the EU. He further discussed the contents of the Polish government’s response to the European Commission’s decision to initiate proceedings over Poland’s refusal to take in refugees.

     

     

    PAP: US President Donald Trump is coming to Warsaw next week. What is the main purpose of the visit - bilateral talks or the Three Seas Initiative summit?

     

    Witold Waszczykowski: Two visits will in fact take place in the space of one day. This is a bilateral visit, which was strongly emphasized by the Americans in their statement. President Trump will also take advantage of the fact that the Three Seas Initiative Summit is taking place in Poland and he will meet with the leaders of the region.

     

    Having lobbied for Donald Trump's visit to Poland, we stressed that Poland is attractive in that we can organize a meeting consisting of regional leaders at any time during the president's visit.

     

    We have extensive instruments: from the Visegrad Four, the Bucharest Nine, the twelve countries in the Three Seas Initiative to the sixteen countries co-operating with China in the Belt and Road initiative. 

     

    A few months ago, in talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, I mentioned that the largest format of cooperation in the region was the group of 16 with China. However, it is not a given that this "16 plus 1" format has to only have China as the plus 1.

     

    If the United States presents a proposal of economic cooperation as good as the one presented by China, then we can also work with the US within the regional framework. Apparently, these arguments have reached Washington and the Americans want to try out this format.

     

    PAP: What will we talk about in Warsaw with the American leader?

     

    W.W.: First and foremost we will talk about security, this topic has remained constant over the years. We hope that our relations in this field will be maintained and even strengthened. We look forward to addressing the on-going US military presence in Poland and discussing the future of the American base in Redzikowo, which should be operational next year. This means that from next year we will have a permanent US base in Poland, a solid foundation for military cooperation. Of course, we are ready to expand this cooperation, to increase our presence in the anti-terror coalition and to participate, for example, in UN peacekeeping missions.

     

    The next stage of Polish-American cooperation will be Poland’s non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council in 2018 and 2019.

     

    We would also like to have a serious talk about expanding economic cooperation. We are demonstrating our ability to mobilize and integrate in the region also within the economic dimension. Poland is able to exert its influence within this dimension not only on the whole region but also to the East, on the huge Ukrainian market.

     

    We are very interested in economic cooperation in the field of energy. We have built an LNG terminal, we are expanding our network of interconnectors in Europe, which may be of interest to the United States, which has begun to export shale gas. We are interested in diversifying sources of gas supply and not only in our Polish market, but also in the Ukrainian and Central European markets. There is no shortage of gas from Russia, but it is uncertain because it can always be subject to political pressure and used as an instrument of blackmail. We want other sources of imports that have not been subjected to this political game.

     

    PAP: Work is underway on a draft declaration on energy sovereignty, which may be adopted by presidents Andrzej Duda and Donald Trump next week. What are the main assumptions of this document? What are the chances that it will be adopted?

     

    W.W.: This is being discussed. It will be a document that rather resembles a political declaration, less legally binding, but it will be enough to set the goals of this cooperation and indicate that it will not only have a bilateral character, making clear that energy can be supplied through Poland to this part of Europe and it will not be based on political conditions.

     

    PAP: The United States aims to become a global exporter of liquefied gas, which coincides with the need to diversify sources of supply in Poland. But is this a cost-effective project today? Are prices not too high? Do you see the chances of convincing Americans to lower prices in exchange for access to the region via the LNG terminal in Świnoujście?

     

    W.W.: We have already carried out a pilot project. At the beginning of June, we accepted an American gas vessel. This was to check technical possibilities. We succeeded, which means that technically we are able to receive such gas from the US.

     

    Now all depends on the talks. It's about showing Americans what the market needs. If the offer put forward by the Americans is attractive, then we will sign on to it. We will continue to use Russian gas for years to come, if it beats the price of this raw material from other sources. However, in addition to the price of the contract with the United States there is the factor of political stability and certainty that the delivery of gas will not be subject to any political conditions.

     

    PAP: Can one assert that the reason behind the interest of the new US administration is the possibility of selling LNG to this part of Europe?

     

    W.W.: Yes, of course. It is true that our market is too small, but together with other countries in the region we already create a slice of the market that is worth vying for. Potential recipients could include Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia, which is interested in the construction of the LNG terminal on the island of Krk, and could also be a recipient of US liquefied gas.

     

    PAP: Does this not create a new dividing line between Moscow and Washington? Liquefied gas could compete with Russian gas pipelines.

     

    W.W.: It is not only being created, but continued. We have known for a long time that the Russians are doing everything in their power to change the security architecture that was built after the end of the Cold War. In addition to the military means that they used in Georgia, Syria and Ukraine to restore the status they had when they were the Soviet Union, they also use other means, including energy, in the form of petro-diplomacy.

     

    PAP: President Trump wanted to improve relations with Moscow.

     

    W.W.: And which American president did not want to do so? We saw presidents who carried out re-sets, who looked into Putin's eyes and saw a democratic soul. We would also like to improve these relations. However, the key lies in Moscow. We also see that President Trump’s views have evolved, that he is veering towards the Republican mainstream, which has been saying for years that Russia is a geopolitical rival of the United States.
     

    PAP: During the visit, can we expect the US president to make a statement regarding the continued presence of US troops in Poland? Their funding is provided until 2020.

     

    W.W.: We will discuss this issue. We know that decisions taken in previous years have a restricted timeframe. We would like to hear from President Trump how he sees this presence. We would be willing to host US soldiers for as long as possible. Very soon, we will have a permanent base in Poland in the form of a missile shield.

     

    PAP: What will be the level of cooperation with the Americans in the context of Poland's non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council?

     

    W.W.: A few weeks ago in New York I met with the United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and we agreed that we would definitely work together in 2018 and 2019. The details are yet to come.

     

    We have a certain advantage over the Americans because we have diplomatic missions in several countries such as North Korea or Iran, in sensitive places where there is no US diplomatic presence. We also have experience gained in recent years, when we provided diplomatic services in places such as Libya and Iraq. If Americans want to use our experience, we will be ready to provide it.

     

    PAP: Will the conflict in Ukraine be the main issue on Poland's agenda in the UN Security Council?

     

    W.W.: It also depends on Ukrainian policy. Ukraine (which is a non-permanent member until the end of 2017 - PAP) did not raise this issue itself. As Ukraine’s only neighbour that is a member of NATO and the EU we are unique in Europe. We are also aware that any conflict in Ukraine will directly affect us.

     

    We want to talk to Ukraine about how to use our non-permanent Security Council membership to help solve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

     

    PAP: Will the subject of the Smolensk crash and the recovery of the Tu-154M wreckage be discussed with the Americans?

     

    W.W.: This issue has already come up. When I was in Washington a few months ago and talked to Secretary of State Tillerson, I mentioned it. Furthermore, I also spoke with the former Secretary of State John Kerry in December 2015 in Brussels on the occasion of the NATO meeting. Already then I asked for assistance. So far there has been no response from the American side, some agencies say that they do not have information on this issue, while we know from other agencies that the Americans could work together on the matter, but that it would need to be a decision made by the State Department. I am convinced that President Andrzej Duda will raise this issue with President Trump.
     

    PAP: Does the Polish government still believe that the return of the wreckage is an essential part of improving relations with Russia?

     

    W.W.: In relations with Russia it is obviously the case, especially given that we have examples where Russia has shown goodwill and has cooperated - for example with regard to the Malaysian plane crash, which was hit over Ukraine but in territory held by Donbas rebels, which after all is under the control of Russian soldiers.

     

    PAP: This year Polish-Russian consultations are due to take place at the deputy foreign minister level. Is this still valid?

     

    W.W.: I hope so. Such an idea appeared in the congratulatory letter from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in connection with the election of Poland as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. A few days ago, during a meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, I talked briefly with Deputy Minister Vladimir Titov, who was the Russian representative there. I recalled this initiative, and Deputy Minister Titov confirmed that it is still on the table and in the coming days and weeks we will push forward in our attempts to hold such consultations, even before Poland assumes its position in the Security Council.

     

    PAP: You said that as long as the price of gas from Russia is competitive, we will be able to receive gas from this source as well.
     

    W.W.: If no political conditions are attached, of course.

     

    PAP: But does that mean that the Polish government will talk to the Russians about extending the Yamal contract?

     

    W.W.: No decision has been made here. The Yamal contract expires in 2022.

     

    PAP: But a decision has to be made by 2019 as to whether to extend the long-term contract with Gazprom.

     

    W.W.: The Baltic Pipe project is now correlated in such a way that when the contract expires, the Baltic Pipe will be ready or almost ready. We will also have a better negotiating position with the Russians, perhaps it will turn out that they will want to maintain their position in the Polish market and will offer some great price that really tempts us, but at the moment this is merely speculation.

     

    PAP: Soon the European Council is due to begin work on the EU’s negotiating mandate with regard to Nord Stream 2. The Estonian government, which has held the EU presidency since July 1, has already announced that it wants to negotiate this mandate swiftly. Meanwhile, the draft mandate presented by the European Commission in June does not fully meet Polish expectations.

     

    W.W.: Not entirely, but it is heading in the right direction. If it turns out that someone will be strong enough to lead the political and business pressure for Nord Stream 2 to be built, then we will insist that it be done in line with European standards and norms.

     

    The Commission's position has sparked resistance, for example from German politicians, who have always maintained that this is a business-only project and that the European Commission cannot impose standards here. So the situation when we were alone, without the support of the Commission, is slowly starting to be reversed.

     

    Today we have been able to convince a large group of states that if such a project is to take place, it should be subject to the supervision of European law, which obviously does not appeal to the investors and initiators behind this idea. The issue of Nord Stream 2 hasn’t been fully settled yet.

     

    PAP: In less than two weeks the deadline will expire for Poland to send a response to the European Commission’s demand to rectify misconduct, which is the first stage of the EU law infringement procedure against Poland activated due to its refusal to relocate refugees. How will the Polish government respond?

     

    W.W.: First of all, we will argue that once again we have received a European Commission document which is biased, which does not properly inform the EU Member States about Poland's actions on refugee resettlement. And we tried at the beginning to look into the possibility of implementing this EU decision and it turned out that there is no way of verifying the migrants in the camps - because these are mainly migrants - in terms of security. Many of them do not have identity documents or have documents whose authenticity is doubtful. Many even hide their age and it cannot be verified, because most young men are claiming to be teenagers, which is not true.

     

    Secondly, the vast majority of them do not want to come to Poland because they are aware that there are richer states in the EU that offer much better social benefits, at least initially, even without the need to work.

     

    Furthermore, we do not agree with the concept of decision-making on migration dictated by European law, since European law can only apply to refugees, not migrants. Decisions on taking in migrants are taken by the Member States on the basis of demography, the labour market, etc., which are primarily economic, not political factors. Migration policy is a prerogative of the EU Member States.

     

    Lastly, we do not agree that mass resettlement can be imposed by force on the people - on the people as well as on the member states - because relocation is a euphemism. The term "relocation", which we use so innocently, requires the selecting - according to unknown criteria – of 7,000 people, transporting them by force to Poland, detaining them in Poland, also by force, against their will. Because if we acted according to European standards, after arrival in Poland, after being identified and given identity papers, they would be free and we could not stop them in the country, they could travel all over Europe.

     

    PAP: Have such expectations - regarding the detaining of refugees accepted by Poland in its territory or stopping them from entering other EU countries - been directly formulated on the part of the EU?

     

    W.W.: That is the assumption, that the state that accepts them will keep them on their territory. In response to our arguments about the unattractiveness of our social benefits system, we were even offered subsidies, there were announcements that the EU would pay for example 6,000 Euro for every immigrant that is taken in. Just how would we explain to Poles that the social benefits of migrants are higher than our minimum wage?

     

    PAP: On Wednesday the European Commission presented its initial proposals for a long-term EU budget after 2020. The Commission’s proposal included references to the relationship between European finances and the rule of law.

     

    W.W.: There is no possibility of sanctioning such a relationship, because the Structural Funds are the result of certain economic agreements. Why does a state get structural funds? Because it opened up its economy, a weaker economy, to competition with wealthier economies. This is therefore a compensation for the losses incurred as a result of the interaction of weaker economies with stronger ones. Structural funds are not a reward for good behaviour. These are ideological fantasies that have been raised by some politicians.

     

    PAP: In the document presented on Wednesday, the Commission puts forward five variants of the future long-term budget, of which only one, which seeks to deepen EU integration, does not anticipate cuts in key agricultural and cohesion policies in Poland. This probably does not bode well as a starting point for the negotiations?

     

    W.W.: Yes, but these cuts are due to objective conditions, to the fact that Europe’s second largest economy and a net payer is leaving the EU, a state which, even despite the rebate, paid huge contributions to the EU budget. We do not know today whether or not the United Kingdom will pay for its access to the Common Market when it is outside the EU. Other countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, made some payments - Switzerland about 50% and Norway as much as 94%. There have been signals from London that none of these models are attractive to them, but we have two years to negotiate this issue.

     

    In parallel to Brexit one will have to consider what to do with a smaller budget: supplement it with a larger contribution from 27 states or leave it at a smaller level and think about how to adapt it for individual policies. This is all ahead of us of course. In addition, there are indeed discussions, whether to continue to allocate the same proportion in the budget for structural expenditure, cohesion funds and the common agricultural policy. This is a question that has been debated for years and that is not linked to Brexit nor to any discussion of the rule of law in Poland or Hungary.
     

    For years, there have been discussions as to whether more money should not be shifted from structural funds to innovation funds - even before Poland's accession to the EU, during the development of the Lisbon Strategy adopted in 2000. So far, modest resources are coming, but they will probably grow in time, which in the new budget perspective will have to be spent on the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, on defence industry development funds. We are just starting this discussion, it's too early to say anything final about it.

     

    PAP: But Poland's position is still that we want to maintain cohesion policy and agricultural policy to the maximum extent possible?

     

    W.W.: For now - yes, but one should remember that the new budget perspective will go beyond 2020. For three years - we assume - we can still develop and our thinking about priorities may change.

     

    PAP: Are we taking into consideration that in the new perspective we could become a net payer to the EU budget?

     

    W.W.: In theory this could be the case, although developing at a rate of 3-4% for the next three years I think that this won’t yet be the case. But slowly one has to get used to the idea that harder times may be approaching, that there could be less money coming from the EU, this is something that we need to be aware of.

     

    Another factor that could trigger a change is the emergence of new forms of integration in the euro zone. The question is whether the euro zone will create its own budget at the expense of the European budget, or whether it will be a separate budget, based on additional contributions.

     

    PAP: Is it possible to interpret Poland's efforts to increase the level of economic cooperation with the United States or China in this context – as a result of the possible reduction of European funds?

     

    W.W.: Exactly so. We have to take into account that, for objective reasons, independent of Poland, the new EU budget may be smaller, which will lead to smaller grants, which in turn may result in different transfers of funds from one policy area to another. We must slowly start thinking about this and react, seeking ways to compensate for this.

     

    We must also slowly start thinking about the fact that the development of Poland can not only depend on structural funds, because using structural funds also requires our contributions, and our contributions - which is particularly visible in regional governments - usually come from bank loans, credit. Many of our regional governments are unable or will not be able to take advantage of structural funds in the near future because they will not be able to continue to go deeper into debt.

     

    PAP: What about our European partners? Will they not regard our new economic ties with non-EU countries as a calculation on our part that the EU is falling apart?

     

    W.W.: No, it is normal to find solutions and strategies in the event of a downturn, of a worsening situation in the EU. It is not betting on the Union to fall apart, on the contrary it is the responsibility of the people who are responsible for the development of the country to look for opportunities to complement development.

     

    PAP: Is President Trump's arrival for the Three Seas Initiative Summit not an attempt to build a counterweight to Germany's position in Europe?

     

    W.W.: But who is leading such a policy of building a counterbalance against whom? Was it we who met a few months ago in a small group in Versailles and talked about dividing the Union into several speeds? Those who accuse people of using external states, such as China and the United States, to improve their own situation, must bear in mind that this process of dividing Europe began earlier and not in our region. We are the ones calling for unity to be maintained, calling for a two-speed Europe not to be introduced, warning against a division based on those in the euro zone and those outside it.

     

    I do not accept such thinking that you have to adapt to those who want to integrate as fast as possible. No - you have to adapt to those who go slower because they are not doing it because of some sort of ideological brakes, but due to historical events, due to the fact that we joined the European Union later and because we could not transform our economies into efficient market economies after the Second World War, that we were instead subjected to the principles of the pie-in-the-sky socialist-communist economy. The fact that we have been slower to adapt to climate or energy policy, or to the energy mix, does not come from ideology, but from objective facts that for many years our economy has been shaped the way it was and we need more time to do it without drastically reducing people’s standard of living. Our European integration cannot be based on ideology and illusion, it must also be based on economic calculation.

     

    PAP: Has the dispute between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Chancellery concerning the appointment of ambassadors been resolved yet? Have your nominations been signed by President Andrzej Duda?

     

    W.W.: In the most apart I hope so. Everything is on the right track.

     

    PAP: The Sejm has since March been working on the drafting of the Foreign Service Act prepared by your ministry. When do you expect it to be passed?

     

    W.W.: Please ask the members of parliament, the project is in first reading, a special subcommittee is working on it. But I would be happy if it was finally adopted by the Sejm by the end of July, then it would be possible to implement it by the end of the year.
     

    Source: PAP. Minister Waszczykowski spoke to Magdalena Cedro, Elwira Krzyżanowska and Marceli Sommer

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