FM Waszczykowski attends 15th Foreign Policy Forum

“We have always sought to make Poland an important political player on the European and international stage,” said Minister Witold Waszczykowski addressing the 15th Foreign Policy Forum organised by the Polish Institute of International Affairs.

Remarks by Minister Witold Waszczykowski at the PISM Foreign Policy Forum: "The global challenges of Polish foreign policy in the context of its UN Security Council membership"


Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Taking over the reins at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs two years ago, I understood that the new government, which had promised a profound reorientation of foreign policy, would face a number of challenges. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was thus faced with a fundamental question: how to change foreign policy so that it becomes a policy that starts to express Polish interests, so that it becomes a policy better suited at defending its interests more effectively? But also what tools should be deemed appropriate to implement this policy? What tools can be used to guarantee greater state security? How to go about creating the best conditions for further civilizational and economic development in Poland? How to shape global and European policies so that Poland’s perspective, its experience and voice can be heard? International circumstances were not particular favourable at the time, many of these conditions continue to this day, leading many sceptics to state that we would not succeed. Two years later, it is clear that they were wrong.

4803.jpg The first problem that we had to face involved breaking free from the stereotypes that prevailed in foreign policy thinking in previous years. Naive optimism had it that it is enough to be in the institutions and simply flow with the European policy stream, the mainstream, believing that all countries in our neighbourhood would adhere to established norms and standards.

Let me give you one example. Do you remember perchance 2013, the White Paper of the National Security Office, its rose-tinted outlook, its analysis of the international situation and the cosy way in which it presented the possibility of cooperation with Russia. It was also assumed that international institutions, especially the European Union, were simply altruist clubs. Even put to question was the obvious truth, that membership of international organizations, such as the European Union, is never an end in itself, but rather a means to achieve national interests, something the Prime Minister just spoke about with regard to the EU.

The emphasis that our current government puts on the right definition of national interest has never meant that we want to pursue foreign policy in isolation from international partners. On the contrary, our goal has always been and always will be to make sure that Poland is a meaningful partner in European and world politics. Testimony to this are the series of important events that our country has hosted recently or will host in the near future. It is sufficient to mention a few of them: World Youth Day combined with the visit of Holy Father Pope Francis in Krakow, the NATO summit in Warsaw last year, the session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. Next year we will also organize numerous events, in Poland and abroad, related to the 100th anniversary of regaining independence, and we also intend to host the important COP24 Climate Summit in Katowice, planned for 2018, which will seek to adopt an implementation package for the Paris Agreement.

The Prime Minister already mentioned that the measure of Poland's authority and recognition for its international deeds was the June vote on our non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.

We have also shaken the country out of its long-standing passivity, creating lasting legal conditions for the functioning of international organizations and agencies in Poland, such as ODIHIR and FRONTEX. This improves our chances of hosting more institutions in the future.

Without withdrawing from our intensive cooperation with the largest European Union countries (here I must recall: last year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Weimar Triangle, I remind you of the ever-growing trade with Germany, which has already exceeded 1 billion euros and which far exceeds Germany's trade relations with Russia), we turned towards Central Europe. We assumed – as it turned out correctly – that there is untapped political potential in our region. A dozen or so small and medium-sized states have seized the opportunity to influence what is happening on our continent. This has changed due to the regional consolidation in which Poland has played a key role. The Visegrad Group (also within its extended “Visegrad +” format), the Three Seas Initiative, the Bucharest Nine Triangle, the NATO’s Eastern Flank Triangle consisting of Poland, Romania and Turkey – these are the platforms of cooperation that have begun to change the European political landscape by coordinating positions on some strategic issues, including the future of the European Union. It is a paradox that appeals for the preservation of the unity of the Union come from exactly this part of Europe, whilst concepts creating the division of Europe emanate from the other part of the continent. Together, we talk about the Multiannual Financial Framework, migration and energy policy. Various forms of Central European cooperation have been recognized and appreciated as a platform for dialogue by international leaders. The Visegrad Group, which for the aforementioned Germany is a bigger trading partner than France, is a desirable partner for political talks in Europe. The Prime Minister’s schedule packed to the rim with visits is also a reminder of this.

Building bilateral and multilateral partnerships is not limited to Europe. Over the past two years, we have invested a lot of energy and political capital in developing relations with non-European partners, notably the United States, but not only. Asian countries - China, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan, Vietnam – with whom we are implementing strategic partnership declarations, are coming to the fore.

We are very hopeful about becoming more active on the African continent. We are supporting these efforts by rebuilding the network of our diplomatic missions. We are returning to Senegal, Tanzania, we are thinking about dynamic Sudan. We have also reactivated diplomatic missions in other parts of the world: Baghdad. We plan to reactivate Tripoli and Damascus. We are opening embassies in the Philippines, Panama, and consulates in Belfast and Houston. Other consulates in the United States are planned, and our staff will work with a growing network of trade offices created by the Ministry of Development.

All the projects I have just mentioned, as well as the EU initiatives that the Prime Minister spoke about, must be strongly rooted in an effective and far-sighted security policy. Without lasting security, guaranteed not only by the strength of the armed forces, but also by allied and international cooperation, it is difficult to imagine the normal development of the country. And it is this issue that I would like to devote a big part of my speech to, as security is not something that is given to us once and for always. It is a constant process of monitoring the threats and strengthening the defence capabilities of the state.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Beyond our eastern border, there is a war provoked by the neo-imperialist policies of the Russian Federation. The mere fact that two of our neighbours are ensnared in armed conflict is enough reason to look anxiously to the east, however aggression towards Ukraine is not an end in itself. The aim of Russian policy is to rope Central and Eastern Europe into the role of Moscow's strategic depth; transforming it into a kind of "buffer zone", free from NATO armies and institutions of the Western world, prone to pressure from major capitals. We recall the “near abroad”, an infamous concept used not too long ago. As part of efforts to return to this state of affairs, we are seeing fundamental principles of security architecture being undermined and a return to well-known – and one would have though long-discredited – ideas of the "Concert of Powers", the division of Europe into spheres of influence. The culmination of this process would have to be a crack of NATO unity and pushing our country into becoming an object, not subject, of international politics.

Poland's response to these trends, regardless of the modernization of the armed forces, refers to several dimensions of international politics. First and foremost is the Alliance dimension, linked to NATO. Next, we should talk about the EU dimension resulting from our membership in the EU, as well as the continental dimension, relating to the principles of peaceful coexistence in Europe and finally to the global dimension.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In recent years, NATO has changed profoundly. Poland’s security situation has radically improved. The turning point in this process was the Warsaw Summit of the NATO Alliance in July 2016.

Today on Polish soil we host a battalion combat group, consisting in large part of American soldiers, but we are also happy about the presence of the British, Romanian and Croat soldiers. Apart from battalion combat group in Poland, other American units are also stationed in Poland. The largest is the armoured brigade combat group located in Lower Silesia. The air-logistics unit in Powidz also deserves a mention here.

Accompanying these units is contingency planning focused on defending Central Europe and joint exercises. These achievements would not have been possible without the involvement of the United States. We succeeded in establishing close and partner relationships with the current US administration. We will seek to strengthen the US presence, amongst other things by reaching the operational capabilities of the Anti-Missile Defence Base in Redzikowo by December 2018, increasing the number of military exercises containing US forces and setting up war equipment depots in Poland.

The logical follow-up to the Alliance's current preparations in the face of Russia's aggressive policy would be the full rebuilding the so-called follow-on forces, which, in the event of a conflict, would allow them to move into the action of displacing a potential opponent. We hope that it will also be reflected in the decisions of next year's NATO summit and we will be able to create a so-called NATO-Schengen. This year we confirmed the "open door" policy by welcoming Montenegro's accession.

4799.jpg One of the major achievements of the NATO summit in Warsaw was the announcement of the declaration on NATO-EU co-operation. In its own way, it was like a thawing of a frozen conflict.

This event is important both because of the difficult history of relations between these institutions as well as due to the increasingly intense debate on European defence policy. We approach the process with both hope and interest. At the same time, from the very beginning of this discussion, it has to be said that the European Union unfortunately is not and will not be an alternative to NATO as a guarantor of security in Central Europe. The European Union does not have the right infrastructure, potential, especially in the sphere of nuclear deterrence.

Some Western European politicians and experts try to scare us with a vision of the United States moving away from European affairs in favour of other priorities, but from the perspective of Poland or wider Central Europe, we see the opposite. We have more American military presence in Central Europe than ever before.

Nor can we overlook a certain paradox, linked to the strengthening of the Eastern Flank. Two out of the four framework states of the already mentioned battalion groups - the United States and Canada - not only do they not belong to the EU, but they are not even located in Europe, and the third - United Kingdom - will soon no longer be a member of the Union. Only Germany decided to join this initiative full on. Of course we are grateful to all Alliance countries for their presence on the eastern borders of Europe irrespective of the scale of their contribution, but it is difficult for us to ignore this surprising coincidence.

So, when it comes to the strategic autonomy of Europe, we must realize that, first, such autonomy is possible only through the presence of NATO on the Eastern Flank. And - secondly - that defence under the European umbrella can cost as much or even more than NATO. Let's look at which countries today spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Among these countries we will not find the EU’s "hard core", nor are they among those increasing their defence budgets the fastest.

We are therefore in favour of a pragmatic, ideologically-free approach to the European Defence Initiative. We would like the start-point for this to be harmonious cooperation with NATO, open to all concerned and refer to threats from all directions on a 360 degree basis - just like NATO does. Strategic autonomy does not mean acting in isolation from or against NATO. It might mean political and decision-making autonomy, but also co-operation and coordination with the Alliance. There are enough international security challenges and tasks to go around.

We would also like to avoid a situation where the European Defence Fund is set up to reinforce a select group of large international arms corporations. It should take into account the specificity of this industry not only in the countries identified as the engine of European integration but also in other medium and small European countries.

We are open to constructive dialogue when it comes to PESCO, permanent structural co-operation of defence budgets, border protection, business cooperation. We recognize that countries more exposed to dangers coming from the South, especially to international terrorism, have a different strategic sensitivity. Over the past twenty years, on many occasions, Poland has proven that it can be a valuable ally, also in the fight against terrorism. Today we are also participating in the anti-Daesh coalition, and Polish troops are present in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

At this point, describing the complexity of Poland's involvement in European security, I would also like to touch on efforts to maintain a relationship with Great Britain that is as close as possible following Brexit. The recent Polish-British consultations held in the Quadriga format and David Davis's visit yesterday proved that on both sides there is the will and the energy to push ahead in this direction. Apart from trade issues and the protection of the rights of Polish citizens in the UK, security is the main theme of cooperation with the United Kingdom. We believe that although Britain will leave the EU, it will not leave Europe and it will remain a close partner of Europe.

We hope that the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to Paris will give impetus to a serious discussion on European security also with our French partner.

On the topic of military security, we have not lost sight of energy security. In the EU context, we treat the issue as a test of the credibility of assurances about openness to the sensitivity and interests of all member states. Poland has decided to diversify gas supplies. We are working on the LNG terminal, we want to build Baltic Pipe. This creates a real prospect of becoming independent of Russian gas supplies. With this in mind, we are keeping a close eye on the European Commission's actions regarding the Nord Stream II pipeline. Consistent enforcement of regulations contained in Energy Policy Package III would certainly help Central Europe "break free" in this area as well. We hope that far-sighted European politics will prevail over the corporate interests of several large companies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

4804.jpg Efforts to guarantee the security of the Republic of Poland, carried out through NATO and the European Union, are rooted in Europe’s security architecture. It is hardly a secret to anyone that the situation in this regard is looking pretty worrying. Russia's violations of all possible international rules and agreements have pushed Europe into a state reminiscent of the difficult times of the Cold War.

The OSCE, both as a political body and as an agreement regulating arms control in Europe, does not function properly. However, we need this level of dialogue. An organization based on consensus has unfortunately been taken hostage by Russia, which is forcing its own particular interests at the expense of the common good. Also, other states do not shy away from similar behaviour, ruining the necessary trust and the search for a consensus plane.

The OSCE must be maintained above all as a model of coexistence of states on European soil, ensuring respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity. I have seen its importance with my own eyes during my last visit to the Caucasus and Ukraine. The OSCE must also be maintained due to its long-term role as a mechanism for arms control, confidence building and avoiding military incidents. We were able to appreciate the significance of this dimension of the Organization during Russia’s recent “Zapad 2017” exercises organized in violation of transparency rules regarding the number of soldiers and equipment involved, as well as the scenario enacted.

Poland is involved in the OSCE in particular through its strong presence in the monitoring mission in Ukraine. In particular, we are ready and committed to help avoid military incidents. At the same time, we believe that no such initiative carried out by European countries should undermine NATO's efforts. Restoring European security based on the OSCE can only be achieved by harmonizing the actions of Western countries with Alliance policy, not by avoiding it.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our work in the UN Security Council will be a logical continuation of the activities undertaken so far mainly on the European continent. It opens up new areas of responsibility and gives us tools to meet our goals and priorities. We want to strengthen our credibility as a country that is not only a "consumer" but also a "supplier" of security – not only on a European but also on a global scale. It is also a matter of shaping the international order at a time when it faces a number of important challenges.

As a member of the Security Council, we will temporarily be at its helm. We will also preside over selected sanction committees. We are aware that the Council's work agenda identifies long-lasting conflicts and unforeseen crises. We are also aware of the power dynamics within the Council. But this will not deter us from taking the initiative and promoting our priorities. We will make our case and build coalitions around them.

As a member of the Security Council, we intend to stress the need to respect international law, which is based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will clearly express our position on the war in Ukraine and recall that in particular the permanent members of the Council have a special obligation to respect the Charter of the United Nations.

The work of the UN Security Council is largely dominated by regional conflicts. A big proportion of these conflicts are in Africa and the Middle East. That is also why in a month our representative in the Security Council will be a distinguished expert on this region. In resolving and preventing conflicts, especially in the form of mediation, Polish diplomacy can provide significant added value. We will therefore counter regional conflicts that increase the threat of terrorism, mass migration and humanitarian crises. We intend to actively participate in the discussion on the relationship between development and security and the increased effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations. We have already decided to return to peace operations, which we thoughtlessly withdrew from a few years ago.

4796.jpg Great responsibility rests with the Council with regard to counteracting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This is especially evident in the era of increasing tension on the Korean Peninsula, triggered by the DPRK's nuclear and rocket programmes. Poland is one of few countries which maintains an embassy in Pyongyang and it continues to be part of the Neutral State Supervisory Commission. This provides us certain insights in the discussion on how to resolve this problem. Attention will also need to be focused on developments regarding the Iranian nuclear programme. I hope that my experience working in Iran can also be of benefit to our team working in the Security Council. I believe that the fate of the Iranian and Korean nuclear programmes will depend to a large extent on how the issue of Ukraine’s sovereignty is resolved; Ukraine after all disposed of its nuclear weapons and is now the target of aggression.

We believe that the United Nations should address the new threats to peace and security, including hybrid threats, non-state actors, and cyber security threats. We want to focus more attention on interreligious dialogue initiatives, because this is something that can reduce tensions in international relations. We also want to boost efforts to defend religious minorities in areas of armed conflict, including Christian minorities. For who will protect these minorities, if not the Christian state, the Catholic state.

Contrary to what sceptics and critics have been saying, we want to actively shape the standards of fundamental human rights and freedoms in the world, in line with our traditional worldview. The experience gained in the Security Council will be used in our efforts to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council between 2021 and 2022.

Distinguished guests,

Global security is a system of connected vessels within a regional and global context. Polish diplomacy is responding in an appropriate manner to this situation. We are strengthening our alliances, developing partnerships with selected partners, in line with our interests. Throughout NATO, the European Union, the OSCE and the UN Security Council, we are playing an active part in shaping this agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There won’t be a shortage of crises and challenges that we will have to face. Today, thanks to the co-operation of all the centres of power in Poland, we are not only able to meet them, but we will also take advantage of the opportunities provided by our international commitment to improving the security and development prospects of our country, our community and our homeland.

Distinguished guests, Prime Minister Szydło,

Polish foreign policy is defined by the Law and Justice programme and government programmes. We defined the goals, the path, that we have followed for two years. We have seen here a significant qualitative change, introduced two years ago by the Law and Justice government. This good change in Polish foreign policy has been fully implemented and this is something I have the honour of informing the Prime Minister and all of you, distinguished guests.