I amAt a time when the European Union (EU) was seeking orientation, it was a success for Polish diplomacy: in 2014, then-Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski shielded his counterparts from Germany and France.
During the protests on the Maidan in Ukraine, which will eventually lead to the abdication of President Viktor Yanukovych, Sikorsky spoke like no other. In a trio with Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Frenchman Laurent Fabius, he traveled to Ukraine, met with the president in Kyiv, and finally encouraged the demonstrators with a passion Steinmeier and Fabius could not do.
Poland, which has long been under Moscow’s influence, has always better and more deeply understood the plight and, not least, the realities of people’s lives in Eastern Europe than the old EU members. Sikorski threw this examination in favor of a common European response to the events in Ukraine, a response without which the course of events would probably be different.
At the time, it seemed that the so-called Franco-German engine could be expanded to include Poland as a constructive partner promoting integration. The Weimar Triangle, the free format of the three countries, was for the first time effective in terms of foreign policy.
Of course, the Polish side was hoping for more, Warsaw has not yet reached the “big two” of the EU at eye level. The Normandy format was organized without Poland. Sikorski was frustrated. Since then, Germany and France have met in four people with Russia and Ukraine. However, those months of 2014 are considered the peak of Polish influence in the EU and on the politics of neighbors.
Today, Poland is again facing a crisis in its eastern neighbors. The uprising of Belarusians against dictator Alexander Lukashenko has been a hot topic in the country since the August 9 vote. And again, like few others, Warsaw supports the aspirations of the opposition, which is threatened with arrest and torture.
Leading figures of the Belarusian opposition are now in Poland, Warsaw has become a favorite address of this diaspora; The best example of this is the regime-critical Nexta channel, which reports on the violence of government forces from secure Warsaw.
Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya, Lukashenko’s candidate, visited Poland for the first time since her exile, not Germany or France. Poland also provides financial support and is one of the most vocal supporters of tougher sanctions against Lukashenko and his supporters.
However, something different for Poland is different than in the crisis months of 2014: Warsaw does not have time to turn its commitments into influence in the EU. Hardly anyone knows about the efforts of the Poles. Instead, little Lithuania with hyperactive Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius is the point of contact in Brussels or Berlin on Belarus.
But that’s not all. Warsaw’s efforts in Belarus, which are in principle commendable, have a negative impact on the entire EU: Poland undermines Europe’s foreign policy, damaging its perception.
“LGBT zones free of ideology”
In the evening before the election in Belarus, members of the Weimar Triangle issued a joint statement. In it, they expressed concern about “violations” during the vote. They complained that election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were not accepted, and reaffirmed their conviction that Belarus would also follow the path of “democratic values” and “the rule of law” in the future.
The problem with the tripartite explanation is that it has no credibility. The reason: the OSCE, or rather its human rights department, also criticized the election campaign in Poland in the summer. For many years, Warsaw has been arguing with the EU Commission over its judicial restructuring.
Minority rights, freedom of the press, independence of the judiciary – Poland has lagged behind in all this since the government was adopted in 2015 by the National Conservative Party of Law and Justice (PiS). While the demonstration was taking place in Minsk, LGBT activists clashed with security forces in Warsaw. “LGBT-free zones” have now been declared in Poland.
How, more and more observers are asking whether the EU should really promote democracy and the rule of law with such a member in its ranks? As a club of Democrats, Europe is making itself distrustful.
Only last week, during the election campaign, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called Poland in the same breath as Belarus, but not as one would like in Warsaw. Therefore, Biden spoke of the “rise of totalitarian regimes.” It should be reminded that Poland is a member of the EU.
Demand and reality are far apart. Poland’s foreign policy ambitions are much bigger today than in 2014. The country wants to be a middle state in the region. This is reflected in the attempt to take the lead in formats such as the Visegrad Group or the Three Seas Initiative, which is designed to better engage the countries of Eastern and Central Europe between the Baltic States and Bulgaria. Or in the Lublin Triangle, where Poland works together with Lithuania and Ukraine.
Ambition is the last refuge from failure
Poland’s potential actually speaks in favor of a leading role in Europe: the country is home to almost 40 million people, before the crisis in the Crown its economy grew to five percent a year, and Poland’s military potential is also a key figure.
However, as horror author Stephen King already knew, ambition is the last resort before failure. This is how Poland’s foreign policy should be characterized at the moment, even if it finally pursues a sovereign policy in contrast to the “liberal, degenerate” Western Europe. But there is no other explanation for the fact that Lithuania left Warsaw with 2.8 million inhabitants.
The so-called judicial reform, agitation against minorities, especially sexual minorities, communication with the media, his behavior with wide legs, clumsy diplomacy: all this makes Poland impossible for itself in Europe.
In the current crises, especially after Brexit, Warsaw can strengthen the EU as a middle state in the east of the Community and make it more capable of acting globally.
As long as Poland continues to turn away from the rule of law, the country is not a constructive but a destructive force outside its borders, whether it wants to or not. Even committed foreign policy initiatives do not change anything.