• January 10, 2017
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Andrzej Duda’s foreign policy towards Lithuania: Return to Giedroyc policy?

On the one hand, cooperation in the field of economy, energy and military as well as Intermarium collaboration. On the other hand, unresolved issues related to Polish minority in Lithuania – experts asked by zw.lt try to determine the place of Lithuania in foreign policy of Andrzej Duda.

On Monday (9 January) the goals of Andrzej Duda’s foreign policy for year 2017 were announced. Implementation of decisions taken at the NATO summit in Warsaw in the military and political dimension, cooperation between the EU and NATO, membership in the United Nations Security Council, strengthening regional cooperation – these are the main goals of foreign policy of the Polish President.

Radczenko: The policy of “cold” peace will be continued

“It seems to me that in 2017 the place of Lithuania in Polish foreign policy will be roughly the same as before. President Andrzej Duda stated that one of his priorities would be implementation of decisions taken at the NATO summit in Warsaw in the military and political dimension. This is also the priority of Lithuanian foreign policy, which opens up a space for Polish-Lithuanian cooperation. Poland and Lithuania have similar views on threat from Russia and have common interests as regards energy policy. In my opinion cooperation between these countries in the field of security, including energy security, will be traditionally excellent” – said Aleksander Radczenko, blogger, lawyer and political commentator in Lithuania, in an interview with zw.lt.

However, when referring to regional cooperation, Radczenko was not so optimistic. “Another priority of Andrzej Duda is regional cooperation, but it seems that the matter of Baltic countries is not a priority issue for Warsaw. And relations with Vilnius are affected by Polish minority matters in Lithuania. For that reason, in terms of Polish-Lithuanian regional cooperation the policy of “cold” peace is likely to be continued in 2017, though, obviously, the relations may be warmed if compromise solutions will be found (as regards Orlen and Polish postulates, for example). Provided that they will be accepted by all parties” – said the famous blogger.

Pukszto: Cooperation similar to relations between Kaczyński and Adamkus is unattainable.

“The year 2016 has shown that foreign policy of Andrzej Duda is very active and multi-vector. One might even say that Andrzej Duda is more active that Bronisław Komorowski in terms of foreign policy. It seems that the position of Poland in NATO is strengthened. The voice of Poland is better heard in NATO. It seems that Duda implements the decisions made at the June NATO summit in Warsaw very consistently – said Andrzej Pukszto, the head of the Department of Political Science at the Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, in an interview with zw.lt.

He believes that the concept of Intermarium may positively affect the Polish-Lithuanian relations. “Andrzej Duda consistently implements the policy based on the idea to form a group of post-socialist states called Intermarium. I think we may expect a lot of interesting and far-reaching initiatives in 2017. Andrzej Duda moved these matters forward” – noted Pukszto.

“Lithuania fits well into the group of these states, from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic Sea. However, as regards steps to be taken by the President, it seems that Grybauskaitė has the baton. Unfortunately, within last year she made few gestures towards President Andrzej Duda. There were some brief meetings, during a summit in Dubrownik, for example, but few actions were actually taken. It seems that there are few closer contacts similar to those between the President Valdas Adamkus and Lech Kaczyński or Aleksander Kwaśniewski. Unfortunately, today such cooperation is a pipe dream. It is unattainable” – he stressed. Pukszto is convinced that Poland is ready to initiate discussions, as demonstrated by the participation of professor Krzysztof Szczerski in the Snow Meeting in Trakai.

However, he also sees some disadvantages of Polish foreign policy. “The position of Poland in the EU institutions has weakened. In that respect Duda is a hostage of political situation in his country. There are some concerns that the role and status of Poland will not be maintained” – stated Andrzej Pukszto.

He does not exclude that “cooperation within the Weimar Triangle may be weakened.”

Wojciech Jakóbik: At the level of rhetoric Poland takes a more strict approach towards Lithuania.

“Lithuania is neglected by Polish foreign policy. Since the primary objective is to support Polish minority abroad, political cooperation loses its momentum as a result of persistent problems of Lithuanian Poles. What spices the matter up is that even though the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania is pro-Russian, it receives support from Warsaw, which legitimizes its activity. Perhaps if this organization did not support Russian minority, it would be no longer necessary, being the only political organization of Poles in the country” – suggested Wojciech Jakóbik, Editor in Chief of biznesalert.pl, in an interview with zw.lt.

Threat from Russia is still a factor that brings the countries together. “Poles and Lithuanians are still united because they are afraid of Russian aggression. In August last year the President Dalia Grybauskaitė discussed the issues related to the risk of provocative actions in so-called isthmus of Suwałki. The LITPOLUKRBRIG multinational military brigade also operates. Poles and Lithuanians cooperate to reinforce NATO’s Eastern Flank and, as a result, soldiers from allied states, with the USA ahead, will come to Poland and other countries of the Eastern Flank of the Alliance in 2017. Poland and Lithuania are still critical of Gazprom’s expansion in Central and Eastern Europe, with the Nord Stream 2 project and the struggle for a greater use of gas pipelines in Germany (OPAL). At the level of rhetoric Poland takes a more strict approach towards Lithuania and is less firm towards pro-Russian Polish minority. In terms of realistic policy, cooperation of both countries in the field of security is still indisputable and this is good news because such matters should be a part of cross-party consensus” – emphasized Jakóbik.

Relations with Lithuania will also depend on the policy of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“However, we can see that there are new ideas, such as intensification of works carried out by the Visegrad Group, or Trimarium, which causes that Vilnius, one of our most important allies, is pushed into the background. Therefore, it should be assumed that the President Andrzej Duda conducts an active eastern policy, including policy towards Lithuania, but focus is shifted towards different matters in that area. How his overall cooperation with the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will look like depends on the future of its current head who failed to implement his innovative eastern policy in the Belarussian area. The idea to replace Biełsat with the Polish Polonia Television was criticized by experts and rejected by the President of Belarus” – said Polish journalist for zw.lt.

“We do not know whether eastern policy will return to old Giedroyc patterns, which was suggested by the Batory Foundation, but it is likely that major changes will be introduced in the ministry, along with staff changes that will make it easier or more difficult for the President to act in the Lithuanian area. In 2017 we should wish Polish diplomacy as few diplomatic gaffes as possible and constructive cooperation with Lithuanians. Meanwhile, Lithuanians should concede in terms of Polish minority rights, in the interest of good relations. Anniversary of the May 3 Constitution may serve as an indicator of the current relations between the countries. Lithuania made a step forward as it celebrated Polish Independence Day in 2016. Poles could return the favor” – added Wojciech Jakóbik.

Rokita: Poland will continue “Sikorski policy”

“From among four Poland’s neighbours that are EU members Andrzej Duda visited four of them during his presidency within a year and a half. Most of them were visited more than once. He was also twice in Ukraine. The only country he did not visit is Lithuania. Also other members of the Polish govermnent did not appear in Lithuania within more than a year of governing. Measures of Beata Szydło’s government and Andrzej Duda should be analysed as a whole. Until now the President did not adopt international strategy in his policy and his views on key issues were not different from the views of his political camp, Law and Justice. By contrast, we see a lot of commitment to Belarussian matters as many senior politicians from Poland, sush as Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and Marshal of the Senate, visited Belarus, even though Mińsk is not EU and NATO member, and what is more, Łukaszenka has a lot to answer for and he disappointed Poland many times. So it turned out that Duda and Polish government visit Lithuania more seldom than all other neighbours. Right, the number of visits does not have to indicate that the relations are cold or warm, but note that Lech Kaczyński managed to visit Lithuania sixteen times during his incomplete presidency, whereas Duda did not at all” – said Zbigniew Rokita, journalist in the editorial office of the “New Eastern Europe” bimonthly which is devoted to issues related to Eastern Europe and Central Asia as well as European policy towards the East. According to Rokita, such an approach contrasts with the policy of Lech Kaczyński who was a frequent visitor in Lithuania.

“It is even more sad as many people hoped that Andrzej Duda would refer to the efforts of Lech Kaczyński and warm up the Polish-Lithuanian relations. However, he does not take any specific measures and this is unlikely to change in 2017. Both Duda and Waszczykowski, along with Szydło, will continue to apply “Sikorski Doctrine” based on giving ultimatum to Vilnius: we will not set foot in Lithuania until so-called Polish postulates are met. The Polish Presidential Palace pays much attention to Polish diaspora. Repatriation of Poles from the East and their rights abroad are the issues considered. In this repect the passive approach of Duda towards Lithuania is even more surprising. Firstly, since Lithuania is so “strategic neighbour”, passiveness is meaningful and may be perceived as unfriendly. Secondly, this is not the way to resolve a dispute” – noted Rokita.

“For that reason there is no indication that in the coming year we will see the sudden change in Duda’s attitude towards Lithuania and more activity in that area. By the way, according to a survey carried out a few months ago (Baltijos tyrimai/Gallup), two thirds of Poles in Lithuania declare that they like Putin’s policy or they like it much. So the question is: are we going to realize one day that Lithuanian Poles do not have to be represented by Warsaw and a symbolic dispute over Polish plates and names spelling is not an actual problem of Polish minority?” – concluded Zbigniew Rokita.


Translated by Grzegorz Gaura within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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