The revival of Intermarium?

23.08.2015 | By Mariola Śmietana

Before becoming a new president of Poland, Andrzej Duda presented the goals of his foreign policy. Now, these aims clarify in the coherent program. Apart from the strengthening of NATO’s presence in Poland or increased activity on the EU arena, Duda often mentions the question of bolstering position of Germany as a dominant country in the region, and, in this context, the issue of Polish relations with other CEE countries.

One of the visions of the Polish foreign policy assumes consolidation of the Central and Eastern European countries alliance. This coalition’s aim is to constitute a counterweight to the economically and politically strong Germany and at the same time strengthen the voice of the countries of the former Soviet bloc. These countries are weaker and often economically dependent upon either Western or Eastern countries. The assumed cooperation is thought to bring benefits in the EU structures, and, what follows, would become a chance to establish the position of these countries as equal partners for Western European leaders. This idea, defined as Jagiellonian Politics (Polityka Jagiellońska), had been realized by Lech Kaczyński, the president of Poland in years 2005-2010. The party he was connected to, Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość), also implemented this concept. If not for this policy, we would not be witnessing the 2008 CEE leaders support for Georgia after the Russian invasion. These events reunited the countries in achieving a common goal.

Since 2010, when Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) gained full power in Poland (CP created the government in 2005, however, from 2010 it was backed by the president Komorowski), Poland started to implement new kind of foreign policy cultivation – the Piast Politics (Polityka Piastowska). This strategy assumes a political turn to Berlin and London, and resulted in in far lesser Polish engagement in relations with Visegrad+ countries. Many events that had a potential of strengthening these ties, like the Ukrainian crisis, were ignored. Also, the question of politics towards Russia instead of uniting V+ countries – divided them. Relations with Russia seem to be the most disputable issue among CEE countries and leads to numerous discrepancies of aims and intentions.

However, the latest political changes in Poland might lead to the prioritization of relations with V+ countries. Strengthening position of Law and Justice and new president might push the Jagiellonian Politics concept into the mainstream. More and more often the words indicating a desire of getting closer to the Eastern countries can be heard both from the presidential staff and Andrzej Duda himself. In the interview for Polish Press Agency (PAP), he said: “We should care for the improvement of the relations that became difficult, especially in the Central and Eastern Europe. This is a big task to be fulfilled by us. I would like to take an active part in it. (…) I am thinking about creation of the partner bloc starting from the Baltic Sea, and ending at the Black Sea – the Adriatic. We already have signals from the heads of the CEE countries that there is a will to meet all together and start talks about this idea.” In his presidential proclamation, president also mentioned the restoration of the Visegrad Group and appealing new partners. This alliance is of the big importance to Poland since geopolitics stands for its existence. In case of rising of imperialist Russian moods, Poland is forced to create such coalitions. Of course, the presidential staff is conscious of the countries differences in the region. Krzysztof Szczerski, who is responsible for the foreign policy in the Chancellery of the President, said: “Central Europe is devied when it comes to the policy directions. First moments of the presidenty will serve to find the possible fields of the cooperation. They might be based on security issues, and concrete investment and infrastructure projects.”

This political course is visible in the presidential calendar of foreign visits. On 23rd of August, the date of anniversary of signing the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, Duda will visit Estonia. This meeting is a part of the plan to create the Baltic states alliance. It clearly indicates the will to show the unity of Russia’s neighbors towards its foreign policy and the support for the new EU and NATO countries. Although according to the president’s co-workers the order of visits is unimportant, Tallin has to be seen a kind of symbolic gesture. The meeting precedes talks in Berlin and London. One month later, on 21st and 22nd of September the Arraiolos Group meeting will take place, that Bulgarian, Austrian, Estonian, Slovenian, and Latvian heads of states will also attend. At the beginning of October the Visegrad Group leaders will speak at the summit. This is going to be the moment that will indicate whether the restoration of the relations will actually become a reality and whether other presidents share the will of political union of the CEE countries. The discrepancies discussed before are a threat to this plan.

Nevertheless, the most important meeting will take place at the beginning of November, just before the NATO summit in Warsaw. In the Bucharest talks, co-organized by Poland, leaders of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania will participate. Poland will try to force its conception of strengthening the security of Central and Eastern Europe. This issue is of a big importance for Andrzej Duda, who often repeated the need of physical NATO’s existence in Eastern Europe. It assumes a factual presence of NATO’s infrastructure and military on the area of the Eastern flank of North Atlantic Alliance. This idea is obviously a result of the Russian expansionism, however, as mentioned earlier, countries of this region are carrying an incoherent policy towards Russia, what can be an obstacle in elaborating the common voice during the Warsaw summit.

Another meeting, the Peking 16+1 summit, is of a big importance too, especially that Polish representation was not present at the last talks that took place last year in December in Belgrade. Project, initiated by China in 2012, constitutes a great base for the deeper cooperation between China and CEE countries. As we know, nowadays Beijing becomes the biggest economical power. At the end of 2014 it overtook USA in terms of nominal GDP. This new economical giant shows a particular interest in our region. Chinese investments and project of the New Silk Road are definitely a proof of this involvement. Also in this context, it is truly important to create the coalition of the CEE countries. The alliance, having a common interest in intensification of contacts with the new economical leader, should speak with one voice and boost its significance for the Asian partner. Unfortunately, Andrzej Duda will not show up at the autumn celebrations of the end of World War II in Peking. This could have been a great opportunity to increase the rang of bilateral contacts between Poland and China, because as for today the Vistula country does not show any bigger commitment in these relations.

Decisions of the freshly chosen president of Poland clearly show that the restoration of the CEE countries bloc will be one of the priorities of his presidency. However, the questions whether the consolidation of political aims of all countries can be achieved and whether the differences that arouse in the past years can be settled, still need to wait for their answers.


About Author

Mariola Śmietana

Student of International Relations at Cracow University of Economics with specialization Eastern Studies. Member of the Jagiellonian Club and OSOM Nowy Sącz. Interested in foreign and domestic policy of Poland and China.