Georgian-Russian conflict: Poland’s concerns with Russia

Poland
Foundation for European Studies - European Institute
 
The Georgian-Russian conflict was carefully observed in Poland and arouse keen interest among politicians, political commentators, the public opinion and media, who in turn were following with deep interest the EU reaction and in particular the position of the French Presidency.
 
In the opinion of both the society and the politicians, one can observe the conviction that Russia’s actions towards Georgia not only constitutes threat for Georgian sovereignty, but also marks the beginning of the wider-scale Russian offensive meant to subordinate former Soviet republics and the entire area of the former Soviet Block. This conflict has been seen as an important factor for the future development of EU-Russian relations, the European Neighbourhood Policy, as well as EU and NATO enlargement to the East.
 
One can observe a certain correspondence between these opinions – regardless of political option – as well as some, yet minor differences – regarding more or less drastic sanctions against Russia. We can observe a common understanding about the necessity of Georgia being accepted as a member of the EU and NATO, but also there is an agreement about the fact that the perspective of membership in both organizations may be delayed due to the Russian-Georgian conflict in the situation of lack of will on the side of the Western members of both organizations.
 
Government position
 
After the incident on the Georgian border with participation of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Radosław Sikorski – concluded that “this fact should not however mean that the EU-Russia talks regarding new cooperation agreement should be blocked. This is not in Poland’s interest”.[1]
 
On 13 September 2008, during the Conference What Europe for Christianity? What Christianity for Europe?, Władyslaw Bartoszewski, Prime Minister plenipotentiary for international dialogue, stated that in his view, the main challenges facing the EU are: striving for increase of welfare and security for the citizens as well as the community enlargement strategy.[2]
 
In the opinion of the Polish government, Europe should try to bring the Eastern neighbours closer to the EU (among others via “Organization for Democracy and Economic Development” (GUAM)), which could constitute an “alternative for Russian proposals [...] Poland would like to see timely implementation of the Eastern Partnership concept”. Poland stands on the position that the Council should instigate the European Committee to work out the concrete projects within the Partnership. Prime Minister Tusk supported the idea of concluding an association agreement with Georgia.[3]
 
Experts opinions
 
According to the Polish Press Agency on 4 December 2008, an independent Polish member of the parliament, former President of the Sejm[4] Foreign Affairs Committee, Pawel Zalewski, stressed that the key to solving the political Russian-Georgian conflict lies in Europe and that “current EU policy vis-à-vis Russia will certainly not be shape as before the conflict”.[5]
 
Media
 
The Polish press noted that during the NATO Summit in Brussels on 19 August 2008, the ministers limited their activities only to the presentation of solidarity gestures towards Georgia in relation with the Russian-Georgian conflict. There was no declaration on future membership of Georgia and Ukraine in the NATO[6]. The same tone of skepticism with some undertones of complaint could be heard regarding the position of the EU vis-à-vis Georgia. The publicist of “Tygodnik Powszechny” weekly expressed the opinion that “the Union does not have today a policy vis-à-vis Russia”, while one of the goals – successfully attained – of the Russian aggression against Georgia was to block Georgian aspirations to become a member of NATO and EU.[7]
 
After the summit, a commentator from “Gazeta Wyborcza”, daily stated that Poland should be “a guardian” of NATO’s pledge of entry to the alliance “one day” and the “Eastern conscience”.




[1] European Service by Polish Press Agency PAP, 14 November 2008, available at: www.europap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).


[2] European Service by Polish Press Agency PAP, 13 September 2008, available at: www.europap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).


[3] Brussels, Summit on Georgia, 1 September 2008, available at: www.europap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).


[4] Lower house of the Polish Parliament


[5] European Service by Polish Press Agency PAP, 14 December 2008, available at: www.europap.com.pl (last access: 25 January 2009).


[6] “Dziennik” Daily on 20 August 2008.


[7] Wojciech Pieciak “Unia nie ma planu” [Union does not have a plan], “Tygodnik Powszechny” Weekly 20 August 2008.