European Communities policies towards its neighbors have been a vital supplement to the integration process especially with the end of bipolarity in Europe and with the rising political ambitions of the European project. In the 1990s, much of the policies toward the aspiring countries from Central Eastern Europe resembled enlargement policy, with the goal of making them ready for European membership. These policies so much affected the eastern countries that aspired to join, among them being Poland.
However, the integration of other countries into the European Community also required that the aspiring countries model their foreign policies to correlate with that of the EU. This was however not a simple exercise consideri9ng the history of Europe. The east-west division of Europe predated the rise of communism, a fact that seems to have been in the post communist euphoria. This division was unlikely to disappear within a short span of time. Consequently, there were hurdles for all parties concerned with the admission of nations such as Poland to the then European Community.
The danger was that the process of reform was unlikely to deliver the promised gains for the former communist countries and as this became clear to the public, there would be a renewed and deeper crisis. Even though such a crisis has not occurred save for Yugoslavia and Albania, there existed awareness within Western European governments that failure on their part to reach out to East Central Europe could contribute to instability throughout the region.
In the period that immediately succeeded post-communism, one of the major threats for Poland was the Western European assessments that conceived of its economy to be too retrogressive for it to be considered a genuine candidate for European Community’s membership. The logic of this view was acknowledged by the then Polish Minister, arguing that the capacity and range of Polish foreign policy options were derived to a greater degree from Poland’s economic condition. Reconstructing the Polish economy was thus seen by Skubiszewski to require the support of European Union.
He also endeavored to emphasize the positive, arguing that an extended accentuation on Poland’s economic retrogression and the difficulties involved in its elimination would result to Poland remaining isolated form European mainstream (Smith, 2005). This was quite a realistic perspective. As a consequence, a choice had to be made between genuine aid and declarations of goodwill during transformation. The west was faced with the choice of helping in the process of changing the regime in Poland and other countries or doing nothing. The latter option implied fostering instability and stagnation.
This option was never exercised even though one could not fail to observe reduced interest in the future of East Central Europe among the West European governments. The reasons for this attitude change were quite simple: the aims of the reform movements had been achieved in Poland and other countries; domestic communist dominance had been broken and the Soviet Union had undergone a political transformation. The new governments in East Central Europe reiterated their determination to establish a liberal democratic order founded on the rule of law.
In Poland, the belief that the former communist countries possessed the economic and political capacity vital in ascertaining rapid and profound reforms easily was ill-founded (Millard, 1999). Actually, both domestic and West European political elites did not correctly judge the nature and magnitude of the essential problems involved in the transition to liberal democracy from communist authoritarianism. The transformation problem proved to be difficult and complicated than had been thought. In this paper, I shall focus on the choices that Poland is faced with regard to its strategy for integration which is basically under its foreign policy.
Part of the aim of Poland’s foreign policy, especially with regard to its strategy for integration, has been to establish a set of conditions which makes the return of the Russian hegemony impossible. Foreign Policy: Basis for design Poland’s new position on Europe’s geostrategic and geoeconomical map was one of the most important results of the death of the post-war political order. With this regard, it pointed to the destruction of Poland’s existing network of alliances and established the possibility for Poland to engage in new arrangements with the states of Western Europe.
Every participant had to approach the new challenges in the best way they could. Poland was best suited to handle it. The fact that there are some states that disappeared from the map is a clear evidence of just how traumatic these dynamisms were. There are two main realms from which the process of transformation was being engineered. In a broader sense, these can be subdivided into institutional and social transformation. All these realms influence foreign policy in one way or another. Institutional reform encompassed a wide array of changes within the political and socioeconomic systems in the country.
The process referred to changes of individual and collective conception of society, its attitude towards the state and its comprehension of the concept of citizenship within the social realm. The transformation process also encompassed the redefinition of conceptions of internal and external security and economic wellbeing (Jackson et al. 2005). The state’s sovereignty came under scrutiny especially with Poland’s desire to join European Union. The dominant system in which Poland operated for over four decades, together with the autonomy of the individual, had restricted that of the state in terms of domestic and foreign policy.
Technically, Poland was a sovereign state but all major decisions that were taken in Warsaw had to correspond with both the official policy of the existing socialism and the Brezhnev doctrine (ibid 63). A new beginning and a break from the past was marked in the year 1989 with the Round Table Agreement which saw the first ingredient of the negotiated transfer of power. The election of the Sejm became the second with the consequent appointment of non-communist government. The aim of the Round Table Agreement was to define the guiding principles of the new political system.
It formed the foundation of cooperation among the parties for a guided transformation away from the old politics (Millard, 1999). The result was that a new set of inclinations for both foreign and domestic policy could be established. What was started was a multilevel and a multipolar transformation process, a manifestation of which was to be the complete democratization of the state and its relocation from Europe’s political periphery to its center (ibid, 89). The task of the new political class was to be quickly conversant with both the domestic situation in Poland and the requirements and expectations of the west European policy community.
The majority of Polish citizens identified themselves with Western values and so were the political elite. National Strategy Through her national strategy, Poland aims to achieve three goals. These are: consolidating the state security and national independence; development of the country both economically and socially; and establishing a suitable global position. This strategy guarantees Poland’s independence, sovereignty and its territorial integrity. Poland’s foreign policy is directed towards achieving three main goals.
These include establishing its place in the region, promoting Polish economic interest, and integrating with European Union. Between 1992 and 1997, Poland’s Foreign Policy suffered from institutional fragmentation. This adopted a triangular framework between the President, the Foreign Office and the parliament. The Polish 1997 Constitution defined the process of decision making and coordination by minimizing the president’s formal powers and strengthening that of the Prime minister. The production of political consensus and dissipating information has remained an important function of the lower house of the Sejm.
The position of the government of Poland is that the security system of Europe can only be guaranteed by transparency between the European Union and NATO. New foreign policy goals were formulated by Poland at the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century. Among them were the efforts to join the integrative structures of the Western Europe, mainly the European Union and NATO. This aim emanated from the belief among the political elite that the only way of addressing its multi-level security needs was by joining these structures (Cordell & Antoszewski, 2000).
This goal was backed by pursuing other objectives such as establishing and maintaining a good relationship with all other neighboring states. They also sought to participate in regional initiatives. Of much importance was the relationship between Poland and Germany. The membership of Poland to European Union and NATO was strongly supported by Germany. Germany also played an important role in Polish integration policy. The swift treaty settlement in 1990 of all residual questions that emerged from the second World War facilitated German-Polish rapprochement, enabling Germany to act as Poland’s strategic partner in Brussels (ibid, 40).
This unrivaled transition in Polish tradition and policy was exercised with widespread social support. The majority of Poland’s citizens consider Germany to have been very helpful in their road to European membership. Germany is considered by Poland as the most apt and logical partner for political and economic cooperation. Within this context, it should be emphasized that the nationalist right still attempt to play the German card by painting a picture of Germans as incorrigibly harmful and Germany as a nation which will dominate Poland the instance European Union membership is achieved.
The majority of major parties agreed that European Union membership would be of great benefit to Poland. The goals that were formulated by Skubiszewski, the first post communist Foreign Affairs Minister, were pursuit with the largest opposition grouping’s support. When this opposition group obtained power in 1993, they did not change them. This policy of integration has been consistently supported by a wide range of parties ever since. Theoretically, there were three options available to Poland.
These options centered on their perception and attitude towards the European Union. The first option is to join the European Union at the earliest possible opportunity. This had been the goal of the UW. It was also shared by the elite groups within SLD, UP and a section of AWS. The second option is supported by groups that accept the principle of European membership but for different reasons which include anxiety over land and property ownership rights, agriculture, the economy, national identity and Catholic values.
This second group preferred that the process of integration take into consideration these concerns. During the 1990s, such sentiments were found among the ranks of the KPN, PSL and elements of the AWS, ROP and ZchN. The third group comprises of those that are firmly opposed to polish membership in the European Union. The view of joining the European Union is considered by nationalists and fundamentalist Catholic groups to be a threat to national sovereignty, interests and the economy.
To some people, European Union is a symbol of moral decay, loss of Christian faith and the imprisonment of Europe by an unlikely coalition of international freemasonry, Germans and Jews. On the extreme left, there are those parties like the ZKP who accept the principle of a united Europe but not under a framework of capitalism (Millard, 1999). In order to reconcile these views into perspective, it must be noted that those individuals who hold them have only localized and occasional regional influence and hardly influence policy making at the national level.
Integration policy With regard to the wider public perception of the European Union, the 1990s saw a general decline in support. Due to the fact that in the early 1990s, more than eighty percent of the population was in support of the move, this fact should not come as a surprise. The wish to rejoin Europe motivated such massive support. Again, the deeply founded idea of a Europe without boundaries but with ignorance about European Unions mechanisms and rules may have also motivated this wish.
A good instance of such lack of knowledge concerns the opinions on such controversial issues as the right of abode of foreigners in Poland and the right of foreigners to purchase land, where about twenty five percent of the population approves of what is a European Union’s requirement of entry (Smith, 2005). This analysis of Polish integration policy and attitudes towards the European Union indicates various tendencies in Polish foreign policy. First, Polish political scene will continue to be dominated by those political groups and politicians who are convinced of the inevitability of including Poland in the process of European integration.
The goals of achieving European Union’s membership in the shortest time possible were adhered to even though the feasibility of the domestic schedule of achieving membership by 2008 was in question. As time has proven, there are no more doubts concerning Poland’s membership in the European Union. The second tendency is that as the human and financial costs of adaptation become more unambiguous, the political scene become increasingly polarized. Both right and left extremists will politically exploit this eventuality. Generally, polish foreign policy during the last decade of the twentieth century can be labeled a success.
However, its policy has to some extent shifted in this new century. A greater role ought to be played by a Poland characterized by a strong democratic system, economic progress, and healthy relations with its neighbors. Above all, it ought to play a greater role especially having achieved NATO and European Union’s membership. Owing to this reason, the government of Poland unambiguously continues to articulate support for the development of regional integrative structured cooperation within the Baltic and with Ukraine.
This trend is linked with the belief that is deeply rooted in the Polish policy that it is not possible to establish a stable Europe while at the same time drawing new lines of partition (Paquette, 2001). Factors that have hardly been considered need not to be taken into account. The problem of institutional reform within the European Union was originally not a subject of debate in Poland as compared to the future of European Security arrangements. Beyond this, the question of European Unions ultimate destiny deeply divides Poles.
There is no agreement as to whether the European Union should deepen federal operation or whether it should simply be a gathering of sovereign nation states (ibid, 193). The public attitude and alliances got reconfigured with the progress of negotiations with the European Union. The negotiations touched on actual concerns and this reconfiguration of attitudes was a result of the collision of state interest. Playing an active role in the process of European integration was an important ambition of Polish foreign policy, a course that had been supported by the majority of Poles.
Poland has always taken a keen interest in the European Union’s policies towards its neighbors. Eastern Europe had clearly become one of the priority areas for Polish input into the Common Foreign and Security Policy ever since the country’s decision makers begun viewing it as an opportunity rather than a constraining factor in their own national foreign policy. The result of both geographical and historical experience, the Poles seem to pay maximum attention to the stabilization and independence of their immediate neighborhood.
Poland also possesses the longest external frontier of all European Union’s member states following the accession of ten new member countries in 2004. This has further enhanced its interest in the European Union’s efforts to establish a common policy towards these countries. Poland’s attitude towards the European Neighborhood Policy has however been characterized by a high degree of ambiguity. This is true despite the fact that even before its formal accession to European Union, Poland had been one of the first countries to remind its partners of the importance of establishing a common policy towards the new eastern neighbors.
Modern Polish foreign policy priorities were formulated in the 1990 after it gained complete sovereignty. Redefining relations with countries of the post Soviet space was one of the main challenges faced during the time. Policy choices corresponded with the concepts formulated in the 1960s by Miieroszewski and Guidry who advocated for Ukraine’s independence. It was considered that an active policy toward Poland’s eastern neighbors was linked with the Polish German relationships and the principles of a balanced engagement with the West and the East.
The political elites in Poland recognized that better relations with their eastern neighbors implied gaining a stronger position within Western Europe (Mackenstein, 2006). Conclusion The central concern of the modern Polish foreign policy has been the neighborhood policy which in turn has made its attitude towards the ENP a much more sensitive matter than in the majority of the other European Union member states. Before joining the European Union, Poland’s foreign policy was mainly focused on its membership but after joining, it assumed the role of an advocate for Ukrainian European Union’s membership aspirations (Smith, 2005).
Drawing Ukraine into European Union is the main Poland’s foreign policy goal after its accession to the European Union and NATO was completed. If the ENP does not address the critical matter of Polish foreign policy, Poland may not share its objectives or priorities and contribute to its development. Poland is likely to focus its policies on the east so as to push beyond the ENP and influence European discourse by way of bilateral initiatives and arrangements. References Cordell, K. & Antoszewski, A. (2000). Poland and the European Union. Routledge Jackson, J. , Klich, J. & Poznanska, K. (2005).
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