A new prime minister was appointed in Poland and the country’s ministerial cabinet was reshuffled. International policy commenters in Europe predict more moderate Polish policy. How will Polish foreign policy change and what influence could it have on relations with Lithuania? This was discussed with Act of Independence signatory, jurist Česlavas Okinčicas, Seimas European Affairs Committee chairman Gediminas Kirkilas and Delfi.lt analyst Ramūnas Bogdanas, LRT.lt writes.
In regard to the recent reshuffling of the Polish cabinet, Č. Okinčicas points out that this is not an unexpected manoeuvre as the Polish ruling party’s chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski spoke at the very start that a review of ministers’ results would be held in two years. Okinčicas explains that while the former Polish PM Beata Szydlo had sufficient success and popularity domestically, there were a number of issues in foreign policy, moves that raised eyebrows in the EU and the USA. Instead, according to the expert, an individual more adept at representing the state in foreign forums was chosen and this is exactly the sort of prime minister Poland needs after the past two years.
G. Kirkilas believes that Poland is sending a message that it wants different relations with other countries and realises the isolation it has arrived at. The cabinet shifts are primarily aimed at signalling the European Union and NATO.
“The new prime minister is the same type of person as French President Emmanuel Macron. Furthermore he is seen as one of the initiators and authors of Poland’s current economic success,” Kirkilas stated, observing that Poland needs to improve relations with the EU, its institutions and leaders, including European Council President Donald Tusk. The politician also observes that this shift coincides with marked improvements in Lithuanian-Polish relations, including a number of high level bilateral visits.
Meanwhile R. Bogdanas highlights that Poland is driven from the back seat and in part what has happened is an effort to make sure that B. Szydlo does not become a serious contender in upcoming Polish elections. She is a popular politician in Poland despite any difficulties in the international arena, meanwhile the new PM does not have any political power standing firmly behind him. “If the one who delegated him watches over him, he is watched over, if the support is withdrawn – he falls,” R. Bogdanas said.
Č. Okinčicas also observes a similar phenomenon, pointing out that while the new PM has a number of achievements under his belt that have attracted foreign business and investment despite the political situation and governance and while he has been given the freedom to select certain ministers, J. Kaczynski’s influence has nevertheless grown ever stronger with Jacek Sasin, a close friend and comrade of J. Kaczynski becoming the chairman of the Polish Cabinet Council, even if compromised ministers who lost public confidence were replaced in an effort to reduce tensions.
When questioned whether the changes and reduction of tensions in Poland may just be a smokescreen, with J. Kaczynski unwilling to withdraw, G. Kirkilas explains that he finds that the new prime minister and foreign minister will be better negotiators and capable of cooperating with Brussels despite the recent invocation of article 7 of the EU charter out of concerns about changes in the Polish judicial system.
In this respect R. Bogdanas notes that the face of Poland may have become more modern with this turn, with a number of ministers replaced, but nevertheless the minister of justice who initiated the controversial judicial reforms has remained. Furthermore, the analyst points out, the new prime minister’s first visit is to Budapest and Victor Orban, not Brussels, with Orban having promised to veto the application of article 7 on Poland.
Regarding the new Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz, Č. Okinčicas explains he is an experienced diplomat, formerly an active participant of the Polish Solidarity movement. The signatory notes that this will be a more responsible minister who will not proceed with certain slogans which hampered the previous foreign minister’s policies.
A clear renaissance has begun in Polish-Lithuanian relations, as proven by the meeting between Saulius Skvernelis and J. Kaczynski which lasted a number of hours. “The impact is positive and we need to make good use of it. Our neighbours are showing that they have relinquished Radoslaw Sikorski‘s foolish ambitions and are the first to make concessions, regardless of being the larger state,” G. Kirkilas explains.
Meanwhile R. Bogdanas finds that in this regard it was beneficial to wait, with Lithuania having thus avoided concessions it did not have to make. “Now we have bided our time and the Poles need us as allies in Brussels, thus we can find a good way to re-establish our friendship,” he says.
Finally Č. Okinčicas highlights that the first visit by M. Morawiecki was to Lithuania, which shows that he realises the importance of neighbourly relations. “Back then he raised the question of Orlen Lietuva and Lietuvos Geležinkeliai relations normalisation. 2 years ago those questions were not resolved, but today they have now moved,” the signatory concludes.