The Warsaw Institute Review and Warsaw Institute participated in the Thinking: Poland Convention held in Katowice, July 5-7, 2019, where politicians and experts discussed the activities conducted by the government and contemplated proposals for the future. Over 10,000 participants gathered at the event, who over the course of 16 plenary sessions and nearly 70 thematically-orientated panels, had abundant opportunities to listen to and engage with about 400 panelist speakers. The Warsaw Institute team and editorial staff of the Warsaw Institute Review quarterly avidly participated in the substantive expert discussion, having prepared and led two specialist panels pertaining to international affairs and energy.
Worth noting, this convention was organized in a format which resembles that of large political party conventions in Western Europe (and particularly closely to those in the United Kingdom), where, in accompaniment to distinguished politicians and public figures who have very real and paramount influence on formulating and shaping state policies, experts also contribute and take part. As a result of such initiatives, the perspectives, voices and analyses of experts – with the assemblage of think tanks – is more clearly heard and thereby facilitates the genuine inclusion of this environment in the formulation of public policies. This event presented superb opportunities and formal platforms to present the analytically-orientated accomplishments of the Warsaw Institute and the latest issue of the English-language quarterly, The Warsaw Institute Review.
Specialist panel: The European Union facing contemporary challenges
The first specialist panel organized by the Warsaw Institute, titled “The European Union facing contemporary challenges”, examined the various conundrums within the European Union in the post-May elections scenarios, alongside some specific internal and external challenges which the Community is facing at present, and will likely be in the near future. Throughout the panel, the most pressing of these were elaborated on, such as the crisis in the Eurozone, or those more unpredictable for the stability of the EU, namely Brexit or certain migration-related policies. Another increasingly approaching challenge may also likely be clarifying the position of the EU begins to take towards NATO and with this, shaping transatlantic relations intertwined with the new strategy in the EU’s defense and foreign policies. Effects of these on the EU’s sustainability and durability were discussed; whether Poland is prepared for this and whether our interests can be pursued and then implemented in such a new order. Hence, the trajectory for which Poland is designated in the next 5 or so years within the EU is also arguably imperative for Poland’s future position in Europe as a whole, and moreover, Poland’s position and role in the world. The panel was attended by: Dr. Krzysztof Rak (Director of the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation), Marcin Przydacz (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland), Paweł Musiałek (Member of the Jagiellonian Club Management Board), Prof. Arkady Rzegocki (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and Marcin Roszkowski (President of the Jagiellonian Institute). The panel was moderated by Izabela Wojtyczka (Vice President of the Warsaw Institute and Editor-in-Chief of The Warsaw Institute Review).
As the first in this panel to introduce an expert input, Dr. Krzysztof Rak presented on the theme of ‘New Constellations and Challenges in Europe as an opportunity for Polish foreign policy’. He pointed out that trade surplus is causing a serious political crisis; and with this, President Macron’s concept of the transfer union is aimed to settle the problems. Poland displays competence in being able to get along with other states and create meaningful coalitions, among which the Visegrad group is an example. The most recent summit in Brussels shows that the V4 does acquire political subjectivity. Poland in Europe has more and more room for maneuverability, because Europe is currently undergoing a process of alleviating pressure from hegemonically-ambitious powers and Poland can, and ought to, take advantage of this momentum by conducting a more leading, initiating and active foreign policy.
In his speech ‘The Strategy in Eastern Policy’, Minister Marcin Przydacz illustrated how it is difficult to describe the policies Russia pursues as anything other than aggressive and imperialistic, which is in line with the thesis Putin put forward a few years ago, asserting the view that the collapse of the USSR was the greatest geopolitical calamity of the 20th century. This would be indicative of Putin attempting to reconstruct the empire, and where he is unable to do so, to consolidate or build on bilateral relations. A distinct example of this is the tenacity of ‘frozen conflicts’ persisting in several countries, inasmuch so that there is hardly any way for these countries to effectively integrate with the structures of the EU or NATO. On the other hand, there are Eastern Partnership states, such as Georgia and Moldova, which are at the most advanced stages of integration. According to the Minister, the European elections and what is now happening in the Community is a moment of change we cannot oversleep, and thus we should be even more active at the European level. However, we need to complete this idea by filling the lower level staff with people from the region. At the administrative level, various numbers of small micro-decisions which accumulate and therein make a larger scale cumulative impact and, in effect, larger decisions.
In the presentation of ‘Perspectives for Central Europe’, Paweł Musiałek put forward the thesis that in the near future we will be witnessing an increase in tension between old and new members of the European Union. According to him, these divisions were long visible and will be even more so. In his first argument, he pointed out that there is a growing disparity between the aspirations of this region and the degree of their satisfaction. In our region of Europe, the recent elections were won by parties which indicated a more assertive policy towards the European Union. The decision-making positions of the EU still lack representation of the countries of our region, which shows that the region’s influence on the European Union is still too weak. Whether or not a person becomes an MP – the rapporteur is still influenced by the division into the old and the new parts of the EU, and not by other factors, such as gender or the experience of working in the European Parliament. In today’s situation, the leaders of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are increasingly rebelling against this. Musialek pointed out the economic factors as the second argument, while recognizing that more and more countries, including Poland, are stressing the change in the current model and, in his opinion, this will give rise to some political tensions. In other countries there is a discussion whether, for example, Czechs and Slovaks are not too dependent on the automotive industry in Germany. Accordingly, we will observe further actions for growing protectionism. Paweł Musiałek pointed out that the developed model of the Three Seas Initiative format is sufficient, but it is lacking at the operational level. In this, it would be a good idea to create Trilateral Universities, which constitute a research center, which would treat the project of the Trójmiasto i.e. the ‘three-cities’ of Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot, as a priority. Additionally, he pointed to positive aspects related to Poland opening to the Western Balkans. In his opinion, Poland should be present there not only at the level of development and social aid, but also should add some mass to do more in these Balkans. As such, it can be deduced that this would be why the Western Balkans Summit in Poznan should be the beginning, not the end of what can be done in the context of assistance and the development of this region.
Ambassador Prof. Rzegocki during his speech titled ‘Relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union in the context of Brexit’, clarified that with regard to Brexit, all scenarios are effectually still possible. Notwithstanding this ambivalence and abundant inconclusiveness, Prof. Rzegocki argues that the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union will have persisting long-term effects on EU policy. Evidence supporting such an argument includes that: the United Kingdom is set to remain one of the most important partners of the European Union, is the second largest economy in the EU, and the fifth economy in the world, as well as having long-existing broad links with the global trade system. The professor maintained that whilst we are witnesses to the formation of not only select intra-EU changes which ought to answer the impending absence of the important player that is the United Kingdom, but also changes to the formation of the United Kingdom’s parliamentary system are noticeable. What is certain at the moment, however, is that the UK puts more effort and resources into bilateral relations with EU member state countries. A factual example of this that could be argued is that recently there has been an increase of 550 posts in the Embassies in European Union countries. The United Kingdom with Poland are snowballing bilateral contacts with increasing intensity. In 2016, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło and British Prime Minister Theresa May agreed on a strategic partnership; a development of significance. Poland does lose the most from the exist of Great Britain from the European Union because they are amongst our most important strategic partners, yet on the other hand, both countries maintain the utmost conviction that building bridges and connections based on security, culture, science and economy is in the interest of both countries, and it is hence currently being built with unusual intensity. Hence, we ought to keep in mind this important aspect. In his opinion, regardless of the form in which Brexit comes about, whether ‘harder’ or ‘softer’, the United Kingdom will remain a very important partner for the European Union and for Poland.
Finally, the energy policy of the European Union was the subject of the input by Marcin Roszkowski, who pointed to the acute discrepancies in the understanding of energy security. He underlined that regulations are created in a certain symbiosis with the supply of energy fuel, which in a considerable part (and for some countries, the vast majority) is gas coming from a single direction – the Russian Federation. This consequently raises some problems for having a consistent understanding, and then implementation, of these regulations; each individual countries in the Community have varying raw material and natural resource situations. He emphasized that in businesses, Russia uses various methods of sales support, among others through designated agencies and adamantly strong lobbying, however, Poland and other countries do not require such a model. The best example to support this thesis is the former German Chancellor who advances in Russian energy companies – according to whom it is denigrating European solidarity across various elements, and in energy matters being a prime example. The Russian Federation bilaterally plays out the individual countries of the European Union. It should also be noted that Poland cannot build gas-fired power plants by itself and does not develop these technologies, while not preparing its own economy for such a possible feat. What should happen in geopolitics is the an even more authentic diversification of sources of energy resources – including through the Gasport in Świnoujście or the Baltic Pipe project.
During the event, we had the opportunity to present the activities of our institution to many politicians and experts, as well as to familiarize them with our unique publication about the late President of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczyński (Lech Kaczyński, President of the Supreme Audit Office in 1992-1995)
We invite you to view our gallery from the event.
Special Report: ”Geopolitics of Energy” discussion panel during Thinking: Poland Convention
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