Poland’s second return to Europe?

An in-depth analysis of the new Polish government’s foreign policy


The parliamentary elections on 21 October 2007 produced a new governing coalition between the Civic Platform and the Polish People's Party, prompting a sigh of relief in Warsaw's foreign policy establishment. The new government, headed by Donald Tusk, is set on changing the country's foreign policy profile and wants to erase memories associated with the self-centred style of their predecessors.

The Kaczyński twins wholeheartedly believed that Poland needed to use every opportunity to assert its national interests, and eagerly used their veto power on a range of issues, including the new EU-Russia partnership agreement, the January 2006 tax package, the directive on the transfer of prisoners, and the European Day Against the Death Penalty. Donald Tusk's new team will follow a different logic, working more through discussion and persuasion rather than obstruction.

Donald Tusk, the new Prime Minister, enjoys strong public support and has the necessary self-confidence to change Poland's position and perception within the EU. He is now set on bringing Poland back to the 'heart of Europe', rebuilding ties with Germany and France, lessening tensions with Russia, and trying to make the country a genuine player in European foreign policy. He will also try to rebalance the relationship with the United States, slowing down the move towards missile defence and withdrawing its troops from Iraq.

The author of this policy brief, Pawel Swieboda, argues that while a change of style is guaranteed on contentious issues like Russia, the new government will still be an ‘assertive partner' opting out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights; unlikely to join the euro; and likely to put up a fight against reform of the EU budget. While the government has the constitutional powers and the moral clout to set the agenda, the unavoidable co-habitation with President Lech Kaczyński will create tensions.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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