chapter  2
Poland: The new agenda setter
Pages 15

Introduction In last 20 years Poland’s international position has changed drastically, as it has moved from being a Soviet bloc member to a key European player, not only truly committed to European values but also favoring further deepening of the European integration process. This chapter provides insight into the making of Polish foreign policy and tracks the changes that have occurred following the involvement of the EU, showing how strongly the EU variable impacted the transformation of Polish foreign policy in recent years. It also shows how Poland has tried to influence the EU’s external relations agenda. Clearly, and in accordance with institutionalist assumptions (Wagner 2003; Hasenclever et al. 1997), the EU has not only provided Poland with wider opportunities, it has also reduced the costs of more active international engagement, thereby allowing for enhanced activity in foreign affairs after 2004. The first Polish steps on the European path were not easy: in the early postaccession years Poland got caught between the pre-enlargement logic of Europeanization, in which a country had to align itself with EU policies in order to gain or receive benefits, and new pressures to be a good EU member actively shaping the bloc’s Eastern policy, yet without any directions from European counterparts on how to do it. Moreover, a lack of political commitment to further European integration, which deepened due to the newly gained power of Euroskeptic parties in 2005, clashed with growing expectations on the European level, and domestically with public opinion that demanded success in Brussels after years of costly negotiations and constant adaptation to EU rules. Eight years after accession, not only has the EU become one of the most important factors in Polish foreign and security policy, but the CFSP has also become crucial for Poland. Poland is a clear supporter of enhanced integration in this area, and has even developed ideas for further integration in the area of security and defense policy, showing clear evidence of Europeanization and a growing understanding among Polish elites that the EU means “us.” It should be noted that this process occurred as a result of the clear benefits brought to Poland via the CFSP, benefits that Poland was not aware of before accession. The additional resources to exert power and influence have compensated for the need to

coordinate national policy with other member states. Since the fear of losing sovereignty through integration was a major obstacle to Poland’s support for CFSP before 2004, it is worth emphasizing that this is a fundamental change which has been accompanied by the restructuring of Polish diplomacy and a change in the mentality of Polish elites in a very short time. The limited dialogue between Brussels and the candidate states in the early 1990s did not allow the EU to engage the candidates in its internal decisionmaking process, and thus did not provide them with insight into EU policymaking in the CFSP area. This notwithstanding, it did give the EU an opportunity to share views on contemporary external relations with the candidates. The situation improved after the establishment of a political dialogue framework in 1994, as candidate countries gained the possibility of being consulted on crucial issues, especially those concerning the EU’s long-term relationship with certain regions. The constant “shadowing” of EU members by the candidates was part of the agreed process, but did not provide the prospective members with any opportunities for influence. Participation in the 2002-3 Convention on the Future of Europe was a first test of more active Polish engagement in the CFSP, providing some opportunities to express areas of key interest for Poland. However, the candidate states retained a very low profile in the Convention discussions concerning the CFSP and ESDP (Cameron and Primatarova 2003). Despite frequent changes of government and an economic crisis, Poland managed to achieve a remarkably steady foreign policy after 1989 (Terry 2000). Polish elites had a common vision of Poland’s future, and therefore a consensus over the main objectives of foreign policy, such as membership in NATO and the EU, was maintained under all governments up until 2004. Undeniably, especially in the initial years of independent Polish diplomacy, thanks for this need to be given to the first Foreign Minister, Krzysztof Skubiszewski, who managed to keep foreign policy insulated (to the extent possible) from domestic politics and arguments (Kuzniar 2008). This provided Polish diplomacy with continuity, stability, and objectivity for many years. However, major challenges occurred after 2004, when the scope of Polish foreign policy and expectations concerning its performance began to rise significantly.