Poland After the Elections
July 7, 2010
Q1: What impact will the election of President Bronislaw Komorowski have on Polish politics and economic development?
A1: Despite the tragic death of President Lech Kaczynski and several dozen members of the Polish political and military leadership in a plane crash in Russia in April 2010, Poland has demonstrated that it is a stable democracy. The election of President Bronislaw Komorowski will ensure that the head of state and prime minister belong to the same political party and thus enable smoother decisionmaking and the passage of important legislation, including measures to curb government spending. Nonetheless, the leader of the opposition, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, scored better than expected in the presidential ballot and is likely to challenge strongly during parliamentary elections scheduled for 2011.
Q2: What will be the implications for Poland’s position in the European Union?
A2: Poland has steadily raised its position inside the European Union since its accession in 2004. The country’s size, demographic strength, and political stability, coupled with its unique economic growth in 2009 despite the Europe-wide recession, has earned Warsaw increasing stature inside the Union. Moreover, Poland has proved to be both staunchly Atlanticist and strongly Europeanist. While it views U.S. engagement as paramount for European security, it has also supported the development of a common EU foreign and security policy. Relations with Germany and France have steadily improved, and Poland is increasingly viewed as having an important voice among the largest EU states.
Q3: Can we expect any changes in Poland’s relations with Russia and the United States?
A3: Polish-Russian relations will continue to develop in a process that was initiated by the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk in November 2007. There are various reasons for this rapprochement. Cordial ties with Moscow boost Warsaw’s position inside the European Union, and Russia is a growing market for Polish exports. Russia’s leaders calculate that improved contacts may prevent Warsaw from blocking EU-Russia initiatives, as it has in the past in response to Moscow’s aggression toward its neighbors. However, the bilateral thaw is not irreversible, and a great deal depends on Russia’s internal developments and its external behavior. Poland’s relations with the United States are less intensive than they were under the previous U.S. administration. Nonetheless, the recent emplacement of a battery of Patriot missiles in the country and Warsaw’s agreement to host elements of President Obama’s planned missile shield indicate that the two capitals perceive their security to be closely connected. The new Polish president is likely to generate some fresh ideas in developing bilateral relations, while Poland’s more prominent role in the European Union could make it a more attractive partner for Washington.
Janusz Bugajski holds the Lavrentis Lavrentiadis Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., where he is also director of the New European Democracies Project and senior fellow with the Europe Program.
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