Presidential Candidates Are Not in a Hurry

Presidential Candidates Are Not in a Hurry

By Christina Greszta

“Eastern Partnership” within Pre-election Presidential Campaign in Poland.

It’s less then a year left before the Presidential elections in Poland, in accordance with various views and assessments. Probably, they will be held on the 19th of September 2010. However, as a speaker of Polish Sejm Bronislaw Komarovski noted, the date of elections can be changed.

The oncoming Presidential elections promise to be very exciting, intriguing and hot. Definitely, the struggle for the Presidential chair will include the two leading Polish politicians, the acting President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Except for them, most likely the campaign will welcome about 20, or even more politicians of Rzecz Pospolita. The magazine “Dzennik” lists the following candidates: Radoslaw Sikorski, Waldemar Pawlak, Bronislaw Komarovski, Woyciech Oleyniczak, Rafal Dutkiewicz and others. Candidates represent different political forces and movements, starting with liberal and conservative ideologies (Kaczynski, Tusk, Sikorski), finishing with social-democratic and nationalistic (Jerzy Szmajdzinski, Roman Giertych). Respectively, the programs of candidates will be definitely colored.

The main stress of the Presidential campaign will be given to the internal situation in the country, the state of economy, prospects of Poland development for the following period. Economic crisis, corruption in political circles (the speculation in the sphere of gambling “Afera Hazardowa”, with the participation of the politicians of “Platforma Obywatelska”), damage the popularity of Polish politicians of all colors and ranks. For example, according to the public opinion poll, held by Polish center OBOP, the trust for the Prime Minister has reduced up to 32%, and the distrust increased up to 57%, and respectively only 28% of population trust the President, and 62% don’t trust.

The second important issue will cover the place and role of Poland within the European Union. One of the painful aspects of attention and basis for the campaigns of many politicians is the participation of Polish army in peacemaking operations, first of all in Afghanistan. Death of Polish soldiers in this country doesn’t give more popularity to the decisions to increase Polish contingent in Afghanistan.

Eastern Partnership Map
Talking about “Eastern Partnership”, within the framework of Presidential campaign, this problem won’t be included into the group of the most key and important issues. This project itself hasn’t been shaped properly yet, as it includes states that differ with their internal political situation. Moreover, “Eastern Partnership” despite the leading role of Poland in its establishment and accomplishment is still observed as a common European project, and not exclusively Polish one. In addition for most Polish people “Eastern Partnership” and Eastern policy in general is not a vitally important priority.

That is why, hardly Presidential candidates will concentrate their attention on this aspect, moreover to talk about its prospects. More likely the issue of “Eastern Partnership” will be observed as one of the elements of common foreign policy in the programs of candidates and in the number of those, which touch upon Eastern policy in general.

Naturally, the election campaign hasn’t officially started yet and many program provisions of candidates are still being shaped. That is why, it is still difficult to assess totally and deeply the level of attention that will be given to “Eastern Partnership” by the candidates. More or less fully this aspect can be analyzed on the basis of the programs of political parties that these or that Presidential candidates will represent.

tusk_kaczynskiIt’s worth to start with two main polish parties, “Prawo i Sprawiedliwość ” and “Platforma Obywatelska”, which without any doubts will represent their candidates on the Presidential elections. It’s worth to underline that relations between these two parties, as well as between the politicians representing them Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Lech Kaczynski are pretty tensed and conflict. This is connected with the fact that the both statesmen consider foreign policy as their own prerogative and competence, however the development of solution of many international affairs issues are observed differently by these politicians. First of all, this concerns relations with Russia, evaluation of the situation in Georgia and Belarus.

Lech Kaczynski as well as PiS in general has a very principled and radical approach to the evaluation of the situation in Georgia (which they treat as a victim of Russia aggression). For PiS Russia remains one of the most real foreign political threats, thus PiS would prefer for the “Eastern Partnership” to become a mechanism of engagement of former USSR Republics into anti-Russia coalition, and also to be an intermediate stage of further integration into the EU, but not its substitution.

But due to the fact the “Eastern Partnership” can’t yet be observed as an integral and strategically shaped project because of different interests and views of its objectives, then PiS and Kaczynski consider as the most important the establishment of political and strategic alliance with Georgia and Ukraine. The relations with these states are treated as “especially important”. Political authorities of Ukraine and Georgia gain overwhelming political support within international arena from the President of Poland, who still supports the inclusion of these countries into NATO and the EU. “As the members of the Union we should do the utmost for it to preserve the formula of “Open doors” for other states, wishing to join it and first of all for Ukraine and Georgia”. One of the elements, which can strengthen this alliance is the accomplishment of energy project round Russia, and in particular the commissioning of the pipeline “Odessa-Brody-Plotsk-Gdansk” and further promotion of GUAM geopolitical project.

As for Belarus, due to its authoritarian regime, PiS holds to isolationistic position, which is expressed in the limitation of all possible contacts with official authorities, non-admission of liberalization within the relations with the regime and the overwhelming support of nongovernmental sector of Belarusian society. “Our authorities should consistently preserve the limitations towards political representatives of Minsk regime, and at the same time they should contribute into the development of nongovernmental relations”. That is why current policy of Polish Government and of some EU states towards eastern direction of PiS is observed as hopeless.

If talking about the assessments of the “Eastern Partnership” by PiS, then the Party’s program doesn’t include this project at all. This points the fact that PiS and President support the idea, that Poland should develop and lead individual policy towards each of these countries independently of the functioning of the “Partnership”, and also to shape its policy on the ground of internal policy specifics of these or that countries, but not to accomplish a single policy for all. We can assume, that during the Presidential campaign the project will be criticized by Kaczynski, and mainly because President and PO consider this project as a result of the policy of Donald Tusk and PO Government.

Konferencja-prasowa-D-TuskaDonald Tusk and Platforma Obywatelska (PO), naturally observe the “Eastern Partnership” as one of the most successful projects of Polish foreign policy for several years, which was accomplished within the framework of Eastern Policy. Exactly this fact was underlined throughout the address of Tusk, which was devoted to the results of 2-years functioning of the Government.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister as a probable Presidential candidate still doesn’t concentrate his attention on this issue as PO in general. For example, this aspect hasn’t been included into the program of this political party exactly in the part that concernes foreign policy. It’s also worth mentioning that some directions connected with Eastern policy, and also the common strategy towards definite eastern neighbors of Poland is less fundamental for example than of PiS’s.

“Eastern Partnership” for PO is a common basis and strategy of interrelations with the former USSR states without special limitations, conditions and exclusions towards these or that countries. Only Russia is observed as an individual direction by D. Tusk and PO. There is also no clear and firm position of PO on the issue of “Georgian-Russian” conflict.

However, Presidential race hasn’t yet started, that is why it’s assumable that PO political program as well as the program of Presidential candidate will be significantly adjusted before the beginning of the campaign and the “Eastern Partnership” project will take its place. Already now PO takes a number of steps to extend its participation and role within the “Eastern Partnership” project development.

On the 16th of December 2009 PO Parliamentary Club initiated the establishment of special sub-committee on the issue of “Eastern Partnership” within the framework of the Committee of the Sejm on International Affairs. This sub-committee included three deputies of PO, and one deputy from each other fractions. The committee has been headed by the representative of PO, Tomasz Lentz. The objective of this committee is the monitoring of the efficacy of the activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the issue of “Eastern Partnership”, and the cooperation with Parliaments of other EU member-states in this direction. Most probably, PO Presidential candidates (most likely Donald Tusk, Bronislaw Komarovski and Radoslaw Sikorski) will touch upon the issues of “Eastern Partnership” to underline the fact that Poland plays a significant role within the formation of the European Union foreign policy.

Program provisions and opinions of the left wing politicians and these is first of all “Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej” (Left Democracy Union) SLD, have no assessments and analyses of the “Eastern Partnership” development prospects. Presidential candidate from SLD, Jerzy Szmajdzinski in his expressions mainly touched upon the participation of Polish army in Afghanistan. Eastern policy for this party is the second or the third matter of significance, and the priority is still given to Russia, with which they should develop partner relations omitting all ideological disagreements. In relations with Belarus SLD suggests to ground on the dialogue with all participants of political life of the country avoiding political isolation of the regime.

As for other states of the former USSR, the potential SLD Presidential candidate hasn’t yet sounded any clear position. We can suppose that within his pre-election campaign Jerzy Szmajdzinski will concentrate on the problems of internal but not foreign policy as it has always been in case of the favorites of Presidential races.

Talking about other, independent Presidential candidates, as it was earlier mentioned potential candidates doesn’t hurry to make any claims towards foreign policy as the Presidential race hasn’t yet started.

Summarizing, we should underline that the aspects of foreign and first of all “Eastern Partnership” policy are more clearly and systematically represented only by the two parties PiS and PO and only these Parties have participated within the accomplishment of some significant foreign politicy projects. However we should expect that the issues connected with the “Eastern Partnership” program will be often raised within the framework of pre-election Presidential campaign in Poland.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI


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