Minister Jacek Czaputowicz on Polish diplomacy priorities in 2018




Information of the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Polish foreign policy tasks in 2018
Mr President,
Mr Speaker,
Mr Prime Minister, Ministers,
Members of the House,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I stand before you today for the first time as foreign minister in the newly reconstructed cabinet of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to inform the House, its guests and the citizens of the Republic of Poland about Polish foreign policy tasks in 2018.
It is an honour for me to present our foreign policy programme in the year that Poland is celebrating the centenary of its regained Independence.
I would like to thank the President who represents the Majesty of the Republic and who, under the Constitution, cooperates with the Prime Minister and the foreign minister in matters of foreign policy, for his presence here today.
Close cooperation between the President and the government, mutual support in serving the Republic strengthens Polands position and is a condition of its effective foreign policy.
Members of the House,
Pursuant to Art. 4 of the Constitution Supreme power in the Republic of Poland shall be vested in the People. Hence foreign policy is developed in accordance with the will of the citizens.
The foreign minister, like any other member of the Council of Ministers, is accountable to the Sejm. The Sejm reviews the work of ministers and holds them to account for running Polands affairs in a field entrusted to them by the Sovereign, the people, by giving a vote of confidence to the Council of Ministers.
At the same time, the Sejm as an assembly of the Peoples representatives, takes sovereign decisions. Some of these decisions concern foreign policy and set conditions for diplomacys future actions.
The President of the Republic of Poland, who co-develops the States foreign policy, is also elected directly by citizens.
The fundamental principle guiding Polish foreign policy that of empowerment as reflected in the motto Nothing About Us Without Us is enshrined in the Constitution. It does not allow us to recognise as binding any decisions that concern us and were taken without our participation.
Mr Speaker,
Members of the House,
Guaranteeing national independence and sovereign statehood is Polands natural reason of State. Ensuring Polands civilizational development in empowered relations within the bosom of the international community is also its reason of State.
This leads me to presenting four arguments relating to the challenges, goals and nature of Polish foreign policy.
Argument I. Polands international standing stems from its strong position in Europe. Polands attractiveness and at the same time its ability to effectively impact decision-making processes, as an ally in NATO or as a partner in European Union structures, is determined by its ability to voice the interests of the states in our region and to act as their advocate. This can be realised with full respect for political empowerment of our partners in the neighbourhood.
As the largest state in the region, Poland shoulders the main burden of promoting and defending the interests of all partners in the region that converge with ours.
Argument II. The European Union is in a crisis that affects its institutions, axiology and external security. Even though the economies have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, its political and social consequences continue to affect the nature of relations between European Union Member States, the role played by the European Union in the future of the European project. The crisis of democratic procedures in Member States and the transfer of real decision-making processes to informal bodies have weakened the position of the European Union, have led to growing Euroscepticism and re-nationalisation of European states policies.
Argument III.The military presence of the United States in Europe and its strong position in NATO has fundamental significance for military security of Poland and the region as a whole. Permanent engagement of the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance in this part of the globe is in the vital interest of Poland and East-Central Europe. Poland is vitally interested in sustaining strong transatlantic bonds. Continuing to strengthen and develop these bonds is a fundamental task of Polish security policy.
Argument IV.Russias policy represents a threat to the building of Polands empowerment in international relations. Russia seeks to revise the political order that has existed in Europe since 1989 and which restored Polands independence. Instruments that are used to accomplish this objective include destabilisation of many regions in Polands closer and more distant neighbourhood, attempts to widen political divisions inside and among states and efforts to break up the transatlantic unity and to deepen divisions inside the European Union.
Mr Speaker,
Members of the House,
Having provided a general outline of the conditions in which Polish foreign policy is conducted, I would now like to move on to discussing specific issues.
First, I would like to speak about measures that we have adopted to strengthen our security in an unstable international environment and about our relations with the United States of America, our main ally. I will then present our vision of the European policy and the state of relations with our key European partners.
In the next part of my address, I will speak about regional cooperation. I will then discuss Polish diplomacy goals with respect to the Polish community abroad and our development cooperation, and speak about the recent changes that are taking place in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Members of the House,
National security of the Republic of Poland is Polish foreign policys top priority. Thus the old maxim of security first embraced by every reasonable diplomacy is also our signpost.
Polands national security is founded on the North Atlantic Alliances strength and cohesion, besides being evidently based on the Polish states defence system.
The government with the President have been effectively seeking stronger NATOs military presence in our region since the autumn of 2015. Together with Romania, we were able to build solidarity of states as manifested by the creation of the Bucharest 9 Format. Its demands to strengthen NATOs military presence on the eastern flank were accepted at the Warsaw summit in 2016 and implemented last year.
Poland hosts on its territory allied forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, Romania, and Croatia. Allow me to express my gratitude to our allies for their show of solidarity.
Poland and a few other NATO members have spent 2% of their GDPs on their own defences for some years now. Even though strong economic growth and a change in the calculation method were responsible for making this share fall below this level by one hundredth of a percent, we will continue to adhere to the principle that the credibility of NATOs deterrence and defence policy depends on the size of defence expenditures.
The Polish Armed Forces take part in NATO missions in Latvia and Romania. In line with NATOs timetable, a Polish military contingent is on an air policing mission in the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
We continue to cooperate with Germany and Denmark as part of the Multinational Corps Northeast, which is headquartered in Szczecin, and are cooperating with Lithuania and Ukraine as part of the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian Brigade that was reactivated in 2016.
We have become a provider of common security, not only its recipient.
Poland will seek to increase NATOs military presence and infrastructure in the region, knowing that only credible deterrence, one that is based on real strength can secure our peace and security.
One of the aims of Polish foreign policy is to make the Alliances operations more effective, especially as regards its collective defence. We shall seek to ensure assistance force, to strengthen allied mobility and realistic planning and to accelerate decision-making processes. Our respective proposals are now being consulted with our allies.
Poland advocates maintaining an open door policy by the North Atlantic Alliance. We want to develop cooperation with NATO partners, mainly those in its immediate neighbourhood: Finland, Sweden, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia whose opinions about the nature of threats to international security are very similar to ours.
Members of the House,
Details of military cooperation, both in the North Atlantic Alliance and in the European Union, are the responsibility of the Ministry of National Defence. Speaking about the political dimension of Polish military activity, I would only like to emphasize that the Polish Armed Forces protect the security of Poland. They also build our countrys credibility as a reliable ally in missions outside the territory of NATO and European Union Member States.
In 2017, the Polish Armed Forces took part in 13 foreign missions, of which seven were led by NATO (in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Latvia, Romania, and the Baltic states, a training mission in Ukraine and a mission commanding a Standing NATO Group), three led by the European Union (in Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Central African Republic), two coalition missions (in Kuwait and Iraq) and one bilateral training mission in Ukraine.
Since the beginning of this year, the mandate of the Polish contingent in Romania also extends to Bulgaria. In February this year, a Polish Armed Forces contingent joined the European Unions Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean, which began in 2015. Polish officers and law enforcement agents are also participating in EU-led missions in Ukraine, Moldova and in a sea operation off the coast of Somalia.
I would like to take this opportunity and thank the Polish Armed Forces servicemen, officers and civilian workers for their dedicated service for the Homeland abroad. Their commitment builds Polands credibility as an ally in NATO and the European Union. Thank you, again.
Mr Speaker,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our goal is to further deepen our security ties with the United States. We will continue to develop our bilateral cooperation and we will work together on different multilateral fora, primarily in NATO. We are against any steps that could provoke transatlantic divisions.
We will seek to anchor more permanently elements of US armed forces in Polands territory. This political line regarding NATOs whole eastern flank is shared by our allies from the Bucharest 9.
The US base in Redzikowo is an important element of the defence of NATOs territory against a potential attack. We take note of technical delays in its construction that the US signalled to us in mid-January this year. We await further cooperation and detailed information regarding this matter.
The United States is participating in the modernisation of the Polish armed forces. Our partnership in the economic sphere grows steadily and now extends to the promising area of innovations and development of high technologies.
We hope that the Polish-US economic summit in April will give a stronger impulse to our cooperation in this field.
Cooperation to make the Central European natural gas market less dependent on Russian deliveries has strategic significance. The year 2018 will be the first year in a five-year contract for the supplies of US gas.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our seat on the UN Security Council means more influence and greater responsibility for global issues.
We focus our activities on strengthening the principles of international law, preventing conflicts and fighting emerging threats to peace and security.
Poland calls for fully respecting the fundamental principles of international law: inviolability of borders, respect for sovereignty, observance of human rights and renouncement of military force.
On the issue of resolving the conflict in Syria, we support the Geneva Declaration and negotiations held under UN auspices. We will support resolutions of conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in South Sudan. As a state that chairs Sanctions Committees we turn our special attention to the situation in Sudan and South Sudan.
As a UN Security Council member we demand a stop to Russias destabilising actions against Ukraine and stress the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbass.
We attach great importance to humanitarian issues, including protection of the rights of religious communities.
When President Andrzej Duda inaugurated Polands membership of the Security Council in January this year, he took an active part in a debate on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I participated in a debate on security in Afghanistan and Central Asia and on the role of the United Nations Charter in ensuring peace and security.
In May, Poland will assume the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council during which President Duda will chair a debate on strengthening trust in international law in todays world.
Poland will chair the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to mark the 50th anniversary of its entry into force.
Mr Speaker,
Members of the House,
Polands membership of the European Union strengthens its international standing. It brings our country many economic, political, and social benefits. Our businesses grow faster thanks to the single market. Polish citizens can freely travel, work, and study abroad. So, it comes as no surprise, Ladies and Gentlemen, that the European Union continues to enjoy strong support. According to a Public Opinion Research Centre survey taken this January, 87% Poles declared their support for Polands membership of the EU. It is the highest rate in Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the House,
One of the key tasks of the Polish government is to ensure equal and empowered participation of our country in shaping the process of European integration.
It is crucial to determine the nature of European integration and the model of the Union that we want to build in the future.
Specific issues relating to the concept of a multi-speed Union the problems I am referring to and around which a debate is going on regarding the shape and the vision of Europe concern the four European freedoms, the migration crisis, permanent structured military cooperation, and structural funds in the context of the debate on the new multiannual financial framework (2021-2027).
I wish to make it clear: Polands goal is a strong European Union. This is a goal, your applause confirms that this is a goal, which I believe a decisive majority of this House would subscribe to. This is also a policy goal of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieckis cabinet.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us consider the meaning of a strong and effective European Union today and why adopting a specific model of the European integration process will make it strong and effective.
In order for the European Union to be effective it must be able to obtain a real democratic mandate to act. A strong Union is a Union that has the support of its Member States and peoples. An effective Union is a Union that has a democratic mandate which enables it to use the resources generated by EU citizens to attain democratically set goals.
The first task of the Union is to win political support of its citizens for its actions. Such consent in the form of a real mandate can only be obtained at the level of national parliaments. Further deepening of European integration is possible insofar as it is accepted by the States and peoples that participate in the proces.
I would also like to say that the European Commission is not a supra-government, and the European Parliament is not a supra-parliament empowered to instruct national governments and parliaments. Let us recall here Art. 5(2) of the Treaty on European Union which stipulates that: the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States, and Competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States.
Members of the House,
The EUs democratic deficit is not a figure of speech. It is a reality with deep political consequences. The Republic of Poland takes the position that the European Union can be strong only thanks to the real support of its citizens, who are able to confer a democratic mandate on their elected governments.
Citizens want their voices to be heard. The rising tide of protest against integration on the European continent is not the cause of the EUs democratic weakness, but its consequence. Nothing is more harmful to the idea of European integration than the actual inequality of its Member States before the law, the use of double standards and the European Commission walking away from the role of objective guardian of the Treaties to act as an instrument in the hands of some States.
Poland is an old democracy, it has one of the longest parliamentary traditions in Europe. This year we are celebrating the 550th anniversary of the Polish parliamentary system. One of the makers of the Constitution of 3 May, Hugo Kołłątaj, wrote:
Peoples are unjustly accused of rising against those who rule, because they rise against those who misrule.
This quote is still relevant today after two hundred or so years. It reveals the real cause of protests against European integration in many countries.
We place our trust in the common sense of voters and we reject usurpation by anyone of the right to lecture fellow citizens about what they should believe in.
Members of the House,
We strongly oppose the idea of a two-speed European Union.
The creation of a European nucleus, or a first-speed Europe, would obviously result in moving every real decision-making process from Treaty-based EU institutions, which represent all Member States, to newly created Eurozone institutions and informal bodies.
This would lead to a marginalization of Central Europe and other regions: the Nordic countries, States located in the south of the Eurozone which are struggling with the consequences of the financial crisis. The establishment of a Directorate of selected superpowers would be against Europes fundamental principles.
In an efficient and functional democracy there is no room for protectionism. The proposed revision of the Posted Workers Directive is one of its expressions.
We cannot accept rules of the game which suggest that we should lose our existing competitive advantages while stronger partners will keep theirs according to the rules they imposed. We believe in an integrated, single European market and in the four freedoms. Let me say it once more: we believe in all four freedoms: the free movement of goods, capital, services and people, not just some of them.
We advocate a social market economy based on free competition and economic freedoms. Protectionism limits competitiveness and economic growth and by so doing diminishes the EUs power and international standing.
Mr Speaker,
Members of the House,
Structural funds are part of a mechanism that makes the European market beneficial for all of its entities. Weaker partners regard them as compensation that more economically developed states pay for lifting import duties and protectionist quotas and for opening up less competitive economies to free competition from stronger players.
Therefore, these funds are not some kind of charity given by the richer to the poorer and most of them return to the net payers. The Polish market and the markets of other countries in our region remain open to all European partners. In return, we expect the other side to meet its existing obligations until our living standard catches up with that of the old EU states. When that happens we will naturally become net payers and will also benefit from this fact.
We advocate sustaining a high level of funding for the EU cohesion policy in the 2021-2027 financial framework. Poland is a leader in effective and transparent use of EU funds.
So, we realize that funds will be smaller. The United Kingdom, which was a net payer, is leaving the Union. Some Polish regions have achieved such income level that they will lose their right to receive structural policy funds. We are also aware of the fact that some states expect the EU budget to fund new areas, such as combatting illegal migration, innovation, security, and defence cooperation.
Therefore, we opt for an ambitious budget, for supplementing shortages by scrapping rebates and increasing contributions. We declare our readiness to increase Polands contribution accordingly.
We do not agree with suggestions that access to EU funds should be linked to an assessment of compliance with the rule of law. The rule of law is a value that we treasure, it is a value that we hold dear. Nonetheless, we are concerned that unclear criteria could lead to arbitrary limitation of Member States rights.
The European Union should be founded on universal rules that are equally applied to all, but, for instance, the application of excessive deficit procedures shows that such instruments are not binding for all members. This is something we will not agree to.
We regret to note the European Commissions decision to launch the procedure set forth in Art. 7 of the Treaty on the European Union. We will defend our right to carry out reforms of the judiciary which respond to the expectations of Poles voiced in the latest elections. They do not violate the principles of a democratic rule of law. On the contrary, they strengthen them.
We outlined our position in the White Paper, which we have communicated to EU institutions and Member States. It presents arguments which explain the necessity of launching the reform of the judiciary. Let me also stress that we are open to dialogue and a discussion based on the merits with the European Commission and the Member States. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and our experts are due to meet soon with the President of the European Commission and its experts.
Members of the House,
We want to participate in resolving the migration crisis. But we are against imposing a scheme of obligatory quotas for taking in refugees, and we reiterate this. Past experiences prove that they go to those countries that can provide them better living conditions.
We are also assisting societies in the Middle East in solving crises where they erupt. Poland and its Visegrad Group partners appropriated 35 million euros to protecting Libyas borders. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki paid a visit to Lebanon in February to start the construction of houses for Syrian refugees.
We honour our obligations relating to asylum procedures. In 2015-2017 we took in 3,700 people from European Union Member States, and we examined favourably 21,000 applications. Doesnt Poland contribute substantially to solving the migration crisis?
Members of the House,
Enhanced cooperation in defence and security PESCO addresses three important issues: the development of a national defence industry, the structure of a national defence budget and the effectiveness and speed of cross-border military mobility for allied forces.
The aim of the European Defence Fund is to finance research into new defence technologies and to support Member States that want to develop their combat capabilities. It will naturally affect the structures of national military budgets and the defence industries of EU states. We advocate equal opportunities of access to the European Defence Fund for all the Member States defence industries to ensure growth, innovation and jobs in each one of tchem.
We want to avoid a situation in which the Commissions proposals will mostly benefit the largest countries with big defence industries, whereas the smaller States will face a reduction of their potentials. We should also develop technologies and capabilities which are key to defending the Unions territory. We strongly advocate the principle of avoiding duplication of the North Atlantic Alliances operations and expenditures.
When talking about enhanced European defence capabilities, we cannot forget about our British allies. Let us emphasize that the European Union will need the UK also when it leaves the bloc. The relationship between both entities should be as close as possible, but based on a balance of acquired rights and obligations. We seek to protect the acquired rights of Polish nationals who live in the UK. We are satisfied with the progress made by the first stage of negotiations, and we hope for a good deal on the final framework of EU-UK cooperation.
We advocate further enlargement of the European Union. We actively support the Western Balkans pro-European aspirations and we share our experiences with our neighbours and partners on their road to membership. The Skopje and the Tirana Conferences serve this aim. We are also participating in the Berlin Process, an initiative which supports this regions integration with the European Union. In 2019, we will organise a summit as part of this process.
Members of the House,
To sum up this part of my address which concerns the European Union, I wish to emphasize that we want a European Union of citizens, which requires recognising the fundamental role of Member States as hosts of the European integration process. Each government is answerable to the citizens, who are represented in parliaments. You cannot extend the EUs powers laid down in the treaties adopted by the Member States without their consent expressed in a treaty.
A multi-speed Union would be a step towards its inevitable breakup. We need to respect all four fundamental freedoms of the single market.
Structural funds are an effective instrument of building the Unions cohesion. Their reduction would undermine this cohesion. EU policies, including migration and security policies, cannot be imposed on any country against their will.
The aim of the European integration process cannot be reduced to the US engagement in Europe. After all, European solidarity is part of transatlantic solidarity, which is to say solidarity of the whole West.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the House,
In a world where countries play the leading role in international politics, bilateral relations lie at the heart and are the salt of diplomacy.
Germany is our main political and economic partner in the European Union, and our important ally in NATO. We welcome the fact that the programme of the new government places high value on the Polish-German partnership. It was further confirmed by Chancellor Angela Merkels visit to Warsaw on Monday this week. We declare our willingness to fill this partnership with substance.
The success of any positive projects put forward at the EU forum depends on friendly relations with Germany. We concur on many items on the EU agenda, such as defence cooperation, fiscal policy, and the ramifications of Brexit. We appreciate Germanys role in maintaining sanctions which were imposed on Russia because of its aggression in Crimea and Donbass.
We would like to begin work on resolving matters where we have different positions. We consider the Nord Stream 2 project to be a threat to the whole regions energy security, and to the common EU energy market. We will also be discussing the need to compensate Poles for the losses suffered during World War Two. We will be looking for legal and financial ways of redressing the injustice suffered.
Members of the House,
France continues to be our important partner. We have special historical ties linking us with that country. We look back with gratitude at French support for Polands freedom and independence; for the Great Emigration, the Kultura magazine in Paris, and Solidarity. Poles highly value French culture.
Prime Minister Beata Szydło met with President Macron in Paris last November to discuss the future shape of the European Union. We will continue these talks.
Acknowledging the strong need to stabilize our European neighbourhood, we view France as our key partner in military cooperation, both in bilateral relations and within NATO and the European Union.
Our economic relationship is strong, with France being the fourth biggest investor in Poland.
We want to use the potential of the Weimar Triangle to solve our common problems, and enhance the European Unions unity and cohesion.
The United Kingdom is one of our closest partners. Our foreign and defence ministers hold a regular dialogue on security matters in the Quadriga format. Our consultations in December ended with the signing of a treaty on cooperation in these fields. London has recently hosted the second Belvedere Forum, which helps to deepen the dialogue between the civil societies of Poland and the UK. This year marks the Polish-UK Year of Entrepreneurship, Science and Innovation. A business forum is scheduled in May. We are working on a new mechanism of regular consultations on economic matters.
The group of Polands major European partners will traditionally include Italy and Spain, countries with which we plan to hold intergovernmental consultations. We want to build on our close cooperation with those countries, representing different regions of Europe, so as to look for constructive solutions for the entire Union, and enhance its cohesion. The Utrecht Conference is an important forum of dialogue in our relationship with the Netherlands.
Mr Speaker, Members of the House,
Development of regional cooperation is one of our main priorities. We have a shared network of interests with many of our neighbours on security, infrastructure, approach to the EU budget, and our regions representation in the EU decision-making structures.
We feel a growing willingness within the Visegrad Group to advance our common interests. We are grateful to Hungary for its solidarity in our dispute with the European Commission. The Visegrad Group is very much on the same page when it comes to the migration crisis and the European integration process. We presented our shared vision of the Union at the Rome summit marking the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Treaties.
The Three Seas Initiative comprises 12 EU Member States that sit between the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black Seas. In 2017, Warsaw hosted a Three Seas Initiative Summit, which was organized on the initiative of President Andrzej Duda. Attended by US President Donald Trump, the meeting gave the project a new impetus.
The Initiative aims to translate legal and treaty rules of the single market into tangible infrastructural results. The exchange of goods, services and workers mobility remain far below our regions potential. It is impeded by the lack of infrastructure such as roads, railway lines, or energy links in the north-south belt. We want to deepen and flesh out our collaboration, notably by establishing a Three Seas Fund which will provide funding for infrastructural projects.
We value trilateral Polish-Romanian-Turkish consultations on foreign and defence policy. Romania is an important ally on the eastern flank of NATO, with its economy developing at the fastest pace in the EU. With Bucharest, we share a common outlook on the international situation, and a tradition of an alliance dating back to the interwar period. This country will hold the EU presidency next year. We also appreciate Turkeys pivotal role as an important member of the North Atlantic Alliance.
We are developing cooperation with our neighbours in the north, especially on security policy, defence industry cooperation, the European agenda, and sectoral collaboration. Opening up to Scandinavia Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland would be a natural direction of development for Three Seas infrastructural investments. We set great store by the format of dialogue that brings together Central Europe and Scandinavia.
With the Baltic States Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia we share a similar view about the nature of threats, as well as common interests in such domains as the European Union, energy, and infrastructure. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieckis recent meeting with the leaders of the Baltic States confirmed our solidarity with these countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the House,
Eastern policy is among the key dimensions of Polands foreign policy. This is due to the current pace of developments in the East, the scale of challenges to Polands and Europes security coming from this direction, and our historical experiences.
It is in Polands interest that nations of our eastern neighbourhood should enjoy independence and security. That their right to make a sovereign choice of their path of development, political system and alliances should be respected according to the spirit and the letter of the UN Charter and the principles of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Those that decide to opt for Europe and the West can count on Polands unwavering assistance in achieving this aim. We welcomed the outcome of last years Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels.
We will continue to support our partners, using the potential of the European Union, NATO and bilateral relations.
Members of the House,
Pragmatic relations with the Russian Federation are in the interest of Poland and Europe. Polish diplomacy is actively engaged in developing NATOs and the EUs policy towards Russia which is consistent and based on solidarity. Our coherent position should account for Russias conduct towards the Union, NATO, their individual Member States, and our strategic partners. It should also account for the way Russia observes international law.
We believe that it is imperative to maintain a political dialogue with Russia. However, in this dialogue we cannot ignore Russias aggressive policy towards the West. In recent years, Russia has violated many treaties that were adopted at solemn ceremonies.
We believe that any resolution of problems existing in relations with the Russian Federation should be founded on reality regarding military security, and issues related to transport, communication, and energy. Seeking solutions only through legal and treaty-based arrangements will not suffice. We will develop our position towards Russia together with our allies from NATO and the European Union.
We have repeatedly highlighted the lack of basis for withholding wreckage of the Tu-154 aircraft and its black boxes, which are Polands property. Their return is a legal and a moral obligation.
We will also seek to recover archives which are of key historical importance to Poland from the Russia. There are also examples of successful cooperation like the joint Polish and Russian project by their respective researches who developed educational materials for history teachers. Their work was recently presented in the MFA headquarters. We would like to see more examples of successful cooperation.
Members of the House,
From the Polish perspective, an independent, democratic and stable Ukraine is a keystone of Europes order and security. The importance of bilateral relations was highlighted by President Andrzej Dudas visit to Kharkiv last year. We are confident that the Polish-Ukrainian partnership is strong and should remain so.
In Poland, the tragic historic test to which Ukraine is now subject because of Russias military aggression has inspired a natural feeling of sympathy and solidarity with a nation fighting for freedom, integrity, and independence.
We have established intensive training and military cooperation; our defence industries are also working closer together. We are expanding railway and air transport links, with Polands national carrier LOT opening a service to a sixth airport in Ukraine.
We showed our energy solidarity when faced with Gazproms decision to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, providing this fuel through the Hermanowice hub.
We are forging closer ties between our societies. Last year, Polish consuls issued 1.2 million visas to Ukrainian citizens. Over thirty-five thousand Ukrainians are now studying at Polish universities.
This year marks the centenary of independence in both Poland and Ukraine. It has also been 75 years since the massacres of Poles in Volhynia. These anniversaries carry a strong emotional charge; we should write a joint scenario to commemorate these epochal events.
The ban on exhuming the remains of Polish victims of wars and conflicts imposed by Ukraine is, for us, difficult to comprehend, and let me stress, it makes conducting our dialogue more difficult. We hope that the ban will soon be lifted.
An independent Belarus is in Polands vital interest. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. Today, our relations focus on solving practical problems. We hope to be able to invigorate cooperation in infrastructure, notably by increasing the capacity of border crossings and fully implementing the local border traffic agreement. Starting from 1 January this year, visa-free travel regime was introduced in the regions of the Augustów Canal, Hrodna, and Brest.
This January, Polish and Belarusian government officials met to discuss the development of harbour infrastructure for the purposes of the waterway linking the Baltic and Black Seas through Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine.
We endorse the pro-European and pro-Atlantic aspirations of Georgia, which was included in the EUs visa-free travel programme. Poland will continue to support Georgias efforts to implement its association agreement with the European Union, and to foster cooperation with NATO.
We support Moldovas reform process and its pro-European orientation. We will advocate the EUs continued commitment to political dialogue, aimed at reintegrating Transnistria with Moldova.
We will be also working to further the dialogue with Armenia and Azerbaijan. South Caucasian countries are located along a strategic transport route of energy resources. We note with satisfaction last years launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway service, which provides new opportunities for economic contacts with the European Union.
Mr Speaker, Members of the House,
The expansion of Polish companies is an important source of our economic growth. We have been consistently supporting Polish businesses abroad, with nearly 6,500 Polish companies receiving the MFAs assistance last year.
Our principal partner in Asia is the Peoples Republic of China. Last year, our trade was worth close to USD 30 billion. Poland plays an increasingly prominent role in cargo transport between China and Europe. As much as 90 percent of rail transport between China and the European Union passes through the Małaszewicze terminal.
Last year, 140,000 Chinese tourists visited Poland. We hope that this trend will lead to more joint investments.
This year will see another edition of the Poland-China Regional Forum in Chengdu. However, narrowing our deep trade deficit will be a challenge in our cooperation with China.
We attach special importance to strengthening cooperation with countries with which we have strategic partnerships, namely Japan and the Republic of Korea. Investments from these countries will help us deliver on such objectives of the Strategy for Responsible Development as reindustrialization and development of electric mobility.
We are building our relationship with India and the ASEAN countries. President Andrzej Dudas visit to Vietnam last November served this end.
A new direct air connection with Singapore to be launched in mid-May by LOT Polish Airlines will help to forge close ties with our partners in that region. Poland is the only founding member from Central Europe participating in the work of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
We want to intensify our cooperation with Australia and New Zealand. We are hopeful that the first-ever presidential visit to these countries will help us to attain this objective.
We are developing our relations with Israel. We look forward to Israels Presidents visit to Poland to take part in the March of the Living with President Andrzej Duda. We are building our relations on the foundation of centuries-old coexistence of Poles and Jews under one Polish roof. We are focusing on economic and technological cooperation.
Poland supports its entrepreneurs in Africa and the Middle East. We will develop political and economic cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries. A stable economic and social situation in the regions leading countries and the progressing liberalisation of trade with the European Union are reasons for optimism.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Together with the President, the Ministry of Investment and Development, the Ministry of Agriculture and other central agencies, we are improving instruments of economic diplomacy. We provide training for Polish entrepreneurs on how to participate in tenders and projects announced by international organisations. We support technological cooperation between Polish companies and research and development institutions with their counterparts abroad. Through such tools as the Poland Prize programme, we seek to attract intellectual capital, which is the driving force of innovation.
This year, Poland will for the third time host COP24, the worlds largest climate conference. We have taken up this task in the spirit of shared responsibility for finding solutions to Earths climate troubles. Katowice will play host to 20,000 delegates from around the world. It will come as an opportunity to showcase Silesia and Poland as an open and modern country that cherishes its historical and natural heritage, and to promote Polands solutions and state-of-the-art technologies in the field of energy consumption and pollution emissions.
Members of the House,
The Polish diaspora is an extremely important part of the national community. We always remember about them, particularly in the year that marks the centenary of independence. There are 20 million Poles or people of Polish descent living abroad. Some of them stayed behind in the East after the borders were redrawn, some others are emigrants who form todays Polish diaspora in the West.
The rights of the Polish minority in Lithuania have always been on the governments agenda. We are noting significant progress; this May five Polish TV channels will start to be re-broadcasted in the Vilnius region, which will help our compatriots to maintain close ties with Polands living culture. Other issues will be worked out by our two governments.
We expect Belarus to observe standards towards the Polish minority as prescribed by international law and organisations and enshrined in our bilateral treaty.
Poles in Germany look forward to the implementation of treaty obligations, in particular in education.
We have been seeking to ensure that Poles living abroad enjoy all rights under bilateral agreements and international standards. Our special effort will be to make the teaching of the Polish language more available, particularly for school-age children.
Last year, this House passed the amended Act on Repatriation. It will facilitate the return of all eligible Poles and people of Polish origin who want to repatriate.
The Polish States care for Poles in the East was manifested by the Law on the Card of the Pole adopted ten years ago. In this period, 230,000 such cards were issued, with nearly 30,000 last year. On the Presidents initiative, students of Polish diaspora schools are receiving Polish school IDs; 31,000 of them were issued last year.
The large Polish diaspora in the West offers a chance to actively advance Polands interests. We will develop the network of Advisory Councils for the Polish Community Abroad at Polish diplomatic missions, and support diaspora organisations and education. We would like our compatriots, through close cooperation with Polish diplomatic and consular missions, to become important allies of the government in furthering Polands raison détat.
We also do hope that Polands economic growth, rising prosperity of its citizens, and declining unemployment will persuade many Poles to return. We look forward to and strongly encourage that.
Members of the House,
In the year of the centenary of our regained independence, we are planning a number of initiatives to promote Polands culture and political traditions, with a special focus on the civilizational heritage of the Republic of Poland as one of Europes oldest parliamentary democracies. 550 years of Polands parliamentary system will be celebrated in July during an event that will bring together the presidents of parliaments from Central and Eastern Europe.
Poland will celebrate this anniversary showing its solidarity and awareness of shared history with other peoples in the region, who also gained their independence a hundred years ago.
Operating in 24 countries, the Polish Institutes are adapting their activities for the needs and priorities of Polish foreign policy.
We will be developing the civic and local government dimension of Polish foreign policy by drawing on the network of Regional Centres for International Debate. Local governments engagement in such projects as Silk Road or Three Seas significantly complements international agreements.
The local government dimension takes on special importance in the light of the COP24 climate summit in Katowice I spoke about earlier.
The debate surrounding the amended law on the Institute of National Remembrance brought differences between Polish and Jewish memories of history into relief. Cherishing historical truth also means preserving Holocaust memorials.
We have been calling attention to the fact that in order for the Holocaust to be carried out, it was necessary to destroy the Polish State. As long as it existed, it defended the life, security, and freedom of all Polish citizens.
Poland had never collaborated with the occupier in any organized form. Poland relentlessly fought the occupier in the underground and in exile; it alerted the Allies to the fate of the Jews who were being exterminated by the Third Reich; it punished with death Polish citizens who had been complicit in this crime. One of important tasks of Polish diplomacy will be to raise global awareness of these issues.
Members of the House,
Development aid is an investment in the worlds stability and security, and thus in the stability and security of Poland. Under the Multiannual Development Cooperation Programme 2016-2020, principal recipients of Polish aid include Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Palestine, Senegal, and Tanzania.
In 2017, Poland allocated PLN 2.5 billion to its development assistance. A big portion of this amount PLN 167 million went to humanitarian aid to help people affected by crises in the Middle East, including Syrian refugees.
Last year, we provided medical care to over 25,000 refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraqi Kurdistan, and we helped nearly a thousand children in Lebanon gain access to education.
Members of the House,
In order to be effective, foreign policy needs a legal framework, the right staff, and a network of diplomatic missions. Today, our headquarters and foreign posts employ 4,700 people, 900 of whom have permanent diplomatic ranks.
To reverse that proportion, we will be taking on young, well-educated people. There are more than ten candidates applying for one place at the Diplomatic Academy. By introducing two rounds of admission, we will be able to educate 60 trainees each year. The Academy students are in this hall today, listening to our debate about Polands foreign policy.
We are working to improve the quality of consular protection and make it more accessible. Last year, the Consular Information Centre answered 65,000 phone calls from our citizens in the United Kingdom and Ireland. This year we will extend its scope to cover Germany, France, and the Netherlands, countries in Western Europe with the biggest Polish populations.
We are expanding Polish diplomatic presence across the globe. In 2017, we opened our Embassy in the Republic of Panama with is accredited in eight countries of the region, and our Embassy in the United Republic of Tanzania, which is also accredited in the neighbouring countries. This January saw the inauguration of the Polish Embassy in the Republic of the Philippines. We have opened Consulates General in Houston and Belfast, and the consular post in Montreal was raised to the rank of Consulate General.
We are building a new seat of our embassy in Berlin, which will bring all institutions representing Polands political and economic interests under one roof. We are building a new embassy in Minsk. Adaptation of the Pac Palace to accommodate our Embassy in Vilnius is near completion; it will open in the second half of the year.
Mr Speaker,
Members of the House,
International situation in Europe and around the world is dynamic; we are facing many challenges and tasks. For this reason, my information to the House about the tasks that Polish diplomacy will carry out this year is rather lengthy. The need to clearly set out the grounds on which we based our position, especially in the ongoing debate about the future of the European Union is another reason why I spoke at such length.
The salt of democracy is an open and responsible political debate that aims to work out the best possible solutions. It is my hope that my address will prompt the House to hold such a debate, underpinned by the belief that foreign policy is a national, not a partisan matter and, as such, it should be exempt from competition inherent to other fields of fractional politics.
I would therefore ask the Sejm to accept the Governments information on Polish foreign policy tasks in 2018.
Thank you very much.

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