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25th Jan 2021

Poland: Russia seeks 'new empire' in Europe

  • Waszczykowski (r), with Flanagan in Dublin on Thursday (Photo: msz.gov.pl)

Poland has warned that Russia could try to build a “new empire” in Europe by military “aggression” in a threat also to “lucky” EU states, such as Ireland, who are not on the front line.

“We currently look at the east with ever greater unease, that Russia could, once again, enter on the path of aggression and of building a new empire, and that we could, once again, become its victim”, Witold Waszczykowski, the Polish foreign minister, said in Dublin on Thursday (24 November) according to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

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  • Polish minister spoke about Russia at an Irish think tank (Photo: msz.gov.pl)

He said the fall of the Soviet empire “to an ever greater extent appears to have been a temporary situation, and not a definitive end in history”.

He said Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and of Ukraine in 2014 showed that “Russia is ready to resort to military force against her neighbouring sovereign states”.

He added that Poland is not anti-Russian and would have preferred a “stable and predictable Russia, that acts in accordance with international law”.

Waszczykowski spoke at the The Institute of International and European Affairs, a think tank in the Irish capital, after a two-day visit to the EU’s westernmost member.

He told press in separate remarks that “Ireland is a lucky country which is located very far away from the conflict areas, but in this globalised world there is, of course, no country which is totally immune”.

He also discussed Brexit and the issue of growing euroscepticism in the EU with his Irish counterpart, Charlie Flanagan.

Brexit talks

The Polish minister said EU states “should in the next few months work out a joint position” for talks on future UK relations, set to start at the end of March.

“We have a special issue with the UK because we have hundreds of thousands of Poles living there, so especially for us freedom of movement of people is very much important”, he said.

He said the growth of anti-EU populism in Europe was “disturbing”.

“We should once again place member states at the heart of the European project. If we improve, in this way, the legitimacy of EU institutions, we would respond to at least some of the reasons for the crisis in its [the EU’s] popularity”, he said.

British people voted to leave the EU, in part, because they wanted fewer Polish migrants in the UK.

The referendum in June was followed by an increase in xenophobic attacks on Polish people.

Some 150,000 Poles have also settled in Ireland, becoming its largest minority, and making the Polish language the most widely spoken foreign tongue in the country.

’Good citizens’

Waszczykowski asked for Irish schools to offer Polish language lessons.

He said Poles in Ireland were “good citizens” who “deserve that Polish culture is cultivated here” and that it would be a “good sign and a symbolic decision” if Ireland agreed.

Flanagan, the Irish foreign minister, said Polish relations had “grown hugely in recent years” and that “the Polish community is an extremely valued and integral part of Irish society”.

Ireland and Poland also have special ties with the US.

Waszczykowski and Flanagan voiced confidence in the incoming administration of president-elect Donald Trump.

The Polish minister said Trump’s “campaign statements”, for instance, on US disengagement from Nato, were already being replaced by “traditional US Republican [Party] foreign policies.”

Flanagan said Ireland expected to have “continued engagement” with America.

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