22nd Oct 2019

Poland growing in stature on EU stage, new president says

  • Mr Komorowski (c): the mild-mannered, moustachioed 58-year-old with aristocratic roots on Friday became the new symbol of Poland (Photo: prezydent.pl)

Poland's new President Bronislaw Komorowski described the country as a leading EU power ready to shape the future of the union in his inaugural speech on Friday (6 August).

"It is from our initiative that the Eastern Partnership came about and that reflection was deepened on the Common Security and Defence Policy. We are joining the group of European leaders. We want to strengthen, inspire and invigorate the Old Continent," he said at his swearing-in ceremony in the Sejm, referring to a recent Polish scheme to boost EU relations with post-Soviet countries.

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"I want the office of the President to become a centre of reflection on the future of united Europe, because the discussion on this subject is taking place in Europe and Poland's voice should not be absent."

The Polish head of state, who is responsible for foreign and defence policy, noted that he will make his first official visit to Brussels, followed by Paris and Berlin.

"I believe that relations taking shape in the Weimar Triangle, on the so-called Poland-Germany-France line, are key to European stability and unity, as well as for the position of our country," he added.

He said "close relations" with the US and Poland's Nato membership "remain ... one of Poland's foreign policy pillars."

Cultivating closer links with the Visegrad countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia) and Ukraine came next in the order of the keynote speech. Continuation of the recent "Polish-Russian reconciliation" was mentioned as a final priority.

The rhetoric marks a shift from Mr Komorowski's predecessor, the late Lech Kaczynski, who attached greater weight to Polish-US relations and who made no secret of his euroscepticism and his historical grievances against Germany and Russia.

Mr Komorowski's list of internal Polish priorities, including education, gender equality, development of the Internet and creative industries and the removal of barriers for young people to get jobs, also stands in contrast to Mr Kaczynski's appeal to conservative voters and rural regions.

The new President, himself a former anti-Communist activist, did not overlook Poland's painful past, however.

"We live in an independent, safe country which is respected around the world," he said. "For over 200 years our country has not had the chance to experience such a long and such a well-exploited period of freedom."

Mr Komorowski, who hails from the ruling centre-right Civic Platform party, narrowly beat Lech Kaczynski's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, from the right-wing Law and Justice opposition party, in a snap vote in July caused by the Smolensk air tragedy.

The Komorowski presidency is likely to help the Civic Platform government to run a tight ship during its EU chairmanship in the second half of 2011.

Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk rarely saw eye-to-eye on Europe, leading to episodes such as Mr Tusk refusing to let Mr Kaczynski fly to EU summits on the official plane and the pair scrapping over seats at the summit table in Brussels.

Mr Komorowski devoted a great part of his Friday address to an appeal for national unity, recalling that almost half the country voted for Jaroslaw Kaczynski in July.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski did not attend the inauguration ceremony however, with one Law and Justice party colleague telling press that Mr Komorwoski did not show adequate grief over Lech Kaczysnki's death in the Smolensk crash.

The President of the EU parliament, Polish politician Jerzy Buzek, for his part, told Reuters in Warsaw: "There are certain events in a democratic state when all should be present and when their absence is regarded as a deliberate protest."

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