13th Jun 2021

The new Polish government: What to expect?

  • Ewa Kopacz: A new face in Warsaw but much of Poland's EU policy is set to remain the same (Photo: Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów)

Poland's new prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, presented her government’s agenda on Wednesday (1 October) in a speech in front of the parliament that showed that on EU questions Warsaw is unlikely to look much different.

Kopacz was appointed after her fore-runner, Donald Tusk, was chosen to chair the European Council, a job he will take on later this autumn.

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The biggest issues on her agenda are the Ukrainian crisis and relations with Russia. She said she stands for a “pragmatic” approach to the conflict in Ukraine, “but will not agree to a change in Europe's borders by force”.

Kopacz did not mention the EU sanctions imposed on Russia but the foreign ministry, now headed by Grzegorz Schetyna who took over from Radek Sikorski, has indicated it will not change tack.

“We will be consistent in our support of the sanctions, and in case of further escalation in the East, Poland will even opt for strengthening the sanctions”, Rafal Trzaskowski, secretary of state for EU affairs, told EUobserver.

Kopacz, for her part, said “it’s our national interest not to let the EU position [on Russia] become diluted, although we also cannot let Poland become isolated on the European scene by having unrealistic expectations”.

The new government will support development of the energy union, an idea often raised by Tusk, and favours the EU-US trade agreement (TTIP) because “in the light of Ukrainian crisis it is crucial for both Poland and Europe to have stronger ties with the US”, Kopacz said.

Her remarks were welcomed by Danuta Huebner, a centre-right Polish MEP and veteran of politics in Brussels.

“It is a good news, but it’s also not a change compared to Tusk’s approach. We must bear in mind however that we are not yet in the advanced stage of the negotiations and specific issues might emerge where Poland might be less optimistic”, she said.

Kopacz’s speech came amid a backdrop of protests by Polish miners.

Talking about a coal-based economy, she said her government would not support EU climate goals as it would make the economy less competitive and lead to a rise in energy prices.

“There is no overall shift in Kopacz’s approach to important European issues from what Tusk and his government stood for”, said Renata Mienkowska, an expert from the Centre for Political Analysis.

“This has both positive and negative consequences: Poland will continue to be stubborn when it comes to combating climate change, but will also remain a serious partner in the biggest European projects".

Kopacz was also reluctant to mention any specific date for Poland joining the eurozone.

“It is a sensible stand, although we should remember that her chief economic advisor is rather sceptical on this issue”, Danuta Huebner said.

Polish-German relations were not mentioned, but many commentators suggest that foreign minister Schetyna will continue the policy of predecessor, as he has little experience on the international scene.

“Unlike Sikorski, Schetyna never possessed any international aspirations”, noted Ryszard Czarnecki, a Polish MEP in the ECR Group.

“My impression is that he will take the opportunity as foreign affairs minister to focus on rebuilding his position in the party rather than implementing a new vision of Polish foreign policy”, he added.

Kopacz has appointed five new ministers out of 18. These are: Grzegorz Schetyna (foreign affairs); Cezary Grabarczyk (justice); Maria Wasiak (infrastructure and development); Teresa Piotrowska (interior); and Andrzej Halicki (administration and digitalisation).

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