Czechs seek common ground with new Polish government

Witold Waszczykowski, Lubomír Zaorálek, photo: CTK

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski met with his Czech counterpart Lubomír Zaorálek in Prague on Monday, for the first Czech-Polish talks since the new conservative government of the Law and Justice party took office late last year. I spoke to Michal Kořán, an expert from the Czech Institute of International Affairs about how the change of guard in Poland could affect bilateral relations:

Witold Waszczykowski,  Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: CTK
“I think based on the results of yesterday’s visit of the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs both countries are stressing the positive agenda that might bind the two countries together, that is security and European cohesion. So on the official level I see that both countries are really trying to work on the solid foundations of our bilateral relations.

“However, having said that, it doesn’t mean that problematic issues might not arise in the future and one of them I believe might be Germany, because Germany is the strategic partner of the Czech Republic and as you could see, there might be some issues between Poland and Germany.

“But as I said, both countries, the Czech Republic and Poland are working hard in bringing a positive agenda on the table and predominantly it will be security, it will be NATO and it will be the external security of the European Union.”

Do you think that the policy of the new conservative Polish government could weaken the position of the Visegrad 4 group? Because some analysts are worried that Poland and Hungary could actually form a new alliance.

“We can definitely see that in terms of the Euroscepticism and in terms of handling the migrant crisis that the new Polish government and Hungary are getting closer, but on the other issues, which are key for Poland, and that is the future of NATO, the relationship to Russia, the situation in Ukraine and energy security also, these two countries do not really see eye to eye.

Michal Kořán,  photo: archive of Institute of International Affairs
“So I believe that it will be kind of business as usual, meaning that on certain issues, there will be a Hungarian-Polish tandem within the Visegrad Group. But it doesn’t mean that in overall strategic terms the two countries are together.

“On the other hand again the Visegrad Group might gain a little bit of a negative connotation within the European Union because of the policies especially regarding migration.”

And finally, what foreign policy line should the Czech Republic take towards Poland?

“I do not want to say it should play the role of a mediator, because that usually doesn’t work but we have to work out a positive agenda that is based for example on solidarity with the EU and the security of the EU. And we definitely have to work hard on not getting Poland isolated because an isolated Poland would be a tragedy for Central Europe as such.”