Polish President on first state visit to Czech Republic

Bronislaw Komorowski, Václav Klaus (right), photo: CTK

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski is on a two-day state visit to the Czech Republic, beginning with a meeting with his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus. As Poland prepares to assume the EU’s rotating presidency in July, the heads of state discussed ways to promote their common interests in the Union, but also made their first comments on events in Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world, sparing little criticism for the West’s handling of the situation.

Bronislaw Komorowski,  Václav Klaus  (right),  photo: CTK
Czech President Klaus and Polish President Komorowski were genuinely upbeat about relations between their two countries. Both countries continue to invest more and more money in each other and are top trade partners for one another; business issues such as a north-south gas line, new highway routes, even the investment of the Czech cola Kofola in Poland were top of their agenda. Regarding a large tender for jet trainers for the Polish army, Mr Komorowski said he would welcome a Czech bid.

The two presidents have met twice since Mr Komorowski took office last year, following the tragic death of his predecessor Lech Kaczyński, who was a trusted ally of Mr Klaus particularly in terms of their shared conservative values and euroscepticism. As Poland prepares to take up the mantle of EU President in the second half of 2011, international issues were also at the fore of discussion, and the two presidents were both critical of the European response to recent events in the Arab world. President Komorowski addressed the EU’s role in the region.

Muammar Gaddafi,  photo: CTK
“I think that Rather than responding to objections that the European Union caused these changes, we should say that there has been a certain degree of unpreparedness on the part of the EU to confront the challenges and the hopes that are coming about in the region. These objections are unfounded, but there is a lack of vision, a concept of how to respond to what is happening in the region. And this could indeed be a serious problem for the Polish EU presidency.”

For his part, President Klaus was clear in his distaste for how Western countries deal with Muammar Gaddafi, saying that if we thought Tunisia and Egypt were bad, the brutal government intervention in Libya has shown what dictatorship really looks like.

“How the EU will respond, I of course do not know, but I was at the EU African summit in November of last year, in Tripoli under the direction of Mr Gadaffi himself, and I have to say that the presidents and prime minister of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were cautious and guarded in their dealings with the chairman. But when I saw how very friendly the leaders of Western Europe were towards Mr Gadaffi, I think they are going to have problems now.”

Bronislaw Komorowski,  Václav Klaus  (right),  photo: CTK
Belarus was also a talking point. Mr Komorowski, an anti-communist dissident who was imprisoned for his activities in 1980, said that Belarus was not receiving the kind of international support that the Solidarity movement in his own country had in the 1980s. The subversion of the anti-government demonstrations in Minsk in December were a wakeup call for the free world, he said, which should be supporting the democratic movement there.

Belarus will likely be a recurring theme in the Polish EU presidency, as its goals include cooperation with post-Soviet countries through the Eastern Partnership, as well as expanding the EU to include the West Balkan countries.