Recent developments in Poland In Interview with Dr. Przemyslaw Osiewicz
By Vali Kouzehgar Kaleji
International Peace Studies Center (IPSC)
PRZEMYSŁAW OSIEWICZ – born in 1979, graduated in political science in the field of international relations from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Currently an Assist. Prof. at AMU Poznan and an expert at the Sobieski Institute in Warsaw. He has a PhD in political science. His doctoral thesis was dedicated to Plans and Initiatives for a Peaceful Settlement of the Cyprus Question: Legal and Political Aspects. Previous studies/guest researcher: Södertörns Högskola (Stockholm, Sweden); Eastern Mediterranean University (Famagusta, Cyprus); Chinese Culture University (Taipei, Taiwan); National Taipei University (Taiwan); Selcuk Universitesi (Konya, Turkey); Mersin Universitesi (Turkey), Linnaeus University (Sweden), University College Ghent (Belgium). His scientific interests involve international conflicts and disputes, unrecognized states, security of energy supplies, Greek – Turkish relations, the Cyprus question, EU – Turkey relations, Iran’s foreign policy and cross-strait relations between the mainland China and Taiwan. Cooperates with IPIS in Tehran. In this interview, Dr. Osiewicz will answer to IPSC questions regarding development in the Poland, Economic Crisis and EU sanctions against Iran.
IPSC: As you know, parliamentary election to both the Senate and the Sejm (lower house) was held in Poland on 9 October 2011 and Civic Platform Party won 207 seats in the Polish National Assembly, meaning that Donald Franciszek Tusk, chairman of the Civic Platform, became the first Prime Minister to be re-elected since the fall of communism in Poland. What’s your analysis about this election?
– In my opinion these elections proved that all processes related to political transformation in Poland had been completed. All changes initiated after 1989, namely after the fall of the communist regime, resulted in a stable and predictable system which should be classified as an example of liberal democratic system. Besides, the outcome should be seen as a public acceptance of the current policy of the PO-PSL government. Thanks to good decisions and reasonable policies, so far Poland has managed to avoid consequences of the global financial crisis and probably that’s the main reason why Poles count on continuity rather than any changes. Yet it does not change the fact that the Tusk’s government will have to face some problems as well as introduce a few unpopular reforms in 2012. One of them is connected with a pension scheme.
IPSC: Komorowski was the governing Civic Platform party’s candidate in the resulting 2010 presidential election, which he won in the second round of voting on 4 July 2010. According to results of parliamentary election, what’s your opinion about President Komorowski ‘s political situation?
– The parliamentary elections of 9 October 2011 did not change the political situation of President Bronislaw Komorowski. Although he was elected in 2010 thanks to the Civic Platform support, certainly he is not a representative of the ruling party anymore. On the contrary, he tries to become a middleman between the government and the Opposition. Undoubtedly, it is a very hard task, however, the President believes in his political vision and does his best in order to unite rather than divide political elites in Poland especially as far as tensions between the Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice Party (PIS) are concerned.
IPSC: Polish Independence Day celebrated with protests, a coalition of leftists, anarchists, pro-abortionists and Greens, and police arrested more than 120 people. What were the reasons for the protest?
– Worldwide various political groups try to exploit national holidays to present their attitude either towards historical events or towards ongoing changes. The same takes place in Poland, however, until November 2011 we had never witnessed such riots. In my opinion, it was a clash of two extreme political groups, namely nationalists and leftists, which have only marginal influence on the ongoing political and social processes in Poland. Unfortunately, the president of Warsaw allowed them to protest on the same day and in the same district what resulted in the riots. Yet it does not mean that both groups can be scorned by the government as their members are mostly young people who are potential voters. The problem is both groups have contrary visions of Poland and it will not change as differences between them are ideological. Moreover, the same phenomenon, namely the clash of leftist and nationalist groups can be observed in almost all European states. It was proved that people become more radical during crises. I would add that it is true especially in case of economic crises.
IPSC: The global economic crisis has had a profound affect on the public finances of many countries, especially those in Europe. Poland is not immune to the effects of the crisis and like all other EU countries in the last two years, Poland’s public debt has increased to dangerous levels and the budget deficit remains high. How do you think about consequences of economic crisis on economic, social and political situation in Polish society?
– As you said Poland is not immune to the effects of the current crisis, but our situation is still very good comparing to Greece, Portugal, Spain or Hungary. The best proof is that our economic growth is still very high in comparison with other European states. According to Standard & Poor’s, our rating (A) is higher than ratings of Ireland (BBB), Italy (BBB) or Portugal (BB). What is more, when the Polish parliament accepted the new budget bill for 2012 some financial experts announced that the rating of Poland may soon increase to AA. That’s the level of France or Austria. In an article published in ‘The Economist’ in 2011 its author even wondered whether anybody had informed Poles about the current crisis in Europe. His remark was related both to a relatively low level of unemployment as well as high internal consumption in Poland. All commercial centers in Poland are still full of consumers who spend their money on everything. It only proves that most of Poles have not noticed any major negative change related to their living standard. All in all, the current situation is good, however, it is not perfect. There are still many things to do in order to avoid negative consequences of the crisis in the nearest future. If the government does not introduce some unpopular reforms related to taxes or public expenditures in 2012, Poles will have to face the same problems as their friends in Hungary or Greece. Well, the problem is that nowadays everything changes so dynamically that you cannot be sure of anything. I guess that’s the price we have to pay for globalization.
IPSC: “I hope the Polish people, for centuries a true European people, by cultivating its values, will find its rightful place in the structures of the European Community”, Pope Jean Paul II said about Europeanization of Poland. In current situation, what’s your perspective about Poland and EU relations including their challenges and opportunists?
– Poland has been a part of the Western civilization since 966, namely since the Baptism of Poland. The communist period (1945-1989) was just a short episode in comparison with our rich history and the role we played in Europe before 1939. Let me remind you that if King Sobieski had not defeated Kara Mustafa in the battle of Vienna in 1683, the Western Europe would have become a part of the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, the Cold War resulted in both political and identity divisions in Europe. It will take some time to get rid of them, however, I am very optimistic about it especially when I see young Europeans studying together and making friends across the whole continent. The best test of the ‘Polish’ Europeanization was our presidency in the EU Council in the second half of 2011. Well, the task was really hard as the Polish presidency had to cope with consequences of the economic crisis in the EU, the crisis within the euro zone and the Arab awakening. According to many EU officials, including the current President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, it was one of the best presidencies in recent years. Well, I do hope that the EU will overcome all economic difficulties. As to Pope John Paul II, he always advocated a dialogue between civilizations and therefore was respected by most of Muslims. I hope we will be able to continue his work. In my opinion almost all European leaders including Polish leaders opt for cooperation with the Islamic world rather than any confrontation.
IPSC: As you know, US and EU imposed different sanctions against Iran. So Iran has reacted to growing international pressure by threatening to block naval traffic across the Strait of Hormuz, threatening a vital international oil route in the Persian Gulf that led to increase tensions between Iran and Western and Arab Countries. What’s your analysis about consequences of this issue? What’s your opinion about Poland perspective and role in current situation?
– I guess no side can be satisfied with the current state of affairs. Of course the EU as a sovereign international actor had right to impose such sanctions on Iran. Poland, on the basis of the EU solidarity, accepted them. Yet, at least in my opinion, it is clear that all European governments would prefer to cooperate with Iran rather than impose sanctions which put not only Iran but also some EU member states at a disadvantage. Although Poland does not import Iranian oil, it still advocates dialogue with Iranian authorities. I would like to emphasize that Poles remember how Iranians saved thousands of Polish orphans during World War II. This year we celebrate another anniversary of this event. I do hope that both sides will soon come to a negotiation table in order to find the best political solution. Once Poland was a middleman between Iraq and the United States. In February 2012 it became a middleman between the U.S. and Syria, namely the Polish embassy represents Americans in Damascus. Who knows, maybe Poland could become a middleman between other EU member states and Iran this time? Although in fact we represent one side of the dispute, we have maintained very good relations with Iran for years. It is something we must not lose.
IPSC: Thanks for your responses and cooperation.