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Wednesday, 29 November 2006

An important step forward

On 29 November 2006, the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, returned from Riga, where he took part in a NATO summit.

The President was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anna Fotyga, the Minister of National Defence, Radosław Sikorski, Head of the National Security Bureau Władysław Stasiak and ministers from the Presidential Chancellery: Undersecretary of State Małgorzata Bochenek and Undersecretary of State Andrzej Krawczyk.

In addition to participating in the summit, the Polish President met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and with Romanian President Traian Basescu.

At a press conference following the closing of the summit, the Polish President said:

‘The summit focused first and foremost on NATO’s transformation at several levels. Yesterday the talks focused almost exclusively on Afghanistan. We raised the issue in separate meetings: between the prime ministers and presidents, between the foreign ministers and between the defence ministers. Today, the debate addressed a wider range of subjects, including the military upgrading of NATO, response forces, transport, the AGS system and the increasing interoperability between national armies within NATO. But today’s discussion also addressed other issues, ones connected with the Partnership for Peace, the Neighbourhood Policy and, finally, and most importantly from our point of view, with NATO enlargement. I cannot say that energy policy was discussed at any length, even though I had pointed to the problem in my address, and even though it was mentioned by the NATO Secretary-General in his address and in the final declaration. However, it was not the subject of any major dispute.

Regarding opinions on NATO expansion to include Ukraine and Georgia--for this is what we are most interested in (though we have nothing against enlarging the Alliance to include Albania, Macedonia and Croatia, naturally, and in the longer term also to include Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina)--on this issue, opinions were voiced both indicating that the decision to enlarge should be reached in 2008, and such was the opinion both of NATO’s largest member states and of a group of countries from our region. There were also countries showing greater scepticism about Georgia and Ukraine. I believe, nevertheless, that we can note a certain success here, first and foremost because NATO’s most powerful politician explicitly mentioned Georgia and Ukraine. The declaration is worded in a way that we find acceptable. Our two main objectives: firstly, NATO expansion and, secondly, energy policy issues, were included in it.

As I had predicted even before the deliberations started, this session was not a clear breakthrough. It was not only my opinion, incidentally. I had talked to some leaders of NATO member states even before the debate opened, and nobody had expected a breakthrough. Nevertheless, there is a certain step forward both on energy policy and on the ‘open door’ policy. Poland is a NATO member acting in the spirit of solidarity; Poland is a country that is now significantly strengthening its presence in Afghanistan. Not all of the countries show the same degree of determination in this respect. During yesterday’s debate on Afghanistan, which showed general agreement on the issue, the priority of this operation for NATO was universally acknowledged; at the most, there were some differences in emphasis. The predictions of the Polish press that this would be the subject of a fundamental dispute were proved wrong in the actual debate. I can say that I am generally satisfied, since NATO, just as the European Union, has never been made up of countries that have identical views on every single issue. Some things were clearly indicated.

I wish the enlargement process had been initiated already here. But it had been clear for months that it would not be so. I believe we stand a chance in 2008, as far as this geographical area is concerned. We are naturally also interested to see NATO enlargement in the Balkans, and we support it. Fortunately, a thesis that I formulated yesterday in a bilateral meeting was later reflected in the debate to a certain degree, a thesis that in the case of Georgia the mechanism works as follows: NATO membership is a source of stability and is meant to help in conflict resolution, not the other way round. A philosophy proposing that Georgia should first resolve all conflicts, most importantly the Abkhazia and Ossetia questions, and join NATO only afterwards, is a way of thinking that is not correct in this particular case. Fortunately, we do not stand alone in our efforts on behalf of Ukraine and Georgia, as clearly shown by the session.

Obviously, NATO expansion is a process to which particular countries are not committed in the same degree. There is a problem of NATO-UN relations on a global scale, for today we also discussed partnerships with countries such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Indonesia, mentioned in one speech. This is a concept of NATO as an organisation with a decidedly global impact. And there is also another concept, proposing a narrower scope of activity, and leaving field for action for the UN, though nobody denied the UN role. Naturally, the question of EU-NATO relations was raised. The EU has been broadening its scope of activity. Poland has nothing against that; it is just that Poland belongs to those countries that definitely do not see any conflict here. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on the two sides of the Atlantic, with the USA on the one side and the growing group of European states on the other side, is the core of this security system. As once in the past, over 15 years ago, when I tried to persuade the then commanders of the Polish Army, the generals, that the road towards NATO was the only way for us, as NATO is the only so-called hard security structure. I was convinced about that, and I must say that these fifteen years have proved this thesis absolutely right. At that point, the OSCE was supposed to be competition for NATO in Europe. What kind of competition it has been, we can all see today.

NATO is the only tried and tested organisation; its expansion, the coordination of operations of its military forces, its increasing expeditionary capability and, generally, its increasing defence capability – all this is something that is in our country’s most fundamental interest. Poland is increasing its military spending, by the way. Certainly, it is not a move to fail to result in long debates with the finance minister, whoever holds the office. On the other hand, if we want to be credible, this 12 per cent increase next year--and it will continue, I hope, in the years to come--is necessary in view of our international obligations, but also in view of the elementary responsibility involved in NATO membership, i.e. the defence of one’s own territory.’

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