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Poland - Foreign Policy

After the Second World War, Poland became a Soviet dependency, and for nearly fifty years was deprived of the sovereign right to determine its directions of activity on the international area. Only after the break-up of the Soviet bloc, Poland's aspirations to play an active role in the sphere of Western civilisation and to participate in Euro-Atlantic structures became possible. Subsequently, European integration based on the observance of the principles of democracy, protection of human rights and a market economy, became the model to follow. The European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries are Poland's main partners guaranteeing the external security and the further development.

Poland supports international activities for enduring peace in Europe and the world, the protection of fundamental human rights, the co-existence and development of all countries. Respecting the role of the United Nations as a forum for joint efforts to meet the threats and challenges facing the international community, Poland participates actively in anti-terrorist actions initiated and implemented by the UN. Polish soldiers and officers taking part in UN peace-keeping operations have earned international recognition. Poland was admitted to the OECD in November 1996. It considers this fact an acknowledgement of Polish achievements in the transition period and its admission to the group of developed countries as a stable democratic state under the rule of law, respecting human rights, implementing the free-market economic principles. Poland's membership and active participation in OECD offers it a chance to accelerate its process of integration with European structures.

Poland was admitted to the Council of Europe, with a membership of 43 European countries, in November 1991. The main objective of the Council of Europe is to act in support of co-operation between governments and parliaments, to propagate values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The Council searches for solutions with respect to intolerance, protection of minorities, children's rights, drug addiction, bio-ethics and access to education. The Polish Parliament's ratification in October 1992 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adopted by the Council of Europe in 1950, was of key significance for Poland's international legal obligations. This convention enables natural and legal persons to submit complaints against state authorities to the Commission of Human Rights and the Tribunal of Human Rights.

Poland declared its strong support for Ukraine in its ambitions to develop closer relations with countries and institutions of the Euro-Atlantic community. The good rapport between the two countries is demonstrated by the functioning of the Consultative Committee of Presidents of the Republic of Poland and the Ukraine, founded in 1993. A number of issues have been undertaken within its framework, including the co-operation of international organisations, local government and non-governmental institutions, problems of economic co-operation (including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions), and military and cultural co-operation across borders. The development of Polish-Ukrainian partnership plays a special role in Poland's Eastern policy.

After the collapse of the Communist system the shared experience of the past and awareness of new political, social, and economic challenges led the three countries in the region, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, to establish closer relations. In a declaration signed in Visegrd (Hungary) on 5th February 1991, the heads of the three states made a commitment to join the European political and economic system and to intensify regional, economic and cultural co-operation. Following the break-up of Czechoslovakia the Visegrd Group (V4) is now composed of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and it constitutes an important factor in regional co-operation, strengthening the position of these four partners in the process of European integration.

The group functioned as a consultation and coordination forum, mostly on the level of ministers of foreign affairs and national defence. Cooperation has been intensified after decision on inviting Poland, CzechRepublic and Hungary for accessing talks, which were taken by NATO nations on July 1997 in Madrid. Since January 1999 Slovakia has joined the Group. Every year, since 2002 the V4 ministers of national defence meet to discuss the main issues concerning defence policy of the alliance and the region and since 2005 also EU issues. During the meetings on the level of ministers of national defence, which are based on the familiar rule, exchanging experience and problems on military cooperation between Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are taken. Since 2007 Ukraine has taken part in the CHOD meetings. The next meeting will be held in Hungary in 2010.

For the first time in the history of the V4 CHOD meetings, in April 2009 the chiefs of defence of the Baltic States were invited to join the discussions. The Ukrainian Military Forces delegation has been also attending the meetings since 2007. The chiefs of defence of eight Central European countries discussed lessons learned from ISAF operation, the NATO Response Forces and cooperation within multinational structures as well as strategic cooperation with Ukraine. Great attention was paid to the issue of regional security.

The Council of the Baltic Sea States, founded in 1992, constitutes another regional forum of co-operation. Its members are Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Island, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, and Sweden. The Council, whose sessions are attended by European Commission representatives, is focused on co-ordinating activities for the protection of the natural environment, the development of transport and energy infrastructure, and the establishment of closer links between the Baltic Sea States and the European Union. Poland leaded its works in 1994-1995 and this year will take the presidency of that forum.

The significance of the German-Polish relationship goes beyond ordinary neighborly relations. It is one of the fundamental pillars of the European Union. In 1991 free Poland and united Germany signed a friendship treaty. It was a historic event, comparable to the signing of the Elyse Treaty that, three decades earlier, finally ended the "hereditary enmity" between Germany and France.

Relations between the two countries wre strained after the conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) took to power in October 2015. Shortly after, the PiS introduced legislation enabling the government to control Poland's court and its public broadcasters. In December 2015, German Member of European Parliament (MEP), Martin Schulz, said the situation in Poland was like a "coup." The two countries were also been at loggerheads over the refugee crisis, after the PiS refused to take in any migrants.



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