Is There a Shift in Poland’s Foreign Policy towards Eastern Neighbours?

24-03-2017
Is There a Shift in Poland’s Foreign Policy towards Eastern Neighbours?
Is There a Shift in Poland’s Foreign Policy towards Eastern Neighbours?

In her latest research paper, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz from Stefan Batory Foundation offers an in-depth analysis of Poland’s policy and actions towards its Eastern neighbours (Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus), following the possible funding cuts for Belsat TV, a Polish-funded Belarussian-language TV channel, which has been an independent information source for Belarusian audience in the conditions of state censorship. Polish officials argued that the purpose of cutting funds for Belsat TV is to make room for a Polish-language TV channel, which will air in Belarus as well.

The creation of Belsat TV by the Polish government has been described as a symbol of Poland’s commitment to promote democratic values not only in Belarus, but in Ukraine as well. Therefore, the paper outlines that the recent developments around this topic could have an impact on the entire Eastern neighbourhood. Despite the constant public support by Polish politicians for strengthening the democratization process in Ukraine, Poland’s recent actions rather suggests that supporting democracy in Belarus and Ukraine is ceasing to be a priority for Warszaw.

Based on this fact, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz argues that such a step could represent an attempt by the Polish government to distance itself from the ideas of Giedroyc and Mieroszewski and instead develop a policy based on the principles of Polishness. Developed by a Polish political activist (JerzyGiedroyc)and political commentator (Juliusz Mieroszewski) these ideas characterized Poland’s eastern policy as a supporter of “democratisation and reform of the state, the construction of modern state institutions, the promotion of human rights, and support for civil society” in Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus. Giedroyc also emphasizes that the independence of its Eastern neighbours is in Poland’s interest.

However, Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz explains that to some extent, Poland’s actions towards its neighbouring countries are in fact a response to the changing reality”. For example, in Belarus, where Poland and the EU have been denouncing the abuses made by President Lukashenko against his own people, support for the Union increased after it has lifted most of the sanctions imposed on Minsk. She also acknowledges that the promotion of Polishness in Belarus and Ukraine is an “entirely reasonable approach”. As such, the author argues that the principles of Giedroyc and Mieroszewskimight require some alterations on one hand, while on the other hand, Poland should not abandon these principles, and should continue supporting democratic development of Belarus and Ukraine.

The Stefan Batory Foundation, an active member of the EaP CSF, published this paper as part of its Open Europe programme.

The overview is prepared by the EaP CSF. 

Full publication available below.