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New leadership in Warsaw

The truth is that there will likely be a significant degree of continuation between PiS and the previous Civic Platform (PO) governments writes Michal Baranowski. The PiS government will focus at least as much as its predecessor on security issues, especially as next year’s NATO summit in Warsaw draws nearer. As a consequence, the new leadership in Warsaw will place a priority on its relations with the United States, looking for U.S. military presence in Europe’s east and decisive leadership in NATO. One of the leading PiS politicians, Witold Waszczykowski, said that “U.S. military presence is welcomed and necessary, and has to be sufficiently large to deter a possible aggressor.” The new minister of defense (MOD) will also continue, and possibly accelerate, Poland’s military modernization program. The MOD will look to the United States for big defense contracts in order to strengthen the strategic ties between countries, but also to ensure greater transfer of technology to the Polish defense industry.

In the EU, the new government will place a lower premium on staying within the European mainstream, but there will be no desire to start unnecessary fights. Relations with the EU will reveal the most significant differences between the new government and the previous PO-led foreign policy. The government will be focused on domestic politics and interests, and willing to defend them vigorously in Brussels. This is likely to affect the refugee crisis in particular, especially since the incoming government is already on the record against taking in more refugees. The new government is likely to form a coalition with the other Visegrad Four countries against the compulsory refugee quotas, and will in turn focus on tightening external borders of the EU. The government also plans to move EU affairs to a separate ministry (removing it from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dossier) and put at the helm a politician with experience in Brussels.

The change of government in Poland comes at a challenging time for the EU, as it faces a multitude of crises and instability coming from inside, east, and south. The refugee crisis, in particular, has put massive strain on EU cohesion. Matters of tone and investment on both will be crucial in order to avoid exacerbating existing tensions in Europe.

Michal Baranowski is a director at the German Marshal Fund’s Warsaw office. This article was first published by the GMF.

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