Poland Report



General and structural challenges to the operationalisation of a WGA increased greatly in Poland after the sweeping victory of the PiS in the parliamentary elections of 2015. The degree to which the ruling elite captured state institutions is unprecedented in the modern history of Poland. Many thousands of civil servants, diplomats and officers were fired, forced or persuaded to retire early, suspended or demoted to lower posts. Many officials, diplomats and officers were marginalised. Among officials who experienced this kind of mistreatment, individuals with more professional experience, including positions held abroad and close contacts with foreign partners, were overrepresented. At the same time, many diplomats, officials and officers were hired or promoted solely on the basis of their political sympathies or loyalties instead of according to meritocratic principles.
The operationalisation of the Polish WGA in foreign affairs faces other challenges in addition to the above-mentioned structural problems, such as a lack of sufficient diplomatic presences in countries with the biggest Polish military deployments, very limited support from civil society institutions, and insufficient dedicated financial resources. The internal political polarisation in Poland discussed above has also started to exert a negative influence on the Polish WGA regarding foreign affairs, and it may also be undermined by bilateral problems with countries in which it operates.
The conflict in Ukraine definitely represents the most important challenge to Polish security. For this reason, Ukraine constitutes the main area for the operationalisation of Poland’s WGA regarding foreign conflicts and crises. Poland has strengthened its engagement in Ukraine, such as with ODA and by deploying monitors, advisers and border guards. For example, Poland is involved substantially in international missions of the EU and the OSCE operating in Ukraine or on its borders. Polish General Slawomir Pichor manages the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), whose headquarters are located in Odessa (Ukraine). The Polish contingent in the mission is one of the biggest: 18 police officers and border guards, or almost 10 percent of its staff. A maximum of 10 Polish police officers and civil servants are engaged in the European Union Advisory Mission (EUAM) Ukraine, which was established in 2014. And 35 Polish officials participated in the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. However, given Ukraine’s significance to Poland, one can says that Poland’s WGA in Ukraine has had serious shortcomings, such as insufficient institutional coordination, bilateral problems between both countries, and levels of ODA and resource deployment that are both below Poland’s potential and incommensurate with Ukraine’s importance to Poland.
Poland’s performance concerning ODA after the 2014 revolution in Ukraine, known as the Revolution of Dignity, also gives a rather mixed picture. After Euromaidan, Poland did not substantially increase its ODA allocated for Ukraine until 2017, when it was boosted by 250 percent over the previous year (although this did not even exceed USD 60 million in absolute terms). Whereas Poland’s ODA in
2016 only made up 1.5 percent of the total ODA received by Ukraine, this figure rose to 5 percent in 2017 as a result of the increase.
The steep increase in Polish ODA allocated for Ukraine in 2017 largely resulted from the growing engagement of local Polish governments (e.g. provincial assemblies and the governments of larger cities) and civil society organisations (NGOs). Until the autumn 2018 elections, the vast majority of the institutions of local government were under the control of the opposition and were in sharp conflict with the central government. One should also note that the Polish government also takes a negative view of many Polish NGOs operating in Ukraine because they do not support its internal policy. Taken together, this political polarisation has complicated efforts to coordinate the activities of various Polish development-cooperation actors in Ukraine. Furthermore, clashes related to politics of history and identity, which have been fanned by the PiS, have led to an unprecedented deterioration of bilateral relations between Poland and Ukraine, which in turn has represented another challenge to the operationalisation of Polish ODA in the country.
Poland’s development aid allocated to Ukraine focuses on supporting good governance, human capital, entrepreneurship and the private sector. In its efforts to ensure a more effective response to the protracted crisis in Ukraine, Poland has officially adopted an approach of mutually reinforcing humanitarian and development measures, including and particularly ones targeting internally displaced persons from the eastern region of Donbass. However, there has been a huge gap between words and deeds, as Poland only transferred slightly more than USD 2 million of its total humanitarian aid to Ukraine in 2017, and around 35 percent of that amount went to international agencies active in Ukraine.
At present, Poland’s largest foreign deployment is in Kosovo, where more than 400 Polish police officers, soldiers and civil servants are operating. Up to 300 of them are soldiers serving in the NATO-led KFOR mission, and there are almost 100 Polish police officers serving in the EU-led EULEX mission. These police officers constitute the largest single contingent in that mission, accounting for around 30 percent of all servicemen (MFA n.d.). However, Poland’s capacity to implement a WGA in Kosovo is limited due to a lack of diplomatic representation and Poland’s very low level of interest in contributing to the development of Kosovo. Indeed, although Poland already recognised the independence of Kosovo in 2008, it is the only one among the EU countries to do so that has not yet established diplomatic relations with Pristina. This extremely lukewarm stance has been motivated by internal political calculations. For example, the fact that a majority of Poles and certain politicians were opposed to or at least sceptical about Kosovo’s independence led Kosovo to be viewed as only a marginal item on the agenda of Polish foreign policy. What’s more, Poland’s ODA allocated to Kosovo is extremely low and has not surpassed USD 500,000 on average in recent years (Polish Aid n.d.).
Poland has deployed members of its armed forces in the Middle East (Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar), but they are not engaged in military operations. The contingent operating in Iraq is composed of more than 115 soldiers and civil servants (MFA n.d.), who particularly focus on training Iraqi soldiers while operating within the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve and NATO Mission Iraq (NMI). One possible criticism of Poland’s WGA in Iraq is that there is minimal engagement in fields other than hard security. For instance, the Polish ODA allocated for Iraq between 2014 and 2017 roughly amounted to only USD 5 million (ibid.). Moreover, during the September 2014 offensive of the Islamic State, Poland closed its embassy in Baghdad (and only reopened it after two years) even though the main EU and NATO member states did not take such a drastic step.
Poland also has a military contingent in Afghanistan operating within NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. Composed of a maximum of 350 soldiers and civil servants (MFA n.d.), it is responsible for providing Afghan police and soldiers with training on strategic planning and operational activities. As in the case of Iraq, a criticism of Poland’s WGA in Afghanistan is that it only has minimal engagement in fields other than hard security and, in fact, even less than in Iraq. Furthermore, Poland closed its embassy in Afghanistan in 2014, and Polish ODA transferred to Afghanistan has been minimal in recent years (Polish Aid n.d.).
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