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    Foreign Policy Is a Hardball Game

Paweł Lisicki and Małgorzata Subotic


On 16 December 2006, Polish daily Rzeczpospolita published an interview with Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński. The interview was conducted by Paweł Lisicki and Małgorzata Subotiç. We present this interview in English translation, while lamenting the scarcity of firsthand information about Poland in the American media. American reporters never seem to interview Polish cabinet members and do not bother to consult primary sources, preferring to quote opinions and secondhand sources instead


Rzeczpospolita: What is behind the spin concerning Ms. Aneta K.? [1]
Jarosław Kaczyński: I have nothing more to say about it. I asked the Minister of Justice to start an investigation without delay. Ms. Aneta K. gave testimony on the very day Gazeta Wyborcza published her allegations. The speed with which this issue was taken up by the appropriate institutions is unprecedented. Those involved in the investigation will eventually disclose whatever relevant information they receive. If the accusations turn out to be true, the appropriate consequences will follow.
Rz: Your deputy[2] said that this amounts to a coup d’etat.
JK: A coup d’etat consists of taking over power by force, in defiance of existing laws. I have not noticed any attempts to take over the offices of the prime minister, the president, or the Parliament. There was no coup d’etat.
Rz: Isn’t it true that you have to foot the bill for this kind of comment made by your deputy and for the improprieties he committed, of which the Polish media have recently written so much?
JK: Theoretically speaking, in the present Parliament there could have existed a different coalition: one involving the Civic Platform [Platforma Obywatelska]. It appears, however, that the coalition with PO would also have involved a high price. My insights into politics obviously differ from those of the journalists: my knowledge is a bit deeper and my memory is very good. In other words, it was not a choice between the Self-Defense Party and a society of virtue lovers.
Rz: Would you be able to share some of that knowledge?
JK: Alas, I cannot




I have to admit that our coalition with Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families is often embarrassing to us.



Rz: Are you telling us that the price of a coalition with the Civic Platform would have been higher than the price of the coalition with the Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families [which is the case at present]?
JK: The price would have been different but, I am afraid, also very high. In the present situation, any coalition the Law and Justice Party might enter would involve a steep price.
Rz: Has the present coalition been worthwhile?
JK: The Law and Justice Party has a program for change in Poland, and we are implementing it-with difficulty and not as fast as we would have liked, but nevertheless we are making progress. When we started, we met with an extremely aggressive attitude of those who lost the election. As time went on, the situation has improved.
Rz: Who specifically behaved in an aggressive way?
JK: On numerous occasions, the opposition parties crossed the line by issuing irresponsible statements via their members. Not to speak of good taste. Mr. Niesiołowski’s statements, and the statements of some other MPs, are good examples.[3] They were made with full support of the opposition parties and, alas, some members of the press also applauded them. In a country like Poland, the dissemination of disinformation is a serious problem. I keep hearing that “you abolished the secret military police and formed a Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, but that is the extent of your achievements.” That is not correct, changes have occurred in virtually every department of the government. Somehow the media do not write about it. Instead, they prefer to create a negative stereotype of the government.
Rz: Are you suggesting that things have been going very well of late?
JK: [apparently ignoring the question] To return to Ms. Aneta K.’s case, Poland has serious problems with the attitude toward women, specifically with molestation. To effect progress in this area we need to change social attitudes and the traditional mentality. If the most recent sex scandal helps us change that mentality, if change occurs owing to this crisis, I will truly be glad. If the investigation shows that the accused politicians are indeed guilty, then-I repeat-consequences will follow regardless of what it means for me as the prime minister.
Rz: You said that the media seem to create a negative stereotype of the Law and Justice Party and its government. Are you suggesting a conspiracy?
JK: It is better to seek guidance in political sociology than in conspiracy theory. The government obviously has power. This power is exercised in opposition to what the previous government was doing. For a long time in postcommunist Poland, a certain group of people passed power from hand to hand and it seemed that this would never change. So the media did not question what seemed inevitable. The only exception was Jan Olszewski’s cabinet [1991-92]. Now the Law and Justice cabinet is trying to change things. However, the government is weak. We do, of course, have a well-meaning president and, I hope, a well-meaning prime minister, but in our political system decisions are taken by the Parliament [Sejm] and not by the government. Over the past year, we have had serious trouble in convincing the MPs that our proposals are advantageous for Poland. We have a coalition, but its members are not of one mind on many issues




For quite a while now, Russia has been striving to exclude Poland from its treaties with the European Union. The rules of the EU-Russia agreement say that Russia must not use sanctions with regard to the European Union, but Russia did use sanctions with regard to Poland. This is the gist of our disagreement with Russia.




Rz: Where are the disagreements most pronounced?
JK: To give you an example: we have recently marked off the fifteenth anniversary of the introduction of martial law [by Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski‘s communist government]. The illegality of martial law in the 1980s should finally be proclaimed. In my opinion, at the very least, General Jaruzelski should be deprived of the general’s rank. Over the past decade it has become clear that Jaruzelski had not been threatened by Moscow with military intervention. He committed crimes against two generations of Poles whose personal lives have been shortchanged by circumstances introduced by martial law. In my opinion, Poland would have been a different country than it is today, and a better country, had Jaruzelski not introduced martial law and the tumble backward that followed.
Rz: Is it your opinion that justice cannot be meted out to Jaruzelski while the present coalition is in power?
JK: I am not sure all members of the coalition would accept an attempt to call General Jaruzelski to justice, especially the Self-Defense Party.
Rz: Do you think that the Civic Platform would favor such a move?




Our main task is to become genuine EU members, rather than accepting the merely formal membership status that we achieved two years ago.




JK: To be quite frank, I think that many members of that party would be pleased with such an outcome. I do not think the PO would be unanimous on that issue. I have to admit that our coalition with Self-Defense and the League of Polish Families is often embarrassing to us. To return to your first question, I did not anticipate that such issues [as the sex scandal] would surface. But the present coalition gives us an opportunity to change Polish institutions and laws for the better, and that is the main thing.
Rz: You spoke in past tense of Civic Platform’s aggressive behavior. Do you hope that relations will improve?
JK: We did meet with the opposition concerning the veto issue. I have invited the opposition politicians to discuss the deployment of Polish forces abroad, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe there are signs that normal relations can be established between the government and the opposition. Until recently these relations have been worse than under the previously elected Sejms. The new leader of the PO parliamentary club, Mr. Bogdan Zdrojewski, is more inclined to cooperate than his predecessor.
Rz: Perhaps that is because you congratulated him on being elected the minority leader? It was rather unusual for the prime minister to congratulate the leader of the opposition party.
JK: Indeed, I do not recall having been congratulated by the Social-Democratic Party [originally the communist party outsed from power in 2005 elections]. I extended these congratulations because I have known Mr. Zdrojewski for quite a while.
Rz: What do you know about him?
JK: Mr. Zdrojewski represents a different political style than his predecessor, Mr. Niesiolowski. He simply stands on a different level than his predecessor.
Rz: Why did you reject the Civic Platform’s tentative proposal for a new coalition made last Friday [15 December 2006]?
JK: This was a media event rather than a cooperation proposal.
Rz: Perhaps it would have been worthwhile to give this proposal more serious consideration, given the fact that the Law and Justice Party’s present coalition partners are difficult to cooperate with and a new beginning might be advisable.
JK: If Law and Justice decides that certain boundaries have been crossed, we will end up with a minority government. In such a situation we will have to consider new elections, but when or whether this will happen will have to be decided by party members. At present, we muster a majority vote. As I have already told you, we are changing Poland. Please note that the League of Polish Families is also changing. [Its leader] Roman Giertych went with us to Jedwabne, and he has now dissolved the All-Polish Youth [a small organization associated with his party and accused of fascist sympathies].
Rz: Perhaps he is just playing the pragmatic game?
JK: Even if his behavior is caused by political calculations, the change is for the better.
Rz: If the coalition does not fall apart, your government still has three years in power. How do you intend to use them?
JK: Two-and-a-half years, to be exact. To answer your question, I would have to mention all the ministries and departments. Let us start with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have recently consulted with Minister Anna Fotyga concerning restructuring and personnel changes. The changes will not only involve the minister and her closest surroundings, but also other areas. Ms. Fotyga is actively working on a proposal. I will also make bold to say that our foreign policy will finally acquire the attributes of normalcy.




Many of our close and remote neighbors are not particularly concerned with the danger that is a source of worry for us, namely, that Poland might become a second-rate country whose contacts with the world would be controlled by middlemen.



Rz: Are you saying that under previous governments that policy was not normal?
JK: In some aspects it was, in others it was not. I would characterize it as supplicatory, apologetic, and diffident in tone.
Rz: You said that the left-wing circles considered it in their interest to implant an apologetic attitude in Polish society. Why?
JK: They were afraid of a resurgence of patriotism, because that would diminish the left-wing influences. Their role in imposing a sense of marginality on Poles and the ensuing guilt has been considerable. Of course, these actions are not entirely responsible for what is going on in the German social consciousness today, but they helped to cultivate absurdist attitudes.
Rz: If that is the case, how shall we move forward?
JK: We shall have to use the means available to the European Union members to find our place in the EU. Our main task is to become genuine EU members, rather than accepting the merely formal membership status that we achieved two years ago.




Regrettably, open anti-Polish racism is still visible among a good part of German society, and the German government does not undertake policies to curb it, the way it has done with other forms of racism.




Rz: Are you saying that Poland is not a real member of the EU?
JK: In many ways Poland is a real member. However, in today’s international atmosphere it is important that others acknowledge that membership as well, and not only in a perfunctory way. I am particularly concerned with Russia. For quite a while now, Russia has been striving to exclude Poland from its treaties with the European Union. The rules of the EU-Russia agreement say that Russia must not use sanctions with regard to the European Union, but Russia did use sanctions with regard to Poland. This is the gist of our disagreement with Russia. Our goal is to persuade the EU to communicate to the Russian political establishment that Poland is a full-fledged member of the EU, and that Russian policy activities that try to isolate Poland will be treated as unacceptable.
Rz: What about Germany?
JK: We will be striving to normalize our relationship as fully as possible. At present, there are some misunderstandings between us. It is not entirely clear what the German government’s attitude is to the financial claims of those who would like the Polish authorities to present them with a gift of property within Polish territory. While the German government has distanced itself from such demands, from our standpoint that distancing is not entirely clear and satisfactory.
Rz: Did you talk about it with Chancellor Angela Merkel?
JK: Naturally. Madam Chancellor declared, just as she did on other occasions, that the German government will not support the claims of those who would like to claim property within Polish territory. In other words, I received a refusal to agree that Germans or Poles will ever return to the business of war reparations. Such an agreement would have been a real compromise from the Polish standpoint: it was not us who started the war and murdered millions of people, and caused trillions of dollars in damage. The fact that our suggestion to officially renounce any claims was not accepted is disquieting for us. In my opinion, the sources of this situation go back to the 1990s, when improper formulations had been agreed on in treaties. We accepted these vague agreements and let slip the fundamental fact that the German side had taken a long time to accept our present borders. We also did not negotiate the fact of open anti-Polish racism that is plainly visible among a good part of German society. Instead of raising these issues, we said “I am sorry” to the Germans for the inconveniences and suffering that they experienced as an accompaniment to their losing the war that they had started. I am not exaggerating when I say that at certain moments it seemed that the German side was about to ask us for reparations for World War II.




In the 1990s our managers were hastily retrained by people belonging to only one school of thought. They taught our managers that there is no such thing as the national interest, and that one should remove national interest from one’s vocabulary and thought.




Rz: But we constantly hear that the Germans are our advocates in the EU.
JK: Recently I spoke to a prominent EU politician. This conversation helped me understand how others see us.
Rz: How do they see us?
JK: The attempts to defend Polish interests are routinely treated as expressions of resentment rather than a natural action of politicians trying to act in the interest of their country. We are constantly urged to think less about the past; indeed, to forget it (and it seems to me that our partners’ knowledge of the past is often limited, especially with regard to what was going on in Polish territory during World War II and afterward, and with regard to the big powers’ decisions regarding Poland). With regard to the present situation, we often hear suggestions that we should accept the decisions of those who are older and stronger than we. We are supposed to behave as if the entire Polish society is underage. This is the attitude some of our predecessors took; I cannot do so.
Rz: Could you be more specific?
JK: I do not think that it is wise to assume such an attitude. It does not serve our interests in diplomacy and in many other areas of international life. The business of international politics is competition. Of course competition is not everything, but its role is enormous. One has to learn how to compete and cooperate at the same time. One has to understand one’s long-term interests and defend them, rather than yielding to pressure. For instance, let us consider seaports or airports in a given country. In order to achieve their growth and development, one has to take into account long-term situations in a myriad of areas, starting with the roads and, for postcommunist countries, strategies of privatization. We have to remember that many of our close and remote neighbors are not particularly concerned with the danger that is a source of worry for us, namely, that Poland will become a second-rate country whose contacts with the world will be controlled by middlemen.




In Poland we also have a live tradition of servility toward the stronger and a tradition of national apostasy. This tradition is disastrous in foreign policy.




Rz: Are you saying that our neighbors are sensitive only to their own national interests?
JK: Indeed. Please explain this to many people in Polish business. In German business, entrepreneurs and managers think about the interest of their firms, but they also think about long-term interests of the German state and nation. The situation is different in Poland. In the 1990s, our managers were hastily retrained by people belonging to only one school of thought. They taught our managers that there is no such thing as national interest, and that one should remove national interest from one’s vocabulary and thought. This is part of that fatal situation that arose when we allowed instructors from abroad to teach our managers wholesale, ignoring the fact that management skills cannot be learned by rote, that they have to be honed slowly and in harmony with the common good. The “old” EU members have not suffered from this postcommunist trauma, and they do not respect managers who follow this method of management.
Rz: Don’t you think that this kind of talk about foreign policy is considered anachronistic by the young people in Poland? Perhaps the young are not interested in the national interest and only in a comfortable life.
JK: I do not think we have sunk that low. I think most Poles are mindful of their national interest. However, in Poland we also have a live tradition of servility toward the stronger and a tradition of national apostasy. This tradition is disastrous in foreign policy.
Rz: When the Law and Order Party was conducting its election campaign, it did so under clear slogans. The Military Intelligence Service [Wojskowe Słu<by Informacyjne] was to be abolished and a special office was to be created to fight corruption. What are your slogans today, after one year in power?
JK: To some extent, our present watchwords are a continuation of the former. To clean up a state is a hard job. The corrupt individuals slow down the state administration and they intimidate court witnesses. I can say with some satisfaction, however, that the process is moving on. As proof, take a look at the Ministry of Justice or at the police.



In German business, entrepreneurs and managers think about the interest of their firms, but they also think about long-term interests of the German state and nation. Please explain this to many people in Polish business.




Rz: When it comes to the police, your results are mixed, as shown by the case of using police officers to taxi a CEO to Siedlce. [4]
JK: Show me a politician who assumes power, makes a hand gesture, and thereby transforms the functioning of the state. I would like to meet such a politician and take lessons from him. My experience tells me that change for the better is a long and arduous process. We are changing more than the functioning of the police. The intelligence services are being revitalized. The reform goes beyond WSI.
Rz: What does the revitalization of intelligence mean? What about civil servants, are they being revitalized as well?
JK: What we inherited was large institutions that employed many people and did absolutely nothing, or hardly anything. Let us return to intelligence. In certain areas we had fewer operatives than the embassy of a certain state had secret agents in Poland. Yes, you correctly guessed that state’s name. This imbalance did not arise by accident. This is how postcommunism was structured, this is how the Third Republic was supposed to function.[5] It is ironic that some people defend this postcommunist arrangement, and they do so in a histrionic way. Please remember that emendation of the republic[6] has to begin with the courts, the police, and intelligence. If these elements of state structure do not work efficiently, the entire democratic structure falters. The state has to have a system of law enforcement.
Rz: Let us talk about the cleansing. What about the lustration bill? [7]
JK: The president has suggested that two paragraphs in the lustration bill be amended. The first concerns the number of possible certificates of noncollaboration. It wold be absurd to issue some 400,000 certificates. The issuing of certificates should be replaced by statements by the parties involved that they did not conduct activities detrimental to their fellow citizens and the Polish state. The second amendment concerns the proper procedures. The procedure whereby the state accuses an individual of illegal activity under communism and demands that the citizen defend himself is not proper. It infringes on the individual citizen’s rights. As it stands now, the bill would introduce such a possibility. What the bill needs is a reformulation whereby serious documentation is required, and criminal rather than civil courts are involved. We do not intend to destroy the lists of alleged collaborators, however, as the press has recently (and erroneously) reported.
Rz: Will the Law and Justice Party [PiS] support these presidential amendments?
JK: I think so, although I cannot guarantee it. PiS is a live party and not a military detachment. At present, there is a lively discussion going on in the party as to whether the amendments should be supported or not. Many PiS members do not wish to support them.
Rz: What do you plan to do to improve the economy?
JK: Two things. We are trying to introduce a packet of bills that would facilitate taking economic initiatives in Poland. At present, investing in Poland involves a great deal of bureaucracy, and we want to change that. The issue of EU funds is related to this. It often happens that under present laws we are unable to efficiently utilize EU money. This year we will absorb about eight billion zloties [ca. $2.7 billion]. In subsequent years, we would like to double that sum. Members of the cabinet are now arguing about how these monies are to be used.
Rz: If we understand correctly, it is primarily a dispute between Deputy Prime Minister Zyta Gilowska and Minister of Regional Development Gražyna Gęsicka.
JK: I do not wish to personalize this debate. The issue is of primary importance, and I will eventually have to decide. I should add that we are undertaking a fundamental reform of public finances. The new laws will become active in 2008.
Rz: Where will Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz [former prime minister] go?
JK: He has not yet decided. I offered him a position of minister in the present cabinet, but he may instead choose to become a CEO of a large firm. It is his choice.


Translated (with annotations) by permission by the Sarmatian Review staff.




NOTES

1. In December 2006 Ms. Aneta K. accused one of the leaders of the Self-Defense Party of fathering her child. She later accused the leader of that party, Andrzej Lepper, of sexual indiscretions. The sex scandal kept Polish journalists busy for several weeks.
2. Andrzej Lepper heads the Self-Defense Party (of dubious reputation).
3. Stefan Niesiołowski is a member of the Civic Platform, an opposition party, and one of the founders of the now-defunct Christian Nationalist Alliance (Zjednoczenie Chrześcijańsko-Narodowe).
4. This happened in the fall of 2006. During the trip the driver lost control and was killed,
together with the passenger.
5. “The Third Republic” is a term often used with regard to the postcommunist Polish state that arose in 1991 after getting rid of Soviet domination and disinviting the Red Army stationed in Poland as the guarantor of communism.
6. A reference to Andrzej Frycz-Modrzewski‘s De republica emendanda [1551], a treatise on how to amend the affairs of the state.
7. The bill that the Kaczyński government wants the Sejm to pass. Its stated goal is to assure that those who spied and informed on their fellow citizens under communism, as well as those who worked for the Soviet secret services, be barred from public office and in some cases prosecuted. The wording of the bill has been subject to debate.

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