Consequences of the Middle East Summit in Warsaw

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U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv || CC 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A country that only 30 years ago has combated communism, by many already dubbed “a Central-Eastern European tiger”, a good example of successful transformation process, with the most pro-European attitude among citizens. This is Poland. Its capital, Warsaw – a modern, fast growing city, has been the host of the recent Middle East Summit. Was Poland the right place for such an event? What are the consequences of what transpired on February 13-14 in the capital?

Why Poland? This is the question that should had been asked before the summit. While building any alliances, especially in such a delicate sphere as foreign affairs, with the focus on Middle East issues, the SWOT analysis should had been conducted.

There is no doubt that the Polish nationalistic and populistic Law and Justice (PiS) government was not prepared at all. Again, the irresponsible way of conducting international politics, using its tools for internal political reasons were in place.

Coming back to the question – why Poland? Americans might know the answer. What did the Polish side know about the potential benefits when agreeing to being in the center of the discussion on the situation in the Middle East? Not much. Various statements that had been made public before the summit and presented during the conference are alarming.

Mike Pompeo’s declaration about the “anti-Iranian” summit in Warsaw resulted in a very tense atmosphere before the event. The list of countries – stakeholders who should definitely be involved in the discussion on peace and security in the Middle East – did not include the main players in the region: Iran, Palestine, with a relatively limited representation of the Saudi Arabia.

Logically thinking, the outcomes of the summit in such a form could not have resulted in an objective discussion and showed that the intentions of the initiators, organizers, as well as participants were not clear.

Poland’s position on the international arena after joining the European Union  has been described by many as “sky high”. The country was said to be the economic and political leader in the Central Europe, who was taking advantage from its great geopolitical location. And then, in autumn 2015, the Law and Justice party gained majority in the parliamentary elections.

The Euro-skeptical government formed by Jarosław Kaczyński, who in reality is ruling the country with no formal responsibility, decided to search for alternative paths, trying to find substitutes for European Union. There are numerous examples for that. PiS government decided to find a powerful ally, and tightened cooperation with the United Kingdom, the country that soon will leave the EU.

Disappointing is also the fact that the so-far good cooperation within the Weimar Triangle has also been treated as something that is not worth being continued.

The idea of Three Seas Initiative, pushed by Poland’s president Andrzej Duda, is to prove the outstanding reputation of Poland on the international arena and its position as a leader in the region. Finally, the United States pursue their own interests thank to Polish hospitality and the lack of foresight.

The outcomes of the last week’s Middle East Summit in Warsaw are alarming. Poland’s political, branding, and economic position have been lowered. PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s words on Poles’ collaboration with the Nazis during the Holocaust resulted in a diplomatic firestorm and significantly influenced the Polish–Jewish relations, which have already been problematic.

After another even stronger statement made by Netanyahu’s Foreign Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki cancelled his participation in the Visegrad Summit in Israel. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis communicated that only bilateral discussions will take place instead. But at the end of the day, public opinion saw “triple bilateral discussions” in media. Three Visegrad prime ministers: Babis, Orban, and Pellegrini were chatting with PM Netanyahu.

Poland stands alone again – a yet another painful consequence of the Warsaw summit.

When summarizing the outcomes of the conference it is crucial to underline the importance of Polish–Iranian relations. The history of bilateral relations looks well. Poles experienced Iranian hospitality during World War II; political and economic relations were built on mutual trust and respect. Taking into account such a good climate between the countries, the price for hosting the summit in Warsaw must have been high. And it was.

Many Polish entrepreneurs lost the possibility of cooperation with Iran, a very attractive market with a big potential for growth. The contracts were cancelled, some of the transactions were blocked. Moreover, the program “Go Iran” launched by the Polish government and the efforts of establishing Polish–Iranian Chamber of Commerce under the current political climate could be wasted.

After analyzing the consequences of the Middle East summit in Warsaw some lessons have to be learned. Alas, it is clear that the Polish government will not make any use of them.

There is only one way to stop this massive devastation of Poland’s reputation on the international arena. Everything lies in the hands of Polish voters. European Parliament elections are to be held on May 26, and the Polish parliamentary elections in autumn 2019. Poles better think twice before casting their votes.

Joanna Burnos
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