Mateusz MORAWIECKI: Poland, the Czech Republic, and the new geopolitical axis of Europe

Poland, the Czech Republic, and the new geopolitical axis of Europe

Photo of Mateusz MORAWIECKI

Mateusz MORAWIECKI

Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland.

Ryc.Fabien Clairefond

other articles by this author

Once the war ends, we will be faced with the great challenge of helping to rebuild Ukraine. This is not only important for moral and humanitarian reasons. Rebuilding Ukraine is necessary for the development of our entire region.

The twentieth century appeared to enjoy a happy finale in Central and Eastern Europe. Freedom triumphed over tyranny, and the future seemed brighter than ever. However, the demons of history had only been put to sleep for a generation. The present war in Ukraine has shocked the world, serving as a reminder of how fragile the international status quo is, and waking western societies from the blissful lethargy of the end of history.

It is no coincidence that the first countries to come to Ukraine’s aid were its closest neighbours. And this was not only due to geographical proximity. The inhabitants of our region who follow Ukraine’s armed struggle in the news experience déjà vu instead of shock; rather than feeling that the world is falling apart, they sense – unfortunately – that history is repeating itself, in a way we all know only too well.

The fact that for countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic only 30 years have passed since the fall of communism means that the memory of the true face of Russia remains very much alive in our consciousness. The citizens of our region understand the complexity of the situation better than anybody else in the world; the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have led the way in providing assistance to Ukraine in its fight against aggression since the very first hours of the war. We have been sending Ukraine the weapons and resources it needs to conduct defensive operations and at the same time have welcomed millions of refugees and have never let up in our appeals to the world. Because we know how fragile independence is. And we know that Ukraine is also fighting for our freedom.

This awareness of a common fate gave us the courage to support Ukraine openly and directly. My journey to Kyiv with Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Prime Minister Janez Janša, and Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński was the first strong signal coming from the West. We wanted to show Ukrainians that they will never be alone, and that the solidarity between our nations gets stronger with each Russian attack.

As regards myself, this shared journey also has a personal dimension. I was educated in the idea of Central European solidarity by my own father, Kornel Morawiecki. He was the first person to point out to me that freedom is non-negotiable. He knew that regaining and maintaining independence can only be possible if all nations oppressed by the USSR are liberated. “Fighting Solidary”, an organization founded by my father, endeavoured, to the extent that its limited means allowed, to cooperate with the anti-communist opposition in all countries held in thrall by communists. Polish journals and liberation literature were distributed in the Czech Republic. In 1985 the “Fighting Solidarity” News Agency launched a Czech-language quarterly. Only a few issues were ever published, but the relationship that we had established became a lasting one. After all, we were engaged in the same struggle and had a common enemy. Just as is the case today.

We won the fight against communism in 1989. But did we make use of that historical window of opportunity when it opened? We have certainly found our place in the European Union and NATO. Our economic growth shows that as a region we have made a leap that previous generations could not even have dreamt of. We have shaken off the yoke of eastern barbarism and rapidly drawn nearer to the West in terms of living standards. And yet, on political grounds, our role has yet to be adequately appreciated. We have become too important to be ignored, but have we become strong enough to be respected?

Let us take as an example the economic relations between the Visegrád Group and Germany. In 2021 the value of foreign trade between Germany and our four nations amounted to 334 billion euros. This is almost 5.5 times greater than international trade with Russia during the same year. And yet, even such strong economic ties between Germany, Poland, and Central and Eastern Europe have been unable to weaken the relationship between Berlin and Moscow, despite the fact that it is plain as day that Poland and the Visegrád member states are clearly more important trade partners for Germany!

The position of our entire region, and thus of Poland and the Czech Republic within the European Union, is not only a function of our historical awareness and commitment to European values. Yes, admittedly this is valuable capital, but our right to recognition is equally a result of our economic achievements and the immense work that we have put into placing our economies on a par with western standards.

Today, all countries in our region are facing similar challenges: the threat posed by Russian imperial grievances, our semi-peripheral status, the danger of falling into the middle income trap and losing millions of young and well-educated people. Therefore, to further our development and promote our shared interests, cooperation between all countries in the region is necessary. We should strengthen and expand the framework of international institutions in our region, such as the Visegrád Group and the Bucharest Nine. These should provide the foundations on which we can build a working partnership within the Three Seas Initiative. This is our only means of increasing our agency in the EU and NATO.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced upon us a paradigm shift in geopolitical thinking. Today, the East-West geopolitical axis has been broken, and it is difficult to imagine resuming normal relations with Russia. That is why we need to be even more determined in strengthening the North-South geopolitical axis, in which Poland and the Czech Republic are key countries. Our region is gaining strategic importance, not only for the fate of Europe but for the future of the world as a whole. Only together can we grow, and only when bound together by economic and cultural ties, an integrated network of roads, gas pipelines, trade, as well as by shared values that ensure our mutual security.

And, most importantly, once the war ends, we will be faced with the great challenge of helping to rebuild Ukraine. This is not only important for moral and humanitarian reasons. Rebuilding Ukraine is necessary for the development of our entire region. Cooperation with Ukraine, thanks to its raw materials, resources, and industry, but also its geopolitical location, is key to positioning Central and Eastern Europe as a strong new player on the global stage in the near future. It is in all our interests that Ukraine joins the European Union and NATO.

Mateusz Morawiecki

The text was published simultaneously in the Czech weekly „Echo” and in No. 41 of the monthly opinion magazine „Wszystko co najważniejsze” [LINK] as part of an inter-editorial project implemented with the support of the Polish Institute in Prague, in the competition of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs „Polish-Czech Forum 2022”.

This content is protected by copyright. Any further distribution without the authors permission is forbidden. 13/05/2022