Poland. Following the change of government at the end of 2007, Poland’s relations with the outside world improved in 2008. Neighboring German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a so-called friendship visit and met Prime Minister Donald Tusk in his hometown of Gdańsk. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also visited Poland, among other things, with the intention of strengthening cooperation in the preservation of EU agricultural subsidies. France also opened its labor market to Poland and other new EU countries. At the same time, the Polish government ran a campaign to get labor-emigrated Poles in the UK to return home.
During an official visit to Moscow in February, Tusk tried to thaw out the frozen relations with Russia. Although partially successful, Poland’s opposition to the planned Russian-German gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, as well as Russia’s resistance to a supposed US anti-robot base in Poland.
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However, negotiations between Poland and the United States were tough. Poland demanded US upgrading of the Polish air defense with multibillion amounts in exchange for the location of the anti-robot base in Poland. In July, Tusk declared that Poland had rejected the US proposal for the anti-robot base, at the same time as the US and the Czech Republic signed an agreement that the robot defense radar plant should be located in the Czech Republic. But when the war between Russia and Georgia broke out in August, the negotiation between Poland and the United States was dissolved, thereby strengthening its military cooperation in the shadow of Russia’s actions. After a year and a half of difficult negotiations, the two countries signed a preliminary agreement on the construction of a base for ten anti-robot missiles aimed at harming any nuclear weapons mainly from Iran.
The Kremlin then reacted hard. President Dmitry Medvedev explained that the robot base had Russia as its target, and in Moscow it was stated that the base in Poland would in turn become a given Russian bomb target in the event of conflict. Russia announced that it was suspending cooperation with NATO countries, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, after all, came on a planned visit to Poland in September. The talks then on Georgia and on the anti-robot base were tough and positions remained locked.
The Tusk government decided to take home the 900 Polish soldiers from Iraq in October. The Poles thus handed over their provincial responsibility south of Baghdad to the Iraqis. Poland had over 1,100 soldiers in Afghanistan.
The relationship between EU critical president Lech Kaczyński and the new EU-friendly Prime Minister Donald Tusk became increasingly tense during the year. The climax came at the EU summit in Brussels in October, when Tusk and his ministers wanted to conduct the negotiations themselves and demanded that Kaczyński stay at home. The President did not get a seat in the Polish delegation, but traveled to the summit on his own. There, the president alternated with the finance minister at the site next to Tusk.
Poland was at the forefront of EU countries protesting the EU’s climate target of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. According to Poland, the poorest EU countries are unfairly hit by the knock-out of outdated industries, the economy slowed down and energy prices dramatically increased. Poland, which lacks nuclear power, demanded milder requirements than, for example, France which has around 60 nuclear power plants.
In December, the UN Climate Summit was held in Poznan, Poland, where extended negotiations did not lead to more than one work program for the coming year in the hope of reaching a new global climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009.
During the year, respected historian and EU parliamentarian Bronisław Geremek died in a car accident. Geremek was a key figure for Solidarity’s uprising against the communist regime in Poland in the 1980s and became, after the country’s democratization, among others, the Foreign Minister.
Poland’s foreign policy
NATO membership is a key pillar of Poland’s foreign policy, and the United States is the country’s most important ally.
The EU membership which is firmly established has wide support among the Poles. The government, based on the National Conservative Party for Law and Justice, dislikes the fact that the European Commission is critical of the reforms in media policy and in the Constitutional Court. A dialogue is ongoing between Poland and the European Commission on these issues.
Germany is Poland’s most important partner in Europe.
It was important for security policy that Poland together with the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1999 joined the first group of former communist countries that joined NATO. In a White Paper presented by the National Security Council in 2013, NATO, the EU and the US are the three pillars of the country’s national security strategy. In 2015 and 2016, Poland met NATO’s goal of using at least two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for defense purposes. Poland’s share was 2.18 and 2.01 percent respectively. At the NATO Summit in Brussels in May 2017, President Andrzej Duda said that Poland plans to increase this proportion to 2.2 percent by 2020 and 2.3 percent by 2030.
That NATO held a summit in Warsaw 8–9. July 2016 shows the importance Poland places on NATO. It was also a confirmation of Poland’s importance to the defense alliance. At this summit, it was decided that in early 2017 NATO would establish a multilateral battalion fighting group in Poland and in each of the Baltic countries, a total of approximately 1,000 soldiers in each country as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence. The US-led battalion of Poland was officially welcomed by Prime Minister Beata Szydło during a ceremony on January 13, 2017 at the city of Źagań. This was the first time the Defense Alliance had standing forces in Poland.
According to Countryaah reports, the population of Poland in 2008 was 38,329,670, ranking number 33 in the world. The population growth rate was -0.020% yearly, and the population density was 125.1666 people per km2.