H. E. Krzysztof Krajewski, Ambassador of Poland to Bulgaria:
We need to build a new Europe on same values
The negotiations with the UK should be level-headed and focused on the future of our relations in order not to lead to further disintegration of the EU
1 July, 2017
Close-up: H.E. Krzysztof Krajevski has been ambassador of Poland to Bulgaria since 2014. He has also served as ambassador of Poland to Azerbaijan (2005-2010) and as a consul of Poland to Varna (1998-2003). He has held various positions in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 1993 and 2014. Ambassador Kraevski has also been awarded numerous orders, medals and other honours of Poland, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and other countries. He was made an honorary citizen of Varna in 2002. He speaks Bulgarian, German and Russian.
- Your Excellency, the EU has recently celebrated its 60th anniversary pressed under several crises. What according to you is the future of the project?
- The EU has found itself in a very difficult situation. There are many reasons for it, and I do not want to go into details. Let me focus on the EU's future. In my opinion, we need to build a new Europe based on the same values but significantly changed in terms of institutional capacity, attitude towards the Member States and their sovereign right to make independent decisions. Also, I do not think that the concept of a multi-speed Europe is the best solution, because it would result in a further division of the EU. I am convinced that Europe will survive if it is united, integrated and more flexible towards the role of the national governments and parliaments.
- The most pressing question for the EU and its Member States is the UK leaving the Union. What is Poland's position on the issue?
- The British referendum was a turning point in the EU's history. It has shaken the belief that the process of integration is irreversible. Despite this fact, we respect the choice of the British people. We think that the negotiations with the UK should be level-headed and should focus on the future of our relations. We want these relations to be based on a balance of rights and obligations. Their outcome should not lead to further disintegration of the EU. One of the top priorities is to minimise the funding gap for EU policies after Brexit. It is a very long process and we do not know how the UK general election will impact it.
- Are there already people from the huge Polish diaspora in Britain returning home due to possible problems following Brexit?
- Poles are the biggest non-UK born population in Britain and the protection of their rights is our priority. These rights should be guaranteed irrespective of the length of their stay in the UK. We will strive hard for Poland's interests to be reflected, also in the discussion on the shape of the EU after Brexit. The Bulgarian diaspora in the UK is also considerable, so we can unite our efforts to protect our citizens. When it comes to Polish people returning home, they are welcomed. We have a robust labour market and our government has launched a number of programmes addressed to our fellow citizens, particularly to young families.
- The Commission has already presented its plans to strengthen and widen the Eurozone. When is Poland going to join the single currency?
- We are monitoring the current economic and political situation in the Eurozone and waiting to see what will happen. At this stage we believe that an independent monetary policy is one of the most important instruments of our economy. We do not want to lose this instrument, which is guaranteed by the national currency. What is more, our economy's structure and wage levels differ from the standards in some of the Eurozone countries. Poland needs more time to catch up with those states. We can consider adopting the common currency when our key economic parameters are more similar and the situation in the Eurozone is suitable for accession.
- With the elections in France and the Netherlands, the populist wave across the continent seems subdued for now. But for how long?
- As a diplomat I do not want to comment on political processes in other countries. However, in the context of past and future elections it is crucial to ensure that the European values are guaranteed in a long-term perspective as for the Polish government a strong and united EU is one of the top-priority matters. Therefore we should answer one very important question: what is the reason for the populist wave and centrifugal trends in the EU? Maybe it is the gap between Europe's elites and citizens, who feel that they no longer have a say on what happens with the integration project? Maybe Europe's future depends on our common efforts to overcome the differences not only in our societies but also in the European community?
- Poland is an active member of the Visegrad Four group. How can the Group make the positions of Eastern Europe EU Member States to be better heard in Brussels?
- Poland, which currently holds the presidency of the Visegrad Group (V4), treats this format as an important vehicle for our policy. Close ties with our neighbours help us to formulate common positions and to gain support for our ideas. Additionally, the V4 has become a well-known brand in Europe. We have proved that we are reliable partners when it comes to tackling common problems. For this reason, I believe that the V4, together with our partners from Bulgaria and other countries, can effectively represent the voice of the region in the context of recent challenges.
- Is it feasible to expect the Group to be widened with new members such as Bulgaria, Romania or Croatia?
- Bulgaria and other countries from our region already participate in the V4 in a format known as “The V4 Plus”. Over the years, The V4 Plus has proved its worth, so we want to intensify our partnership in this format. Together with our Bulgarian friends we can develop many projects of mutual interest in areas such as security and stability, cohesion, energy, transport, digitisation and economy.
- Many blame Brussels that it is trying to impose its views on national governments despite their different opinions on many issues. What does Poland think on the matter?
- The real question is whether the EU will continue to be a reliable community, truly representing all Member States, as an organisation that has a real impact on the global stage. In our opinion, if we want to achieve this aim we should return the political process in the EU to the Member States and national parliaments to a greater extent than before. By doing so, we will bring back the enthusiasm and confidence regarding the future of Europe.
- Despite some cohesion efforts the EU is still divided between West and East, between rich and poor. What needs to be done in the future to make such differences less frustrating?
- The answer is a strong and competitive EU. Strengthening the single market will ensure cohesion in Europe. We should fully utilise the potential in the goods and services sector, enhance entrepreneurship, and improve the competitiveness of our industry. We have to avoid protectionist practices and new barriers. The EU should become an area which ensures the free movement of goods, people, services, and capital. That will open up new opportunities for business.
- Poland is strongly opposing the so-called migrants relocation quota. What according to you has to be done in order for the EU to solve the problem and stop migration pressure for good?
- We are convinced that relocation and resettlements are not the key to the problem of migrants. What Europe should do is to address problems generating migration flows and initiate a wide range of external instruments, such as strengthening the external border and coordinating humanitarian, development and investment policy towards countries where the migration pressure starts. Poland has been engaged in all European external actions regarding migration - this is an expression of our solidarity with Europe on the issue of refugees. Over the last few months we have been very active within the framework of Frontex operations, including in Bulgaria where Polish border police officers are helping their Bulgarian counterparts.
- Poland is bordering Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. What are the main points and goals of Warsaw eastern policy?
- Due to its geographical location, Poland is interested in prosperity and peaceful development in the EU's Eastern neighbourhood. In 2009, we were one of the initiators of The Eastern Partnership, an EU policy addressed to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The goal of the Partnership is to bring those countries closer to the EU through deepened cooperation and integration on the basis of EU values and standards. We support pro-European aspirations of those countries and our efforts in this field have given results. The most recent example is visa liberalisation between Ukraine and the EU that came into force on 11 June. Since the very beginning Poland has been advocating the introduction of free movement with this country. Simultaneously, we believe that the EU should be more active towards its Eastern neighbours, especially if we want to promote common European values in the region.
- Generally, Bulgaria and Poland have had very good links, but in the last years they were not active enough. What has to be done to re-vitalise the relations?
- I do not agree that our links are not active. We are important partners in the EU and NATO. Over the last years Poland and Bulgaria have had dynamic contacts at the top political level, which expended the horizons of our cooperation, including in the area of defence and security. Our collaboration in the UN and in the Visegrad Plus also has been very effective. Additionally, I would like to mention our economic ties. In 2016, Polish-Bulgarian trade totalled to a record-breaking €1.5bn. And last but not least, the number of Polish tourists in Bulgaria is growing steadily, reaching 400,000 in 2016. It makes Poland one of Bulgaria's most important tourist markets.