Rift in foreign policy

“After the results of the recent general elections were presented Oct. 21, many journalists wondered about the nature of future cooperation between the new government and President Lech Kaczynski. Many feared that this relationship would be marked by quarrels and lack of good will. After last week’s dispute over Poland’s foreign policy, many observers believe that their anxiety seems justified.

On Nov. 27, during a meeting with the Russian ambassador, Prime Minister Donald Tusk declared that Poland no longer will veto accesion negotiations between the former world superpower and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This was accepted as a gesture of goodwill by Russia, but public opinion in Poland was at least surprised when Kaczynski said he had neither been consulted nor even informed of the decision.

Tusk said that in his view the constitution states that he, as the head of the government, is responsible for the foreign policy of the country, while the president only represents the Polish state in relations with other countries. The chief of the president’s cabinet, Maciej Lopinski, stressed that the constitution obliges both the president and the prime minister to cooperate in foreign policy.

He also said Kaczynski may bring up the issue of roles in this sphere to the Constitutional Tribunal.

More friction came up when Radoslaw Sikorski, chief of the Foreign Ministry, did not attend a meeting with the president. According to presidential sources, Sikorski sent a fax with an excuse three minutes past 16:00, when the meeting was scheduled. The Foreign Ministry argued that Kaczynski’s staff was informed that he would not be able to come on Wednesday when an invitation was sent from the president’s palace.

Sikorski was then roundly condemned by the president and his twin brother Jaroslaw, former prime minister and leader of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party. Also Anna Fotyga, former foreign minister and now an employee of the president’s chancellery, said Radoslaw Sikorski neglected the head of state.
This wasn’t the first conflict between Sikorski and the Kaczynski brothers.

The former BBC correspondent in Afghanistan was a member of Jaroslaw Sikorski’s cabinet as defense minister, but stepped down after an argument over the role of controversial PiS secret service expert Antoni Macierewicz. When Tusk decided that Radowslow Sikorski would take over the Foreign Ministry, Kaczynski voiced strong objections.

Both quarrels have been reported by the Polish press as a fight for power in the foreigh front by Tusk and Lech Kaczynski. The new prime minister wants to oversee diplomatic objectives for himself while the president does not want to be marginalized by the government.

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