Warsaw - The growing warmth of Franco-Polish relations

#CriticalThinking

Peace, Security & Defence

Picture of Pierre Buhler
Pierre Buhler

President of the Institut Français

When he observed towards the end of last year that relations between Paris and Warsaw were better than they had ever been, Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk captured the essence of the “reconciliation” between the two countries. François Hollande has had 12 meetings since becoming France’s President in 2012, either with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski or with Mr. Tusk. French and Polish defence ministers have met no less than nine times, and both countries’ foreign ministers were invited to address each other’s conferences of ambassadors.

What does this unexpected rapprochement mean? It appears to result from Poland’s wish to place itself at the centre of Europe. The aim is to reinforce its relationship with Germany, which has seen significant improvements in recent years, with a similar rapprochement with France.

The growing warmth of Franco-Polish relations has reinvigorated the Weimar Triangle, which since 1991 has linked Germany, Poland and France. Now the three sides of the triangle are more balanced, the three countries hope to build on their shared visions and actively face Europe’s many challenges. For example, the three foreign ministers together travelled to Kiev to help defuse the threat of civil war in Ukraine.

Security and defence are the areas where the Weimar Triangle has been most visible. Poland’s security interests have also expanded beyond the European Union and its immediate vicinity, witness Warsaw’s commitment alongside France in Mali and the Central African Republic.

For its part, France has shown how seriously it takes its responsibilities to Poland by becoming the largest provider of forces to NATO’s Steadfast Jazz exercise, with 1,250 of its soldiers ordered to Poland and the Baltic states last autumn. France also announced the availability of four fighters to participate in police operations Baltic airspace and surveillance missions in Polish and Romanian airspace.

France and Poland share the belief that the world is dangerous and that there is no room for complacency. They are among the few EU countries that attach great importance to security, and among the fewer that actually translate this commitment into a budgetary effort.

Because France believes that Europe must take responsibility for security, defence, and access to strategic autonomy, and has a substantial arms industry, it stands ready to share its technological abilities with its allies, and advise on how not to “purchase off the shelf”, but from industrial partnership, shared R&D and joint development of source codes. The Airbus group recently proposed that Poland should become one of its industrial bases, alongside France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain, and so integrating the “hard core” of European aerospace.

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