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As part of our Monday Talks series supported by Science 14, we have talked with H.E Jacek Czaputowicz, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, about many pressing issues, including the upcoming European elections, EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, the Iran Nuclear Deal, EU-Israel relations, EU-imposed sanctions against Russia and more.

Ebubekir Isik: Your Excellency, thank you for having us. Let me start with the obvious questions. Considering the upcoming European elections in two weeks’ time, what are your predictions for the upcoming European parliament elections and more importantly what are the most important challenges that the next European Parliament and Commission [are] going to tackle?

H.E. Jacek Czaputowicz:

“The European Parliament needs to have more legitimacy”.

“The democratic process of these elections will give the EU this legitimacy”.

“National parliaments represent the will of societies and nations; they should be taken into consideration in building a new European Union or in reforming the European Union”.

Poland is for a strong European Union in the world”.

“[…] there is a threat, a threat from protectionism and a threat of a democratic deficit – these are challenges we have to face”.

“[…]with the ministers we discuss the Eastern Partnership, but also the Western Balkans. These are the issues that the EU should look at”.

The Transatlantic relations are crucial for the security of the EU and for the countries in the EU, particularly the ones located on the Eastern flank, like Poland and the Baltic States”.

Ebubekir Isik: Mr. Foreign Minister, since you mentioned the Western Balkans let me put [to] you the following – Poland has actively promoted that the EU should have an open door policy for [the] Western Balkans. And in that regard, is Warsaw willing to make sure that the integration of the Western Balkans is going to be one of the most important priorities for the next European Commission?

H.E. Jacek Czaputowicz:

I think it should be an important priority. […] Poland is now chairing the Berlin process – the process, which is aimed at supporting Western Balkan countries in their EU aspirations. Last month we hosted foreign ministers meeting in Warsaw from these countries and in July we will organize a summit on the Berlin process, with leading EU Member States and Western Balkans countries. We have to support them”.

“We should try to convince the citizens in the Western Balkan states that the EU is open to their aspirations and [we should try] to support pro-European attitudes there”.

“The 6 Western Balkans states are also European states, so they are entitled to the dream about joining the EU; they are entitled to apply for that”.

In general, we have to demonstrate to the citizens of these countries that the EU is waiting for them. Of course, they have to introduce some important reforms of their system, but on our side we have to simply be more empathic and [we need] to welcome them to the EU in the future”.

From left to right: Pavel Vanev, Clara Berthelot, H.E Jacek Czaputowicz, and Ebubekir Isik. Credit | Vocal Europe

Ebubekir Isik: Mr. Foreign Minister, despite the failed diplomatic summit between the V4 and Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be very determined to have very close relationship with the Central European countries. In that respect do you think that strong bilateral diplomatic relations are going to break the current impasse between the European Union and Israel?

H.E. Jacek Czaputowicz:

“Israel is an important country in the Middle East. Generally, The Middle East is a region of crucial importance to the EU […]. Therefore, we have to guarantee peace and stability there”.

“Together with the US, Poland organised a Warsaw ministerial conference on security and peace in the Middle East. We will continue that activity. For the first time in many years PM Netanyahu met with the foreign ministers of key Arab states to discuss the future of their region”.

“We are also members of the [UN] Security Council. Within the Security Council we consult our position with our EU partners. Recently, we issued with four other EU member states of the Security Council a statement of non-recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. It shows that Poland is together with the EU”.

“[…] but at the same time we are of the opinion that the EU is not influential enough, [nor] powerful enough [acting by itself], to guarantee peace and stability in the Middle East. Therefore, we have to work together with the US. This is our idea. We have tried to bring […] the EU and the US, together to resolve the most important contemporary international issues”. 

The Israelis have the right to live in peace and in stability. We have to find a solution on how we can guarantee their concerns for their right to exist as a country. A difficult issue, but we have to tackle these issues by discussing it with our partners”. 

Ebubekir Isik: Mr. Foreign Minister, ever since Russian involvement in [the] Donbas region, Poland has supported EU-imposed sanctions against Russia. In this respect, I wonder if there are any internal or external factors pushing Poland to soften its current position against Russia?

H.E Jacek Czaputowicz:

“Our position comes from our conviction that international law should be maintained”.

Russia does not observe international law, invading Ukraine or just annexing Crimea. It has been influencing the internal situation in Ukraine, recently with the Kerch Strait incident, arresting the seamen and keeping them imprisoned in Moscow. Very recently, there was also the passportisation of the Ucrainian citizens. It is something, which cannot be accepted by the international community”.

“Of course we are open to discuss the sanctions against Russia, but first of all Russia must change its behaviour”.

sanctions are necessary to demonstrate to the Russians and to the International Community that  a flagrant breach of international law will not be accepted”.

It is the fight for the international system that we want to see these days – not only mercantilist policy vis-à-vis Russia”.

We have to support the sovereignty of countries like Ukraine, like Georgia, [who] feel threatened by Russia. This threat is legitimate”.

Ebubekir Isik: Your Excellency, finally [the] [dis]agreement over the Iran Nuclear Deal between the two sides of the Atlantic is for many getting deeper and deeper. In that respect, [the] Polish PM recently suggested that Poland could be an intermediary between Brussels and Washington. First of all, what should we understand from this statement? Secondly, should we expect that Poland will soften its current stance [on] the Iran Nuclear Dear, supported by the EU?

H.E. Jacek Czaputowicz:

“We support the position of the EU, particularly the JCPOA. In our opinion it plays a positive role.  But we also try to understand the reasons behind the American policy – to understand the negative role that Iran plays in the region”.

Together we can influence the situation there. Acting alone […] the EU vis-à-vis Iran will not be successful. We have to unite with other players and our natural ally is the US. Not China, not Russia, but the United States”.