The Ambassador Series-Συνάντηση με την Πρέσβη της Πολωνίας
Α.Ε. κα. Barbara Tuge-Erecinska
Την 1η Μαρτίου, το Cyprus Youth DiplomaCY είχε τη χαρά να συναντηθεί με την Πρέσβη της Πολωνίας Α.Ε. κα. Barbara Tuge-Erecinska στα πλαίσια του πρόγράμματος “The Ambassador Series”. Το άρθρο για τη συνάντηση που ακολουθεί, συνέγραψε και επιμελήθηκε το μέλος του Cyprus Youth DiplomaCY, Μελίσσα Μαυρή.
“A group of members of Cyprus Youth DiplomaCY had the opportunity to visit the Polish Embassy in Nicosia on Tuesday 1st March 2016. We were welcomed into the Embassy and greeted by A.E. Mrs. Barbara Tuge-Erecinska with a very warm handshake. It was very pleasant to witness and converse with a female Ambassador about diplomacy and listen to her experiences in this job, serving her country in various posts. The Embassy is comprised of three small units dealing with economic issues, public diplomacy and consular services. It is a small team that manages the affairs of Poland is Cyprus well.
The official topic we discussed was, “The Role of Public Diplomacy; The Example of the Republic of Poland-Polish Diaspora in External Relations”. The topic was separated into three segments and the Ambassador, made us conceptualize her home country under a whole different light. The Embassy granted us some stationary gifts used to promote the cultural awareness and promotion of Poland, under the name ‘POLSKA’. Moreover, we were also given a book on Poland’s long-term public diplomacy strategy. This gift was a more gesture and a very informative one. Poland re-established its diplomacy and build its image, similar to Cyprus based on democracy, tradition, opposing oppression and basing its policies on solidarity.
The Ambassador gave us her own understanding of what public diplomacy is and why it is useful for each country in its foreign relations. Her Excellency also gave us an account of Polish history, its significance and strategic location during WWII and the Soviet era. Behind the Iron Curtain, Poland was almost invisible, divided by the superpowers. Moreover, the Ambassador spoke about the Warsaw Uprising and other historical encounters, gaving an account of the post-Soviet struggles Poland has been facing, to integrate itself into Europe, receiving significant structural funds for this purpose. More than this the Ambassador did not fail to give an account of Poland’s rich cultural traditions and what it is about Poland that makes them proud, in the arts, i.e. Frederic Chopin and Marie Curie, an abundance of museums, cultural centres, music, culinary richness and the last primeval forest of Europe.
We spoke about the bilateral relations of Poland with Cyprus, where the Ambassador said that she finds our two countries, as having good relations, since 1961 where the official diplomatic relations have been established. There has been a Polish Embassy in Nicosia since 2000. The Ambassador mentioned the Polish archaeological excavation. There has been an unbroken Polish presence for the past fifty years: via scholars, students and volunteers. Her Excellency also spoke about the Trio Presidency of the Council of Europe of Poland, Cyprus and Denmark. With this European bond, there were Foreign Ministry exchanges, consultations from Warsaw and Cyprus has been respected for its regional knowledge in the South-East Mediterranean. In the light of these bilateral relations, Polish tourism has flourished.
The second big topic we touched upon, was public diplomacy. Her Excellency defined public diplomacy briefly as an international representation or the brand of your country. She recapped, that it is the 25th anniversary of Poland gaining independence from the USSR, it has been ten years since it has joined NATO in 2013-3014 as well as the EU. Poland is a country transformed and it contributes to security and prosperity. Furthermore, in July Poland will host the NATO Summit in 2016, a significant even for Poland’s public diplomacy.
Another thematic we discussed, the third and last one was about the rich, Polish diaspora globally; in USA, Canada and Europe primarily. Poland focused on its image building by activating the Poles abroad- the expats. Therefore, economic diplomacy and business was another strategy the Poles utilized. In 2008-13, Poland did not fall in a recession. With the reforms that followed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the inflation rate dropped from 700% to 72%. This depicted how Poland become an attractive and stable economy. Another success story, have been the Polish apples. After Russia annexed Crimea and faced an economic embargo, Polish diplomacy had to look elsewhere for apples, so it expanded towards new markets beyond Russia. Its apples have been exported with success. Moreover, the War in Georgia and the annexation of Crimea, made Poland request more institutional help from NATO for protection from Russia. This was agreed by all the members of NATO, as Russian provocations in the Baltic Sea region and air policing are persisting. Poland has agreed to be used for exercise purposes, by the Dutch. Canadian and the US on a rotational basis.
Furthermore, Poland has used its cultural diplomacy as well, by setting up Polish cultural institutes, promoting painters, musicians and the arts. In every residence of an ambassador, there is usually a grand piano set in the dining room. In the POLSKA Year, hundreds of events were organized in London. Additionally, historical diplomacy was also employed, by setting up discussions. By the end of WWII, Poland had one of the biggest armies, bigger than the French, but this is not known the Ambassador confessed. Poland lost 1/3 of its territory to the USSR and whilst liberating Belgium, The Netherlands and the UK, many Polish stayed abroad. These historical dialogues, have been set up with Israel for example, due to the Jewish relationship. The history of Polish Jews in Warsaw remains very significant.
Scientific diplomacy is another diplomatic strategy used by Poland, which the Ambassador talked to us about. This entails that the Polish Universities and English education has been promoted. In Poland, it is traditionally great in the studies of higher arts, the Polish Film School, art conservation and medical specializations/ Public education in Poland is free and about 30,000 Polish students study abroad. There are many Swedish and Norwegian students which study in Poland and many prominent Polish academics are employed in universities abroad, i.e. Cambridge.
When asked about the current refugee position, the Ambassador confessed that she is not happy with the current Polish position. She explained that Poland has had a primarily homogeneous population and nationality. Poland has never had colonies, it only colonized and has been a closed country until 2004 (before joining the EU). The Polish, have a fear of the unknown and believe there are terrorists hiding within the refugees. This international fear, does not ring well with the Polish. Referring to past case studies, the Ambassador mentioned the 1000,000 refugees from Chechnya and the fact that they assimilated well in Polish society. They legally went to Europe and returned back. Soon the Ambassador confessed, about 8,000 refugees will be accepted in Poland, however she doubts if this will be a smooth transition for them since Poland has a cold climate and the refugees will have to deal with a totally different culture, food and so on.
The third and largest issue we talked about, was the Polish community abroad. Poland has one of the biggest diasporas in the world, due to their past and history. There have been several waves of migration. In the 19th century, Poland was divided into three neighbouring countries. In a hopeless uprising, any opponents were sent to Siberia for prosecution. There are several main areas of Polish migrants abroad. The first was created by a Polish prince near Constantinople, which brought with him Polish refugees. There is a Polish village there, but most people do not speak Polish. The second was in the early 20th century, a mass move to the Americas, USA were roughly 12 million Poles reside there, 1 million in Canada, 300,000 in Brazil and 120,000 in Argentina. The third wave of immigration, have been the Polish armies all across the globe (fighting in several wars, i.e. WWII), in S. Africa, Japan, Mexico and so on, where the families have moved there to be re-untied with their families and stayed there. Fourthly, minorities live in neighbouring countries of Poland and since the boarders have changed, they are no longer residing within Poland, i.e. 200,000 in Lithuania, Ukrania, Belarus, and Russia. Fifth, there are many migrants in the EU that go to seek work and afterwards might stay there. The diaspora, are usually well educated and have strong ties with their societies.
To end, when asked, ‘where do you see Poland in twenty-five years?’ the Ambassador painted a bleak picture when referring to the demographic problem of an ageing population. Additionally, the cohesion and structural funds of the EU are coming to an end. The EU remains a big internal market and investment, infrastructure growth is needed as well as niche floating units, whereas most people are poor, there is high cheap labour and do not live in a dignified way, i.e. the coalmining sector. On the bright side, all these expats and the Polish communities can protect their cultural heritage abroad and inspire more contacts with Poland. The Visegrad Group can become a successful security coalition for Poland. Lastly, the EU representative voting system and EU regulations can act in favour of Poland’s great size in the EU avoiding the tyranny of the masses”.
Σημείωση: Το άρθρο εκφράζει απόψεις αποκλειστικά της συγγραφέως και δεν δεσμεύει με κανένα τρόπο το Cyprus Youth DiplomaCY. Το άρθρο δημοσιεύεται μετά από έγκριση της Πρέσβείας της Πολωνίας στην Κύπρο.