Europe Macron visits Poland in bid to reset frosty relations

Macron visits Poland in bid to reset frosty relations

Image result for French President Emmanuel Macron visits Poland
French President Emmanuel Macron.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits Poland on Monday and Tuesday in an effort to reset frosty relations at a time when the departure of Britain from the European Union is reshaping political alliances in the bloc.

Arriving in Warsaw days after Brexit, Macron is signaling the importance of one of the EU’s biggest members, despite a relationship marked by clashes over issues ranging from climate change policy and NATO to Poland’s adherence to the rule of law.

In an attempt to strengthen ties, he will propose new investment plans and try to build nuclear and military partnerships, French and Polish officials said.

“Perhaps we won’t be best friends right away but we can gradually rebuild working relations,” an official close to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Reuters.

Relations between Poland and France soured after Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) government scrapped a $3.4 billion helicopter deal with Airbus in 2016, which France thought was largely agreed.

Since then, France and Poland have been on the opposite sides of many arguments.

“This is a very important visit, groundbreaking in a way. We were criticized by France, and also we did not spare criticism against France … But there is a chance we will leave this period behind us,” Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told state press agency PAP.

Macron, a fervent European integrationist, has decried nationalist governments like Poland’s and criticized, along with the EU executive, efforts by PiS to put Polish courts and media under more government control.

“The visit itself shows that these issues are not an obstacle in developing bilateral cooperation,” PAP quoted Czaputowicz as saying.

He added that during Macron’s visit Poland and France will agree a strategic cooperation plan for the 2020-2024 period.

Both countries want to keep generous funding for their agricultural sectors in the EU budget, but Paris wants more action on migration and the climate, while Warsaw rejects EU policies on both matters.

Macron may however be keen to explore new alliances in Europe amid tensions with Germany over his ambitious reform plans.

“Paris is looking for another partner to work on the future of Europe. Berlin is not delivering,” said Michal Baranowski, director the German Marshall Fund in Warsaw, a think-tank.