Coal will be the heart of Indo-Polish relations, says deputy foreign minister

Coal will be the main sector for cooperation with India for Poland, which is also looking at the defence sector given the enormous needs of the Indian military, says deputy foreign minister Marek Magierowski.

Poland’s deputy foreign minister Marek Magierowski his country’s expertise in mining, especially in coal and copper, could help boost collaboration with India. Magierowski, who was in India for the Bangla Business Conference and the Raisina Dialogue, spoke about bilateral relations, Europe’s Russia problem and Poland’s Europe problem.

On India-Poland relations:

We see a lot of potential in the mining sector. Many major Polish players have been looking at India. Your industry has similar needs and experiences. Coal will remain important to your energy needs despite the problems posed by regulations that have to comply with climate change.

Like India, Poland has also decided it cannot give up on coal altogether because of a number of social, economic and cultural reasons. Poland, however, has reordered its priorities in the coal sector. There has been a push in innovation with more money in R&D and clean coal technology.

I was in Kolkata recently and we met a number of Coal India representatives and a few dozen Indian companies. We showed our expertise in deep mining. Polish companies hold the world record for deep mining in coal and copper.

This is a technology attractive to any country.

Coal will be the main sector for cooperation with India.

Poland is also looking at the defence sector given the enormous needs of the Indian military. We understand it is a competitive market, but Poland has capabilities in areas like armour and armaments. While European countries like Germany and France will remain our primary trading partners, many Polish firms have now become too large for the regional market and are looking beyond Europe for markets. Economic diplomacy is my principal objective in India. In that regard, Poland wants to rekindle our relations with India. The last time an Indian prime minister visited Poland was in 1979. Our vice-president came here last year. Political contacts and regular ones at that are absolutely crucial.

On Polish foreign policy:

Poland has been on the UN Security Council since January and wants to cooperate with India in that body. It is now known that Poland has a fair amount of experience with North Korea going back to the Korean War, when we were one of three neutral governments who helped bring the war to a close. Poland is one of only seven European Union countries with an embassy in Pyongyang. Our ambassador to the UN was recently in Washington and gave a mesmerising briefing on his observations about North Korea.

One of the vital elements of our foreign policy is the relationship with Russia. Relations have been frozen solely because of UN resolutions. The ball is in Russia’s court. We expect Moscow to act more rationally and peacefully, we do not accept the annexation of Crimea and the eastern Ukraine, the violations of international law these represent. Russia’s meddling in the US elections and attempts to influence French and German elections are also sources of concern. Russia has become a practitioner of hybrid warfare. Poland has been sensitising its Western allies to Russia’s modus operandi and stressing the need to counter this. We have among the best think tanks and analysts on Russia in the world.

I want to stress that our attitude to contemporary Russia and Vladimir Putin is not based on Russophobia. We and the Russians are both Slavic and culturally very similar. Many of the Polish elite are enamoured of Russian culture. Some in the West see Poland as an obstacle to better relations with Russia. Our policy is based on realpolitik. Poland would like Russia to be part of a normal world but Moscow’s interference in the Baltic states, its invasion of Georgia, and placing of nuclear weapons in the enclave of Kaliningrad mitigate against this.

Poland and EU relations:

We are the European Union. We do not have problem with the EU, only some differences with the European Commission. There are many points of view within the EU on any given policy. Even on Russia there is no consensus over maintaining sanctions, for example. I would say that in nine out of 10 policies, the EU doesn’t have a unanimous position. Poland’s sources of friction with the European Commission – the key element being our judicial reforms – will not materially affect our standing. We are not afraid of an Article 7 procedure. We will not get to the stage of EU funds being suspended. While Article 7 has been triggered, there are many stages left to go and I don’t believe those further stages will happen. There is no threat to Poland.

The present ruling party of Poland announced it would carry out judicial reform when it campaigned and it was a key reason it won an absolute majority in Parliament. A majority of Poles are tired of the judiciary’s incompetence, corruption and indolence. We ended communist rule in 1989 but many judges continue to have a communist background. The present system has the judges choose their own successors, there is no check and the system lacks balance.

Judicial reform is very ticklish and it has aroused suspicions in the European Commission. We do not believe we have violated any EU or international standard or rule. Many of our reforms will actually democratise judicial proceedings.

The European Commission is using instruments that are not even mentioned by treaty. Some of their actions have been unlawful. The policy of subsidiarity under the EU says Brussels must not interfere in our social institutions and politics. The EU does not have the mandate to stop us or use Article 7 against us. Germany, France and Italy have carried out similar changes without protest.