Source: China Daily Published: 2020-02-05
Talks with Polish counterpart come as EU power balance is in flux after Brexit
French President Emmanuel Macron hailed a "new chapter" in the strained ties with Poland but insisted that Poland should respect the European Union's values during his first visit to Warsaw.
Just a few days after the United Kingdom left the EU, reshaping the EU, Macron started a two-day visit to Poland on Monday, as he insisted that Brexit would result in a new dynamic among the remaining members of the bloc.
After talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw on Monday, Macron said that he sought to make a "turning point" in the bilateral relations and to clear up any misunderstandings.
He also said he hoped to revive the trilateral relations with Germany as the three countries should shoulder the responsibility for Europe's future.
Both sides have hailed this visit as a breakthrough for bilateral ties. Duda said on Monday that Macron's visit "represents a turn in Polish-French relations, especially through the deal on strategic cooperation".
A deal on strategic cooperation for 2020-2024 was signed by the two countries' foreign ministers on Monday.
Separately, Duda said on Tuesday that Macron also proposed a summit on July 14 in Paris of the so-called Weimar Triangle countries－France, Germany, and Poland. The framework has stagnated in recent years.
Macron is the first French president to visit Poland in many years, and has previously been critical of Poland's policies. Former French president Francois Hollande called off a visit in 2016 after Poland gave up a planned purchase of French helicopters.
Reports said Poland had clashed with many members of the EU, including on its reliance on coal, its refusal to take in migrants and its judicial reforms, which caused tensions in its relations with other EU members.
While delivering a speech at the Jagiellonian University in the southern city of Krakow on Tuesday, Macron said that the EU must help Poland transform an economy that is heavily dependent on coal, but Warsaw must respect EU values first.
Poland rejected an agreement made by EU leaders in December that intends to make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050.
Commenting on Macron's visit to Poland, Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said that it is an effort by France, a leading country of the EU, to seek the rebalancing of the internal forces of the EU and to cultivate a new internal support point for EU systems after Brexit.
"Poland cannot replace the UK," he said. "But the visit is likely to strengthen the solidarity of the EU," he added.
'Bridging the gap'
He Yun, an assistant professor at Hunan University's School of Public Management, said that Macron's visit to Poland is significant and will help repair the tenuous bilateral relations.
"It will also play an important role in bridging the policy gap within EU member states such as over climate change, as France could provide key nuclear energy technology to help Poland phase out coal," she said.
She also said that Poland will not be able to fill the leadership gap left by Britain's departure from the EU.But as the negotiation of a trade deal between the UK and the EU is complicated and requires the consent of all 27 EU members as well as Britain, Poland matters.
"Not only is Poland the largest economy in Eastern Europe and wields significant influence within the EU, but also it has been traditionally very close to Britain," He said."Poland could be a major force in the EU to push for a swift and amicable trade deal with Britain," she said.
She added that the launch of the trilateral summit between Germany, France, and Poland was an attempt to coordinate key EU policy between its largest members in Western Europe and Eastern Europe, as well as to show that Poland's significance to the EU is both recognized and elevated after the departure of Britain.
Wang Peng is an associate research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.