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"Poland is a supporter of greatest possible EU unity, also in this matter."

Radoslaw Sikorski when asked about Poland's stance on the independence of Kosovo (18th February 2008, Gazeta Wyborcza)


"Poland will have done its job if it contributes to the shaping of a united position for the entire European Union."

Mr Sikorski during EU consultations regarding the response to the war in Georgia (31st August 2008, eubusiness.com)
Illustration by Laura Hempel
Radoslaw Sikorski

Now WOW - that is an obama-esque type of change when you compare the rhetoric of the current Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, to the language used by the infamous Kaczynski twins, who once had a tight grip over two most important posts in the country. Mr Sikorski - an anti-communist political refugee to the UK, Oxford graduate, awarded war-correspondent for "Spectator" and "Observer" and husband to an American Pulitzer-prizewinner Anne Applebaum - is a talented sleek politician with an impeccable British accent, who seems to have transformed at ease from a classical neocon in his earlier days into an exemplary European diplomat.

The statements quoted above have two things in common. Firstly, they were produced in the time of uncertainty, when important events could put in flames the current world order. It is exactly in such times when the EU is at highest risk of losing its relevance as a political actor. (Does Iraq War ring the bell?) Secondly, those statements mark a blissful shift in the Polish foreign policy - not to stand isolated against the European stream but contribute to building a channel to strengthen the stream's flow, even if giving it one's preferred direction.

Picture this: a brutal war in Georgia breaks out and the Russian tanks roll out. Tension is high, even higher the prices at stake: peace in the Caucasus (just in the EU's backyard), prevention of the outbreak of the second Cold War or even future integrity of the EU Baltic States. Whereas the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, starts comparing Putin to Hitler in 1936 and nearly imposes unilateral war on Russia, Mr Sikorski behaves in quite a different way. He mobilises all the possible European channels in order to consult the Polish stance with his European counterparts and assure the unity of European response.

It was on his initiative and only after tough negotiations with Kouchner and Sarkozy, fighting for recognition of French presidency's grandeur, that the EU emergency summit was convened in to discuss the escalating conflict. The last time such an emergency summit took place was in early 2004, when the Union broke spectacularly into two opposing camps leaving a wide rift in between. This time "old Europe" and "new Europe", to use rumsfeldian terms, have overcome their divisions and released an official condemnation of Russian "disproportionate reaction" in Georgia. And Mr Sikorski has his stake in it. Instead of succumbing into rhetoric sable-rattling he rushed off to negotiate with Russia and engaged actively in developing the EU Eastern partnership with Ukraine and for long isolated Belarus.

Today he gets our nomination for the radical cut with what he dubbed as Poland's previous "cry-baby tactics" on the EU scene. "When you veto and when you are unpredictable, then they do indeed call, but this is the tactics of a baby who screams somewhere in the corner and that's why the adults have to lean over so that it stops." he explained in the radio programme ‘Signals of the Day'. "This does not give prestige, it does not build partner relations. Let's be clear on that one - you can lean over a baby, but you don't listen to it".

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