Polish state abroad
Europe is the main arena of Polish interests. Nevertheless, Polish diplomacy must steer more of its resources and energy to other parts of the world. To take a more active part in the world of tomorrow, it is necessary to abandon yesterday’s way of thinking. Read more about modern Polish diplomacy and take a trip around the world following the Polish diplomatic missions.
For ages, the basic aim of foreign policy has been to protect citizens and the interests of the state. This mission has been sanctified by historical experience and codified in the Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations. When we look at the swearing-in oath for foreign service officials, we can see that one of the main commitments of diplomats is to protect the interests of the Republic of Poland.
Poland’s interests today and tomorrow
Membership in the European Union lies in the strategic interest of Poland and Poles. This is above all a matter of choice made on the basis of common values and a dense network of interpersonal, institutional and economic relations. The incorporation of our country into the EU, combined with participation in the North Atlantic Treaty, ensures us security and growth. This is of fundamental significance, particularly in the face of the instability in Eastern Europe.
When looking at Poland’s links with Europe from the economic perspective, we can easily discern the great importance of participation in European integration. Polish exports, at a level of around 50% of Poland’s GDP, are nearly 90% sent to Europe. Alongside business, we also have many groups of citizens who build connections on the private, scientific, cultural or tourist level.
We analyse and act
The dynamically changing international situation is a reason of the dilemma facing Polish diplomacy. On the one hand Europe remains the central point where Poland’s security and economy are anchored, with the many economic, social, cultural, scientific and family connections. On the other hand, we are dealing with a clear shift in the centre of gravity of the global economy and politics to Asia and the Pacific, and also partly Africa and South America. Consequently, one of the more important priorities of the Polish Foreign Policy Strategy 2017-2021 is a stronger position of Poland in these regions, particularly in Asia and the Pacific.
An effective foreign policy requires above all well-educated and trained diplomats who are fluent in foreign languages. In 2004, when we joined the EU, we had about 2,300 diplomatic posts (where diplomatic activity was conducted abroad). This year we have a little over 1,900, or 20% fewer than 14 years ago – which is ironic given the tasks facing diplomacy in the increasingly unpredictable and complex international reality.
Polish Embassy in Bern (Elfenstrasse 20)
Created in 1907 building in neo-Baroque style is a work of the famous Swiss architect Albert Gerster. He was also the designer of many characteristic objects in Bern located in the city center, like a former riding school, numerous hotels (e.g. Bristol) and villas, which currently serve as the headquarters of diplomatic missions.
The first owner of the property at Elfenstrasse 20 was Wilhelm Frank Fellenberg von Müller. In the years 1912-1913, the building served as a chancellery and residence of the British legation and in the years 1914-1919 – legation of the Kingdom of Romania.
Since 1920 the villa was rented by the Legation of the Republic of Poland. On June 15, 1928, the Polish State Treasury bought this property. During the second world war it was a headquarter of the Ładoś Group – a group of Polish diplomats and Jewish activists who elaborated in Switzerland a system of illegal production of Latin American passports with the view to saving European Jews from Holocaust.
Since 1965 the edifice is the residence of the Polish ambassador. In 2002, due to its historical and architectural qualities, this building was classified by the city authorities as a group of monuments.
After 1989, our diplomatic presence adapted to the changes of our neighbourhood and to alliance priorities rather than to global processes. Today, two thirds of Polish diplomats are stationed in Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union. The expansion of posts after 1989 above all resulted from two factors. One was that after the fall of the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, 19 new embassies, 13 consulates general and 7 Polish institutes were established. The other was that the commencement of the process of accession to Western structures and international organisations made it necessary to open missions to the EU, NATO, the Council of Europe and the OECD.
Our presence beyond Europe was reduced in 2008-2014. During this time, 24 diplomatic posts were closed down. Several of these decisions were dictated by external considerations (e.g. the operation of the consulate in Sevastopol was interrupted by war), several by rationalising spending (e.g. in Varna or in Catania, Sicily). However, most of the decisions taken at the time were motivated less by technical reasons and more by efforts to reduce costs (e.g. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Karachi, Lagos, Dhaka and Calcutta).
As regards staffing, currently Polish representations to the EU and NATO in Brussels are the two most highly staffed Polish posts, reaffirming the priority significance of our relations with these organisations. Notably, at these two posts there are as many diplomats as in all the Polish consulates and embassies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. At the same time, Poland’s Eurocentric foreign policy means that posts in some of the smaller European states have staff comparable to the post in New Delhi in India, for example, and in large and demanding states (such as Brazil, Vietnam, Nigeria or the Republic of Korea) Poland is represented by only a few, or at times by just two professional diplomats. What is more, the ambassadors at these posts are accredited for as many as seven of the surrounding, at times large and diverse states.
In the past two years, we have taken concrete steps to reverse the negative shrinking trend of Poland’s diplomatic presence. Since 2015, we have restored our presence in Panama, Tanzania, the Philippines and recently in Senegal. We have also established consulates in Belfast and Houston. We plan to open other posts in Asia, Africa and the Americas, and to strengthen the staffing of posts in non-European countries.
The Ministry has mapped out the needs in accordance with the significance of individual states. For example, we see the need to significantly support certain embassies, such as in India or in Vietnam, which have been described as having particularly good prospects in the Sustainable Development Strategy. There is also the matter of seeking synergy between diplomatic posts and other entities, such as the foreign offices of the Polish Investment and Trade Agency. In this respect, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is open to broad cooperation and seeks optimal channels for carrying out joint undertakings.
The edifice of the Polish Embassy in Washington was designed by the architect George Oakley Totten. Originally the building was intended to be the home of the U.S. Senator John B. Henderson. It was finished in a style reminiscent of 17th and 18th century French mansionettes, but includes also major elements of English styling, such as the use of double-hung windows, limestone balconies and the addition of an elaborate iron and glass marquee over the front.
In 1920, a Polish deputy and the first ambassador to the United States, Prince Kazimierz Lubomirski purchased the building on behalf of the government of the newly independent Polish state. Since then, very few changes have been made, such as lighting and wall colors, but the whole looks exactly like the pictures from the early twentieth century. In 1978 a team of specialists from Poland repaired and renovated the ornate plaster and woodwork of the embassy's state rooms, bringing back the splendor of the residence.
However, the point is not only to increase the number of consulates. For Polish interests to benefit from the potential of these agglomerations, it is also necessary to redefine their role. Currently, they have functions strictly geared towards consular services, that is to provide help for Polish citizens. This area will remain a priority for consulates. At the same time, we would like them to become more involved in economic, cultural and scientific promotion. This is a trend observed throughout the world. Some countries, perceiving the growing role of corporations (particularly in the IT sector), appoint ambassadors for major developmental centres, e.g. in Silicon Valley.
Diplomacy at the threshold of another century
Poland is firmly anchored and has great potential for further growth in Europe. We will therefore actively take part in shaping political, economic and social processes in Europe, jointly participating in decisions concerning the continent’s future. However, Poland also has substantial interests beyond the Old Continent which it should effectively protect and promote. With the growing role of Asia, Africa and South America, new challenges are arising concerning greater involvement of our country in major global processes and trends. Many measures are related to this, including the necessity of expanding the network of posts and strengthening foreign staff. The decisions taken will impact the fulfilment of Polish interests and values in the world as we know it today and as it will be tomorrow. This is particularly important in the light of the 100th anniversary of regaining independence.
Polish Embassy in Paris (1, rue de Talleyrand)
The edifice, known as Hôtel de Monaco, was founded in 1772 by Princess Marie-Catherine de Brignole after her separation from her husband Honoré III, Prince of Monaco. The notable architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart was instructed to build a palace “befitting her rank and worthy of her admiration as well as that of all passers-by”. The Princess wanted the palace both grander and more elaborate than the nearby Hôtel de Matignon, her current home.
With this in mind Brongniart set about constructing a palace set around a Cour d'Honneur with a large garden to the rear and a monumental portico above the entrance. The palace was to be approached from the Rue Dominique, where he also built for the Princess an adjacent smaller guest palace. With the view to occupier's comfort Brongniart designed the palace so that no room would be shrouded in darkness and that all of the major state rooms would be flooded with natural light. His design was called a breakthrough in Parisian urban architecture and soon became the standard of that days architecture.
The princess enjoyed her new palace only until 1790 when she emigrated to England. She tried to rent the building to the British ambassador, but the Palace was seized by the revolutionary government and passed through the hands of many prioprietors, among others those of English banker William Williams-Hope. Inspired by the Versailles and the Royal Palace, Hope completely rebuilded the Hotel de Monaco, enlarged gardens and adjacent buildings, buying and demolishing several tenement houses along the Grenelle street (including the Monastery of Saint Valois). The introduced changes completely transformed the look of the property.
In 1936 the Hôtel became the property of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be their legation's permanent seat in Paris. Since then the palace has served as the Polish Embassy and for a brief period in 1939-1940 it was even the seat of the Polish government-in-exile until France fell and the government had to emigrate to London. After that during the second world war it became a German cultural office.
The furniture and national artwork inside the palace come from the collections of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Polish National Museum in Warsaw.