Last December, WHU School of Political Science and Public Administration held a diplomatic salon. Many WHU professors and students attended the salon. Damian Irzyrk, third counselor of the political section at the Polish Embassy in Beijing and Tomasz Jurczyk, third secretary of the political section were invited to have an interactive discussion on Polish foreign policy. Ethan Robertson, host of the salon first thanked all the attendees and introduced the key speaker Mr. Damian Irzyrk to a round of applause. Third counselor Damian appreciated this opportunity to put forward his views on Polish diplomatic relations.
Poland recently celebrated the 1st anniversary of the establishment of the new Polish government and he informed everyone about the changes that had taken place in Poland since the 2015 parliamentary elections. In his keynote address, Mr. Irzyrk spoke about the ongoing social changes, political instability, armed conflict, economic crisis, and immigration problems faced by the Euro zone. Poland, as a member state of the EU and NATO, is directly affected by these problems. He further added: “In 2016, Poland has to face three major crises that have hit Europe—the crisis of security on our continent, the crisis of neighborhood and the crisis of European projects itself. Each of these can have very serious and far-reaching consequences for our country”.
Mr. Irzyrk also emphasized the importance of regional partnership among member states to fulfill the proper function of the EU. Regarding this, he said: “Regional cooperation is an integral element of Poland’s European policy. We have high hopes for it but we also take notice of problems which may come up along the way.” He seemed concerned about the future of the EU in the light of Brexit and the ongoing crises. In order to tackle these problems, he shared some measures that can ensure strong political and economic ties between member states including the free movement of people, services, goods and capital, as well as the establishment of a de facto political union.
The Chinese strategy of “one belt one road” is getting increasingly popular among the EU states that have become fully aware of the tactical benefits of partnership with non-European countries. About this major initiative, Mr. Irzyrk stressed that it had surpassed the scope of transportation and connectivity. The “16+1” mechanism which was launched in 2012 will foster and strengthen the cooperation between the 16 Eastern European countries and China through cross-cultural exchange. He also gave a brief outline of the work done by Poland as an EU member state in peacekeeping missions and in handling the Ukrainian immigrants and economic crisis.
Regarding this Polish foreign posture, Associate Professor Zhang Xiaotong said, “When we teach diplomacy, we are very much focused on history, geography and economics and they all are very much related to diplomacy. Poland fits very well in this criterion of diplomatic teaching.” He was also quite surprised by the greater number of foreign students in attendance over their Chinese counterparts after more than 30 sessions. After a brief interaction with the professors, the session opened the floor to the audience.
From left: Mr. Tomasz Jurczyk, Mr. Damian Irzyrk and WHU professors
Excerpts from the Q&A discussion with Mr. Damian Irzyrk
Q. In this media-dominated age, are foreign policies on highly volatile and contestable issues affected by hyper nationalistic hysteria without having proper knowledge of grounded reality?
A. I certainly agree. That changes our work significantly. We have to work from crisis to crisis and it’s difficult to focus on strategies. This immediate flow of information around the globe requires constant attention and distracts us from what we are focusing on at the moment. In my 10 years of experience in diplomacy, I have observed these changes in the flow of information. The flashpoints emerge so fast that it can be difficult to formulate strategies and implement them.
Q. Due to this flow of information in media, individuals no longer have to visit consulates and embassies for basic information. Do you think that consulates and embassies are now representatives of governments and businesses rather than people?
A. In Asia, our embassies mainly focus on developing economic relations rather than politics—helping companies struggling in a new market. In European neighborhood, embassies are more engaged in political and security issues. Certain issues concerning history and minorities are very sensitive and prompt to crisis. Consulates are for the people and in Western Europe they hand out Polish citizenships and passports to the incoming labor force. Unlike Europe which has a single market, consulates in Asia handle trade-related responsibilities.
Q. What bargaining tools do diplomats and envoys use in resolving key bilateral issues through peaceful dialogue?
A. Economic and military power matters the most. It’s much easier to talk if you are from a large country than a small country because at least some of them will listen to you. Nowadays the world is becoming more and more complex and there are also a growing number of companies that are actually much bigger than countries. They have their own interests and some issues are driven by their interests in the relations. No pure state-to-state relations exist. Size, population, economy or military can be used as leverage.
Q. Do you think a country should adhere to non-alignment policy in accordance to the UN Charter and international laws?
A. Well, it depends from country to country. Poland is right in the middle of Europe and it will be hard to imagine Poland not being in any one of the blocs. It’s very difficult for some countries to approach this policy. It’s not just a matter of decisions.
(Edited by Fang Siyuan, Wu Siying, Edmund Wai Man Lai & Hu Sijia)