Relations between Taiwan and Poland are on an upward trajectory. Since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, we have witnessed the close cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Polish institutions aimed at facilitating humanitarian relief efforts for Ukrainian people affected by the war.
Additionally, the recent inauguration of the Taiwan-Poland Inter-Parliamentary Amity Association, led by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀), is an important step toward further institutionalization of relations between Taipei and Warsaw.
Consequently, these recent positive developments provide an opportunity to identify obstacles that still hinder bilateral ties and explore new avenues for Taiwanese-Polish cooperation.
Given Taiwan’s precarious geopolitical status, legislative diplomacy plays an instrumental role in allowing the nation to diversify its foreign relations and build strong partnerships with global partners. In comparison with executive diplomacy, legislative diplomacy is characterized by a higher degree of flexibility in liaising with diverse stakeholders, as well as communicating with fewer constraints and on more sensitive issues.
Close cooperation between Taiwan and Poland, facilitated through the parliamentary associations, has brought about concrete results.
A particularly noteworthy example dates to 2017, when the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Warsaw, responding to a request by the then-chair of the Polish-Taiwanese Parliamentary Group, donated medical equipment to Central Clinical Hospital in Lodz, central Poland.
While the Polish-Taiwanese Parliamentary Group in its present shape formed in February 2020, merely three months after the current legislative term commenced in the Polish parliament, the 10th Legislative Yuan lacked an established structure to carry out exchanges with its counterparts in Warsaw.
The absence of a parliamentary friendship group for relations with Poland was particularly conspicuous given that, amid the expansion of ties between Taiwan and European countries, the current Legislative Yuan had formed several such alliances with countries, including the Baltic states Czechia, Hungary and Slovenia.
Lin, who sits on the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee and previously headed the DPP’s Department of International Affairs, could utilize her experience and expertise to productively engage Polish parliamentarians at a time of ever-expanding confluence of Taiwanese and Polish economic and security interests.
At the same time, unlike many central and eastern European countries, Poland has pursued a strategy of dual engagement as it seeks to simultaneously deepen its ties with Taiwan and China.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan donated sorely needed medical masks to Poland, and Poland reciprocated with a donation of more than 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, rendering it the third-most generous donor to Taiwan following the US and Japan.
Beyond medical diplomacy, Taiwan has also witnessed further institutionalization of its ties with Poland, when the latter became the first country in Europe to enter a bilateral agreement on legal cooperation in criminal matters in February last year.
Additionally, in December, career diplomat Cyryl Kozaczewski became the de facto ambassador of Poland to Taiwan. A seasoned diplomat, Kozaczewski previously served as the Polish ambassador in Tokyo and also represented NATO in Japan as the official point of contact. His seniority and experience in security studies is unprecedented; previous Polish envoys to Taiwan had generally come from backgrounds in culture and economics.
Most recently, Poland engaged with Taiwanese authorities as Taipei sought to support the victims of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As the European country received more than 2.5 million Ukrainians fleeing from war, MOFA disbursed to Poland more than US$10 million from the special fundraising account of the MOFA-backed Relieve Disaster Foundation.
Concurrently, Warsaw has embarked on a path of rapprochement with Beijing. This state of affairs can be traced to the lack of a consistent China strategy within Law and Justice, the ruling right-wing populist party.
On the one hand, some of the top-ranking members of the party, some of whom were active democratic members in the authoritarian period, lead the conversation about broadening engagement with Taiwan.
Among them is Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Anna Fotyga, a former Polish foreign minister. Having led a delegation of MEPs to Taiwan in 2017 as then-head of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Security and Defense, Fotyga has long advocated for fostering closer ties between Europe and Taiwan. Last year, she also enthusiastically embraced the passing of the European Parliament’s first-ever standalone report on relations with Taiwan.
“The EU is to benefit from enhanced relations in many areas with vibrant democracy in Taiwan,” she said.
On the other hand, there are also senior politicians within Law and Justice who continue to engage with and openly praise the policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
During a reception organized by the Chinese embassy in Warsaw on the CCP’s centennial, Member of Sejm and Polish-Chinese Parliamentary Group Chairman Marek Suski, and the group’s deputy chair, Polish Senator Grzegorz Czelej, delivered speeches in which they called for greater collaboration between Poland and China under the 16+1 initiative, and drew parallels between the Polish Deal, Law and Justice’s flagship economic program, and China’s 14th Five-Year Plan.
Polish President Andrzej Duda is also one of the most China-friendly politicians in the country. (Duda formally renounced his membership in Law and Justice following his victory in the 2015 presidential elections and is formally independent, yet he remains close to the party establishment.)
Alone among his fellow EU leaders, Duda traveled to Beijing during this year’s Winter Olympic Games. While many global leaders boycotted the event, pointing to human rights violations committed by the Chinese government, the Polish president met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to advocate for the deepening of economic interactions between Warsaw and Beijing.
Polish Secretary of State at the Chancellery of the President Andrzej Dera said: “Whoever does business with China can feel secure in the coming years. President was speaking in the interest of [the Polish] economy.”
Despite the positive momentum in relations between Taiwan and Poland, the perceived lack of a clearly defined policy for engaging China and Taiwan in the Polish ruling party hinders the ability of Warsaw and Taipei to fully capitalize on the potential of their relations.
The developmental interests of Taiwan and Poland align in several key areas, including smart cities and autonomous vehicles. Both parties also continue to face similar challenges stemming from non-traditional security threats such as cybercrime.
Consequently, to further deepen their pragmatic cooperation, Poland would be well-advised to join the ranks of other European countries, such as Slovakia and Czechia, and engage in mutual capacity building under the Global Cooperation and Training Framework and other channels that embrace the participation of Taiwan.
Among stakeholders in Warsaw, deepening the understanding of why Taiwan matters would serve as a pivotal means to bolster exchanges aimed at achieving tangible effects. The establishment of the Taiwan-Poland Inter-Parliamentary Amity Association positively contributes to this aim.
More balanced and regular interactions between parliamentarians from Taiwan and Poland have the potential to alleviate any possible effects of the information deficit that continues to blur Warsaw’s Taiwan policy.
Marcin Jerzewski is an analyst at the European Values Center for Security Policy, Taipei Office and a research fellow at the Taiwan NextGen Foundation.
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