In its centuries-old history, Poland has been at the center of the geopolitical dynamics and disputes of the great European empires. Strategically located in the heart of the old continent, in the eighteenth century the Polish territory was the subject of successive partitions by the three great neighboring empires, Prussian, Austrian and Russian, which in 1795 led to the dismemberment of the pre-existing Polish state. Poland re-emerged as an autonomous state entity in 1918, in the aftermath of the First World War, when it effectively became a buffer state, strategically placed between Germany and Russia. In September 1939 it was precisely the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany that triggered the Second World War,
During the Cold War period the country was ruled by a socialist-inspired regime close to the USSR, on a par with other Central and Eastern European countries. In the eighties it was mainly from Poland that a wave of demonstrations for reforms started which led, in the following decade, to the implosion of the socialist bloc, and therefore to the dismantling of the Soviet Union itself. At the heart of this great popular movement was the Solidarność trade union, which managed to mobilize civil society under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa. In 1990 Wałęsa then became the first president of post-communist Poland to be elected in free elections. In the nineties Warsaw undertook a profound process of political and economic reforms: the recognition of this path took the concrete form of the admission of Poland to NATO in 1999 and to the European Union (Eu) in 2004.
Poland, historically threatened to the west by Germany and to the east by Russia, has therefore ceased to consider Berlin and Moscow as adversaries, starting a process of normalization which has nevertheless met with outcomes that are not entirely coincident. United Germany is now Warsaw’s first trading partner and bilateral relations are excellent: the two countries aim for a strong partnership capable of determining European policies along shared lines of economic and security policy.
On the other hand, relations with Moscow are more complex. Having overcome the phase of sterile confrontation experienced under the conservative executive of Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość – Pis), the Tusk government first and the Kopacz one later sought dialogue more, without ever overcoming some basic mistrust. After the elections of October 2015, the return to power of the Pisit does not suggest a relaxation of relations. The Ukrainian crisis and the Russian revanchism promoted by Vladimir Putin in 2014 have in fact worsened relations with the Kremlin, awakening never dormant Polish concerns. The two countries remain divided by a cumbersome past, as well as by a present that cannot ignore conflicting, if not openly conflicting, positions and interests. Together with Sweden, Poland has promoted within the EU the so-called Eastern Partnership, an association agreement between the EUand Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine. Community neighborhood policies towards Eastern Europe and the issue of energy corridors, both strategic priorities for Poland, are also battlegrounds with Moscow. Not surprisingly, it is above all in an anti-Russian key that Warsaw has cultivated, after 1991, stable and profound relations with the US, both bilaterally and within the transatlantic structure of NATO ; relations that are becoming closer again with a view to the deterioration of relations with Moscow. For Poland political system, please check politicsezine.com.
Poland is also among the promoters, together with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, of the Visegrád Group (also known as V4), a regional alliance aimed at fostering closer cooperation between its members. The priority of Polish diplomatic action is the attempt to reinvigorate the so-called Weimar Triangle, an agreement between Poland, France and Germany aimed at increasing political and economic interdependence. Completed as early as 1991, it had been frozen during the years of Lech Kaczyński’s presidency.
Institutional organization and internal politics
Poland is a parliamentary republic with a bicameral legislative system, consisting of the lower house, the Sejm (460 seats), and the Senate (100 seats). The legislature has a duration of four years and access to parliament is limited by a threshold equivalent to 5% of the votes for parties and 8% for coalitions. Although his duties are essentially ceremonial, the president of the republic is directly elected by the people for a five-year term. In April 2010, then-president Lech Kaczyński died in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia. New early presidential elections were then called, which led to the election of Bronisław Komorowski, a member of the ruling party of the ‘Civic Platform’ (Platforma Obywatelska, Po), against the twin of the former president, Jaroslaw Kaczyński of the Pis party, an event that marked a strong change in the national political balance. At the end of the five-year mandate, in May 2015, the country went to the polls again to elect the new president: the winner was Andrzej Duda, representative of Pis, who defeated the outgoing president Komorowski.
Although both the Po and the Pis belong to the center-right area, the latter has more marked anti-European and nationalist traits. The parliamentary elections of October 2015 confirmed this trend on the part of the Polish electorate, which chose 37.5% to vote for the Pis. The second party was then the Po, which obtained 24% of the vote, followed at a safe distance by a newly formed radical right-wing party, the Kukiz’15, led by punk singer Paweł Kukiz and which surprisingly obtained 8.8%, making inroads above all in the younger sections of the population. In the new Sejm there is no political force attributable to the left or the center-left. For the first time in Europe in the last twenty years, the challenge for prime minister was held between two women – the previous case dates back to the Norwegian parliamentary elections in 1993 -: Beata Szydło del Pis and Ewa Kopacz for the Po, who covered the post after party colleague Donald Tusk was called in September 2014 to serve as President of the European Council. Since November 2015, Szydlo is the new Prime Minister of Poland.