The old Europe of a Brussels dominated inner-core is dead. But the new Europe is yet to be born. In the interim we are feeling all of sorts of morbid symptoms as the new Europe seeks to assert itself. In this process, Britain has to look to natural partners and friends. A major new ally for Britain in the new Europe is Poland. In a few weeks the Polish President, Alexsander Kwasniewksi, is coming on a State Visit. Here are my 10 reasons why the UK and Poland need to link up to help shape the new Europe.
- Because we aren't ostriches. The US national symbol is the Eagle, Russia has the Bear. What animal does Europe want to be? When fighting against terrorism and dealing with the new threat from political and religious extremism Europe should not be an ostrich as some may wish. So calls for a Europe which mean a plumper, fluffier bottom stuck higher in the air with our heads ever deeper in the sand is no good. Britain and Poland know from history that democracy has to be fought for - that's why we are standing shoulder to shoulder in Iraq.
- Because we demand a competitive Europe. The UK lives off international trade and accepts the logic of globalisation with all its problems. That's why we are opening our labour markets to Poland immediately on accession - the only large EU country to do so. Poland in turn has to take advantage of its communist-era legacy to make a leapfrog in technology straight to the latest ways of doing things. A stodgy Europe does neither of us any good. Warsaw and London want a Global EU, not fortress Europe.
- Because as ancient European democracies we both like rules. The UK has long championed international law, because what is the alternative? Poland wants robust European and international rules to help manage its turbulent and still rather sticky relations with its large neighbours.
- Because we believe in ourselves as Sovereign Nations as well as States. The performance of the classic patriotic Polish opera The Haunted Manor at Sadlers Wells in April brings to London for the first time ever a professional production of this marvelous work. It was composed at a time when Poland did not exist on the map but existed in spirit and determination. We do not want - and even if we did our peoples will not accept - unaccountable dictats from Brussels. We want the EU to get this balance right for the sake of its legitimacy. This does not mean being Little Englanders or Little Poles. It means tough bargaining and hard-fought compromises - we both are good at that.
- Because we both insist on the Atlantic Dimension for Europe. Our histories are intertwined with that of the US. We like their can-do approach. We like their tough talking, and we like talking back toughly in reply - that's what friends are for. A Europe setting itself up as a rival power to the US is doomed to make a total fool of itself.
- Because we have the confidence to think strategically. Neither of us see joining modern Europe as a game where you enter the door then throw away the key so that no-one else can come in. Poland looks to the East, rightly - a Europe without Belarus/Ukraine -and Russia too in some way - is a Europe with unfinished business. Britain has constantly argued for a reformed Turkey and a stabilised Balkans joining the European family, even if that makes life even more complicated, the gain in stabilisation and civilisation is worth it. The Poles share out thinking on Turkey and the Balkans.
- Because we like Foreign Policy. We do not see it as all about drafting a long declaration followed by an even longer lunch. The task is not to analyse the world but to change it for the better. The UK and Poland can do a lot together in promoting human rights and reform agendas around the planet. Not least because our collective experience will make us more effective.
- Because we get along. Britain traditionally only had permanent interests, not permanent friends. In the new Europe, making and keeping friends is important. Poles and Brits get down to business and are prepared to share confidences. Senior UK experts coming to Warsaw regularly comment that they hear more good sense and impressively subtle analysis there. Our growing common agenda on security questions is impressive - a relationship of trust in these sensitive areas is the true test of a modern partnership in a terrorism-threatened world.
- Because we have a shared history experienced by ordinary people. Polish and British airmen have just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Great Escape and memories of Arnhem and Cassino are imperishable. Britain is home to Polonia – the Polish Community living outside Poland and English is Poland’s second language. We championed Poland's accession to the EU at a time when old Brussels hands were very stuffy about letting in what was a populous and relatively poor nation.
- Finally, because we are doomed to play each other on the road to the football World Cup. Once again we have been drawn in the same group for the qualifying round later this year.
But both nations switch their support to the other once the score is settled. Poles and Brits hold up the Western and Eastern ends of the new Europe and want the new Europe to be a friend and partner of the United States. This is good news for both nations in what is becoming an increasingly difficult 21st century.
Poland Country Profile
Britain and the European Union