Koenders: Poland key partner in tackling EU challenges

Foreign minister Bert Koenders met with his Polish counterpart Grzegorz Schetyna in Warsaw on Wednesday to discuss the importance of a common approach to issues that affect the entire European Union. ‘As one of the larger EU countries, Poland is a key partner in tackling EU-wide problems, such as terrorism and migration,’ Mr Koenders said.

Looking ahead to the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw, the two ministers also discussed European security. ‘Security at the EU’s external borders is a priority for both Poland and the Netherlands. We’re both pressing for strong NATO capability,’ Mr Koenders said, ‘for instance in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which includes Dutch, German and Norwegian forces. Poland recently allowed us to start exercises on Polish territory.’

The Netherlands and Poland are also partners in the European Endowment for Democracy programme, which aims to strengthen independent Russian-language media in order to counteract the disinformation distributed by Russia’s state-controlled media. The minister said, ‘We’ve agreed to support independent Russian-language media to give Russian-speaking communities in and outside Russia access to independent, objective reporting. That is a universal right.’

Mr Koenders also expressed his appreciation to Mr Schetyna for Poland’s contribution to democratisation and reform in the Eastern Partnership countries, including Ukraine. ‘Poland itself has undergone a transformation in these areas, so it is in an excellent position to support other countries’ reforms,’ he said. He added that the Netherlands is keen to work with Poland in this area, pledging financial support to the Warsaw-based OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The contribution is intended for human rights protection and democratic governance in Ukraine. The Netherlands also contributes to these goals via the Visegrad Fund.

With European affairs minister Rafał Trzaskowski, Mr Koenders discussed the priorities of the forthcoming Dutch Presidency of the EU in 2016. The minister believes citizens’ interests must be put first. ‘We want to achieve this by focusing more strongly on growth and creating jobs, and by giving citizens and civil society organisations an active role in decision-making,’ he said. ‘The Netherlands will also strive for a Union focused on essentials – one that, only where necessary, complements the work that member states can do themselves.’

During his visit, Mr Koenders also addressed the conference of Polish ambassadors. ‘It was an honour,’ he said. ‘This occasion underscored our excellent ties with Poland.’

The minister’s visit ended with a tour of the Frontex headquarters. Frontex is responsible for managing the EU’s external borders and plays a leading role in managing migration flows in the Mediterranean region. ‘Poland agrees with us on the importance of solidarity on the vital issue of migration. I am confident that they will uphold this principle in a fitting manner.’