Seeks to enhance and strengthen relations
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, who was in Kuwait last week on a two-day official visit, discussed several regional and international issues with his Kuwaiti counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and other top Kuwaiti officials.
The visit is part of Poland’s efforts to fulfill its role in supporting the international peace process and to discuss with relevant officials the latest developments both in the region and international arena.
Professor Jacek Czaputowicz, who has been his country’s foreign minister since January 2018, has an illustrious history in the service of his country. In the 1970s and 1980s he was an activist of the democratic opposition, and in 1988-1990 he was a member of the Civic Committee to the Chairman of the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity (NFZZ Solidarność). From 2008 to 2012 he headed the National School of Public Administration and from January to September 2017 he was at the helm of the MFA’s Diplomatic Academy. He took charge of legal and treaty affaires as MFA undersecretary of state in September 2017.
In 2007, Jacek Czaputowicz was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and in February 2017 he was decorated with the Cross of Freedom and Solidarity for his achievements in advancing Poland’s independence and sovereignty, and ensuring respect for human rights in the Polish People’s Republic. He is also the author of over 100 articles and academic monographs.
During his brief visit to Kuwait, the Polish Foreign Minister sat down with The Times Kuwait for an exclusive interview, where he spoke highly of Kuwait and his aims of furthering relations between Poland and Kuwait.
This is your first visit to Kuwait. What are your impressions of the country and its authorities after this short stay?
The Kuwaitis I met made a very good impression on me. They are kind and open, which I could see both during official talks and in less formal, private discussions. I had the pleasure to meet with representatives of authorities who are committed to ensuring a safe and stable development of Kuwait and the whole region. I appreciate it very much.
What have the Polish-Kuwaiti relations been like so far and what are the prospects for their development?
There is a good atmosphere in Polish-Kuwaiti relations. Our cooperation at the UN Security Council works well. When I was in New York, I met with the deputy minister and minister of foreign affairs of Kuwait three times. Our parliamentary contacts have a longstanding history. We would like our economic cooperation to grow fast, we seek to increase our trade and investments. We also cooperate in the military field, with Kuwaiti cadets studying at the Polish Naval Academy in Gdynia.
Kuwait is an important education centre of Polish Arabists. A team of Polish specialists from the Centre of Mediterranean Archeology at the Warsaw University carries out excavations all across Kuwait. There are many Poles living in Kuwait, mainly specialists such as doctors and architects. Our cooperation grows on many levels.
Did you sign any bilateral agreements during your visit?
Poland and Kuwait have a well-developed treaty base. We have cooperation agreements on supporting investment protection, on the avoidance of double taxation and a visa-free regime for holders of diplomatic passports. Now we would like to focus on using these agreements to take our cooperation further. We did not have any new signing ceremonies on the agenda, but we are negotiating agreements on defence, air transport, tourism and health protection. We would like more Kuwaitis to visit our beautiful country. We also encourage Kuwaiti students to study in Poland. Many Polish universities offer programmes in the English language, for example in medicine.
Tell us about economic prospects of investing in Poland.
Poland has had a sound economy and a stable and uninterrupted growth for over twenty years. This makes Poland an attractive place for foreign investments.
Investors from Kuwait and other Gulf countries are present mostly on our residential and retail real estate market. Our manufacturing sector also offers many opportunities thanks to an internal market that is growing as the society gets richer and its purchasing power gets stronger. Polish manufacturers are part of the European single market and an integral part of its main production chains.
Poland starts its infrastructure development programme for 2021-2027, which is meant to transform our country into one of key transport and logistics hubs in Europe, and the largest one in its Central-Eastern part. Our key project is a Solidarity Transport Hub Poland that will be located 40 kilometers west of our capital. It is designed to handle about 100 million passengers annually in its final stage. We hope that its location at the intersection of railways and high speed roads will ensure convenient connection with the most important regional centres. Other projects include construction of a new central seaport in Gdansk, extension of the Swinoujscie LNG terminal, building new highways and high speed railways.
The total value of infrastructural investments is estimated at US$250 billion. We expect the first initial offers for foreign investors to be released in 2020.
You have recently chaired a high-level UNSC briefing on international humanitarian law. What is your opinion on current developments in the Middle East as regards international humanitarian law?
The observance of international humanitarian law is fundamental for Poland. Actions aimed at improving the situation of civilians in armed conflicts are among our priorities at the UN Security Council. The briefing I chaired on 13 August proved that this law is broken in many parts of the world. The speakers pointed to the situation in the Middle East, including Syria, Yemen and Palestine.
In my opinion, what we need to improve the humanitarian situation is political will to implement the existing laws rather than passing new acts. It is essential that those who commit crimes against civilians are held responsible and punished inevitably.
Please tell us about your cooperation with ‘Solidarity’.
In the 1970s and 1980s I was involved in the opposition movement, whose aim was to introduce a democratic system. We strived to overcome the division of the European continent and bring Poland back to the community of democratic states. As we know, it only happened in 1989, and ‘Solidarity’ triggered change across the whole Communist bloc. As a consequence, the Berlin Wall collapsed and geopolitical change swept the world. Since 1990, I have worked my way up the professional ladder at the MFA and combined it with academic activity.
You have written many papers on international relations. How do you perceive Poland’s relations with Europe and the world, especially with the Middle Eastern countries?
Poland’s position is getting stronger both in the region, in the European Union, and globally. It is the result of an established democracy and reforms that ensure stable economic growth. We have also made good use of our membership of the European Union, which we joined 15 years ago.
The role of the Middle East in our foreign policy is increasingly important. It is a region of great opportunities and security challenges at the same time. In February this year, in cooperation with the US, Poland organised a Middle East conference where the so-called Warsaw Process was launched with the aim of building peace in the Middle East. As part of the Process, we set up seven working groups to follow up on counterterrorism, ballistic missile non-proliferation, maritime security, cybersecurity, energy security, humanitarian issues and refugees, and human rights. The outcome will be presented during the next ministerial conference to be held in Washington early next year.
We want the Warsaw Process to be as inclusive as possible and involve a large group of countries interested in the stability of the Middle East. We are aware that to reach this goal, the international community will have to show political will and determination to overcome current conflicts.
The Times, Kuwait Report