Poland seeks reward for its support of the war in Iraq


The Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski travelled to the United States this week, not only to bask in the glory of being America's closest European ally, but also to stir up some trouble. Poland says Washington should reward Warsaw for its all-out support in Iraq - but points out it has so far gained few benefits. Its biggest complaint is about controls and visa regulations for Poles are trying to enter the US. Poland says these should be scrapped.

Applying for an American visa is a costly and uncertain experience for Poles who pay 100 US dollars, regardless whether their application is accepted or turned down. Americans on the other hand, enjoy visa free travel to Poland.... But the current row over visa restrictions is about much more than money.

Shortly before President Kwasniewski's visit, head of Poland's National Security Bureau, Marek Siwiec said that the American demand is not going down well in Poland

"Frustration, impatience and misunderstanding - this is the state of our feelings which is fully justified since there are certain issues which should have been tackled a long time ago. There are very big expectations towards Polish-American relations. Big words were spoken, and now they should be followed by action."

Given its persistent backing of various US policies, Poland expects something in return, says Prof. Grzegorz Kostrzewa-Zorbas, head of the Saga Foundation dealing with information about the United States and it's relations with Europe.

"Poland is not just another country. Poland is NOT no longer like many other countries, and that's the point. Poland is an exceptional partner for America, so it should be treated exceptionally."

So is the issue of American visas for Poles a matter of certain prestige? - Janusz Onyszkiewicz from the International Affairs Institute in Warsaw, and Poland's former defence minister:

"It is not also a matter of prestige, but this point obviously plays some role because after all Poland is in a category of countries which have quite different attitudes towards the United States. And it is not so that only members of European Union, already members of European Union, are exempted from American visa requirements. Well, the country in case is Slovenia which is treated differently."

Given the uninspiring example of visas - is Poland right in its almost unconditional support of the United States. Senate speaker, Longin Pastusiak, an expert on American affairs says this is very logical when viewed from a broader perspective.

"I think this is an asset of Polish foreign policy, that we are lucky to have good relations with the United States on the one hand, and the European countries on the other hand. And that is why Poland could contribute constructively to the improvement of the transatlantic relations, which are not necessarily good at this moment. Sometimes I have a feeling that the transatlantic relations are drifting in a controlled way. So, Polish diplomacy has a chance to contribute something to the improvement of the transatlantic relations."


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