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Poland aims to be a more assertive power player in Europe

Will cozier relations with Berlin make Warsaw a 'new Paris' on the Continent?

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As Poland prepared to join the European Union, French President Jacques Chirac in 2003 told the Poles to “shut up” about their support for the unpopular, US-led invasion of Iraq.

They did not. But Polish rhetoric in the following years was not preoccupied with the foreign policy issues of the day, or even its new membership in the EU. Instead, Warsaw veered between two deeply historic sentiments: anti-German and anti-Russian.

In 2007, when political scientist Bartek Nowak was working in the European Parliament in Brussels, he says the Polish position on everything from budgetary issues to treaty change was always driven by nationalism hailing from World War II and Soviet occupation. “The image of Poland in the EU was very bad,” he says. “It was very difficult for me to be ambassador of my country.”

Today that job would be much easier. Poland has not only shed its image as a pesky Atlanticist and cold war warrior, it is a rising star on the foreign policy stage of the EU, consciously forging its relationship with Germany, not as a former foe but as the key ally to have in the EU.

Some even call Poland a new “Paris” – comparing it to the dual role France and Germany (increasingly the latter) have played in forging the diplomatic policies of the Continent. While most dismiss that comparison as hyperbole –  Poland is in no position yet to define European policy – it still points to how power is shifting at a time of economic crisis in Europe.

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