Arctic Yearbook 2012
A Polish Arctic Policy?
Long-standing scientific activity is a crucial foundation of Polish presence and foreign policy in the
Arctic, which might be characterized as a continuous exchange between science and diplomacy, with
primacy on the former one. This aptly illustrates the Polish approach to polar affairs, which is based
entirely on the scientific interests and thus does not involve either controversial or challenging issues
in relations with the Arctic states (Eyres, 2010) nor excessive ambitions with regard to Arctic politics.
Given the Arctic states’ reluctance towards external entities, notably within the AC, it seems
pertinent to build confidence, transparency and mutual understanding. One way to achieve this is to
define the role(s) and formulate statements of interest. The processes unfolding in the Arctic may
affect Poland’s political, security, and institutional environments (Osica, 2010: 8;
uszczuk, 2011b: 1)
creating a need to adopt an adequate position. However, it is important that such a document would
not be just a passive and derivative policy built on the priorities of organizations such as EU and
NATO, but rather an active and conscious policy process meeting Polish capabilities and aspirations.
Not taking action would likely result in Poland losing direct influence on the factors and processes
shaping its international environment (
uszczuk, 2011a: 130). Moreover, a well-defined policy might
facilitate carrying out coherent and coordinated actions by various Polish institutions. In the latter
context, the concept of a Polish polar policy in relation to scientific research in the Arctic and
Antarctic is not entirely new and can be traced back to the 1970s and 1980s, when the Council of
Ministers passed a number of resolutions establishing a legal framework for Polish research activity
in polar regions (Machowski, 1993: 205).
Over the past four years
a great deal of effort has been made to develop a Polish approach to the
polar regions. A closer inspection of official statements (Kremer, 2008; Borkowski, 2010, 2011;
Szpunar, 2011) reveals that the issue and focus areas have varied during this period. Nevertheless,
they now seem to have crystallized and may well become central points in an officially formulated
document in the near future. Importantly, it will most likely cover both polar regions, bearing in
mind all the differences between them (Szpunar, 2011). Key aspects of a possible Polish polar policy
will include freedom of scientific research; role of observers in the AC; EU efforts to be granted
Observer status; compliance with international law and norms; and development of the EU Arctic
Policy and public diplomacy (Kremer 2008; Borkowski 2010, 2011; Szpunar, 2011).