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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Poland and the Arctic: Between Science and Diplomacy
An important factor that significantly contributed to the shift in the Polish approach towards the
polar regions was an institutional enhancement within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2006 a new
special post was created within the MFA’s Department of Legal and Treaty Affairs to deal with the
Arctic and Antarctic affairs. It later evolved to the position of “Ambassador for Polar Affairs”. The
reasons for that could be discerned in a growing global interest in the Arctic after the ACIA release
and associated diplomatic opportunities mentioned above. Moreover, the position was meant to
promote Polish scientific interests, notably when the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY) was
about to start.
The creation of this position, and the appointment of a former deputy minister of foreign affairs and
ambassador to Denmark and Libya – Jakub T. Wolski – was a clear indication that Polish
engagement in the polar regions was to be strengthened. The tasks of this position include
attendance at AC and Antarctic Treaty System’s meetings. Previously, these conferences had been
mainly attended by ambassadors to the countries where the meeting was being held. This system
suffered from lack of coordination, discontinuity and unfocused actions that prevented any policy
towards polar regions to be carried out efficiently. Moreover, it was detrimental for Polish scientific
interests as it had limited access to the AC Working Groups, which had been conducting important
research projects to understand changes in the North and produced knowledge that laid foundations
for policy developments. The newly appointed ambassador was also supposed to improve Polish
participation in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM).
Nonetheless, a particularly important driver for Poland’s renewed interest in Arctic affairs has been
an increased engagement of the EU institutions in debate on Arctic governance and its goal to
become an observer at the AC. The subsequent documents of the Commission (2008), the Council
(2009) and the Parliament (2008 and 2011) outlined the general, however not entirely coherent
(Wegge, 2012: 22-24), direction and principle of gradual development of the EU Arctic policy.
Poland supports the general approach stemming from these statements and seeks to be involved in
the policy making process (
uszczuk, 2011b). For instance, it proved to be critical to enrich EU
institutions’ understanding of and sensitivity to Arctic governance issues (Wegge, 2012: 20). Poland,
along with other EU member states that are also AC member states
and observers, may provide the
EU institutions with essential knowledge, expertise and its own experience with the AC.