Ministers are frequent visitors to Poland these days. Heads of Government and State as well.
Our Minister of Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson arrived Wednesday lunch at the same time as the Estonian President Toomas Ilves. And they were heading for the same conference – about ideas on how to revitalizeEurope(arranged by the think-tank European Council for Foreign Relations).
It is striking to note the vitalizing effect of the strong Polish commitment to Europe and continued European integration. One of my colleges from the Ministry in Stockholm, Marina Berg, wrote a blog in Swedish afterwards commenting upon the positive energy being delivered by Poland at this challenging period for the EU (http://blogg.ud.se/blog/2011/11/11/tankar-efter-warszawa-besok/).
I heard similar remarks also from other visitors. President Komorowski mentioned in his speech at a reception for the conference the 80% support for EU within Poland. Few other countries can compete with that. It’s is certainly an enthusiasm and energy clearly needed byEuropethese days.
I had the privilege to listen to the President in total three times this week. Tuesday opening session in the sejm was the first opportunity where I noted i.a. the high priority given in his speech to the demographic challenges for Poland. Affecting the retirement age but also the need to improve the possibilities for parents to combine professional work and family life, something that is clearly in line also with the experiences from my own country.
The third opportunity was Independence Day, Friday November 11th – for obvious reasons. And here he was joined by another Head of State, the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybuskaite, who even gave a short speech in Polish.
But coming back to the ministerial visit – it really gave us a focus on further cooperation between Poland and Sweden on development issues that we could benefit from on both sides. One natural area is the Polish proposal about a European Endowment for Democracy, clearly supported by Sweden and where further technical dialogue between us is foreseen. But several other opportunities exist – some already ongoing like energy efficiency in Ukraine, some hopefully to be following in the years to come.
And in a totally different context we experienced a very practical exchange of expertise in a joint conference on biogas last Wednesday, initiated by the Swedish-Polish Sustainable Energy Platform (www.energyplatform.net/). I learned that 87% of Polish waste is still put in landfills while the comparable figure in Sweden is around 1%. My colleague at the Embassy Gunnar Haglund gave an exciting presentation around these issues in fluent Polish with the key message being “Don’t waste the waste!”.
Another example of positive energy from last week inWarsaw.