WARSAW (Reuters) - The foreign policy adviser to Poland’s president-elect has signalled a more assertive approach to Germany, saying Berlin must end its opposition to NATO military bases on Polish soil and also accept Warsaw’s wish to protect its coal industry.
Poland’s outgoing president, Bronislaw Komorowski, and its centre-right ruling party Civic Platform (PO) have fostered close ties with Germany, Europe’s largest economy, in recent years, but President-elect Andrzej Duda hails from the more conservative, nationalist-minded Law and Justice party (PiS).
Duda unexpectedly defeated Komorowski in a May election and takes office on Aug. 6. PiS, more sceptical than PO about European integration, then hopes to cap his triumph by ousting PO in a parliamentary poll due later this year.
Germany says establishing NATO military bases in former communist countries in eastern Europe would violate a 1997 NATO agreement with Russia. But Poland has long sought a NATO presence on its soil, especially since the onset of the Ukraine crisis revived historic Polish fears of an expansionist Russia.
“Germans must stop blocking the building of NATO military bases in our country,” the adviser, Krzysztof Szczerski, told Sunday’s online edition of the Rzeczpospolita newspaper.
He said Berlin should also agree to Poland and NATO taking part in future talks on the Ukraine crisis, alongside Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine.
Szczerski’s comments came as a U.S. official said Washington was planning to store heavy military equipment in Poland and other eastern European countries to reassure these NATO allies in the face of a more assertive Russia.
Szczerski made clear Duda would challenge Germany on European Union energy policy too, where Berlin is a major advocate of renewable forms of energy and of cutting the bloc’s reliance on carbon-emitting fuels such as coal.
“Berlin must agree to such adjustments of EU’s climate and energy policy that will allow the continued mining of Polish coal,” he said.
Poland obtains about 90 percent of its electricity from coal and opposes EU plans to reduce carbon emissions.
In Poland, the government conducts policy but the president has a say in foreign policy and is head of the armed forces.
PO, in power for eight years, has presided over impressive economic growth and has sought to make Poland a key EU player, partly by avoiding conflicts with Germany. Former PO leader and prime minister Donald Tusk now heads the European Council, which groups the 28 national governments of the EU.
Editing by Gareth Jones