Normative aspect: C+
Final mark: B
The Czech side focused on pressing bilateral issues; progress was mainly achieved in infrastructure connections and the launch of dialogue on important aspects of environmental protection. On the other hand, mutual trust was undermined by a slowdown in preparations for the construction of the Stork 2 gas pipeline. Excellent cooperation continued in a host of sectoral multilateral agendas, especially preparations for the NATO summit. Any differing views on the future of the EU have remained in the realm of rhetoric for the time being. Nevertheless, in direct negotiations with Polish partners, the Czech Republic has not taken a clear stand against their plans and has been reluctant to discuss the issue of rule of law in Poland.
The breadth of topics covered in Czech-Polish relations was reflected in intensive mutual communication. Joint talks between both governments commendably took place less than six months after the appointment of the new Polish cabinet. Infrastructure development and environmental protection were dominant bilateral topics. Multilateral issues, such as reflections on the functioning of the EU, the NATO summit, and the development of Central European cooperation, also sounded strongly. The divergence of Czech and Polish views on the future of the EU and the dispute between European institutions and the Polish government regarding adherence to the principles of the constitutional state were also significant in the development of mutual relations.
On a multilateral level, the convergence of positions ahead of the NATO summit was important. The Czech Republic supported a permanent NATO military presence in the countries of the Alliance’s eastern flank. However, by the end of the year it had made no commitment to participate in any of the planned multinational battalions.
When the Law and Justice Party took over the reins of government in Poland, there was a change in its European policy, which prompted mutual alienation in matters related to the future functioning of the EU. Poland’s appeal as a partner was also diminished by local domestic developments, in particular the government’s efforts to bring independent public institutions under its control. Even so, Czech representatives did not highlight potential negative impacts on the stability of mutual strategic relations and the development of cooperation within the EU at any of their many bilateral meetings. This approach is fraught with difficulty because, in the absence of the emphatic pronouncement of a different view, any subsequent abrupt diversion of opinion (e.g. regarding Warsaw’s dispute with the European Commission) could also have an adverse impact on the Czech-Polish partnership.
A large proportion of bilateral negotiations was devoted to environmental protection, which is of particular interest to the Czech Republic. The main problem is the planned development of a mine in Turów, Poland, which could endanger the quantity and quality of groundwater in the Frýdlant and Hrádek areas. The Czech side successfully pushed for the creation of a working party on this matter, and the topic was elevated to the highest political level in good time. Another topic of much discussion was the protection of air quality in Silesia. Here, however, the Czech Republic was unable to persuade its partners to launch grassroots programmes that could help to ameliorate the situation, for example, through “boiler subsidies”.
Progress was also made in infrastructure connections. Joint action was confirmed for the construction of a motorway link between Hradec Králové and Wrocław and an inland waterway, though this is premature as the project’s profitability remains tenuous. Conversely, a slowdown in preparations for connection via the Stork 2 gas pipeline and related funding problems evoked mutual mistrust. Nonetheless, in June Czech diplomatic activity helped resolve a crisis linked to news of major delays or even cancellation of construction, and in September the Prime Ministers of both countries signed a declaration expressing their political support for the project.