Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)Interview

Bogdan Klich: “Poland wants an integrated defense Europe”

(B2) On the sidelines of the Council of Defense Ministers, meeting in the early morning with Bogdan Klich, who knows the European house well having frequented it for several years (he was an MEP until taking up his post as Minister). The Polish Minister of Defense displays a firm European commitment for his country, whether at the level of operations, security doctrine, common structures – such as the General Staff – or future institutions set up by the Treaty of Lisbon.

Originally from Krakow, his degree in medicine and… art history, as well as his studies in philosophy and history, testify to Bogdan Klich's eclecticism. Close to Jan Kulakowski, he was one of his advisors when he negotiated Poland's accession to the EU (1989-1999), he became Deputy Minister of National Defense in the government of Jerzy Buzek (1999). -2000) when Poland joined NATO. Elected deputy to the Polish Diet, he was vice-president of the Foreign Affairs Committee and sat on the Defense Committee (2000-2004). He was then elected to the European Parliament, again on the Foreign Affairs and Defense committees, before being appointed to the Defense portfolio in Donald Tusk's government.

In Chad, at the Eurocorps, we see more and more Poles in the European missions and corps, a sign of a change in policy?
The new government has effectively decided to change its security policy, and to have more balance between its Atlantic pillar and its European pillar, to strengthen both. We are well aware that the European pillar still presents a sketchy face. But we think it should be stronger and stronger in the future. Our political will is therefore to invest fully in this reinforcement and to participate in military operations. Because they are an integral part of our national security.

The Poles leave Iraq. Do you think the mission is over or is it also a change of policy?
Indeed, in mid-October, our soldiers, present in Iraq, will be at home. This is a promise from our Prime Minister. Only a reduced staff of about 30 people, trainers, will remain on site. We believe that the objectives set in 2003 by the former government have been achieved. And we have other missions to fulfill, to support the international missions of the organizations of which we are members (EU and NATO), in Afghanistan and Chad. These new commitments are not connected to the direct strategic interests of our country but contain a political message: we are interested in supporting more integrated mechanisms at European level in military matters, whether in NATO or the EU.

• More integrated mechanisms, what does this mean?
It is not only a question of reinforcing these forces from a military point of view but also of political effects. We want to push for more common, more integrated mechanisms in these two organizations. Between the simple coordination of policies and common mechanisms, Poland has chosen. We are firmly in favor of this second option, whether within NATO or the EU

What reinforcements is Poland ready to send to Afghanistan?
We will provide 400 more men (in addition to the 1200 already present), by the end of October, as well as 8 helicopters which will not only be used for our troops but also for the Canadians. And we decided to concentrate our troops more, in a single area in the province of Gahzni ​​(in the south-east of the country).

How do you see the sharing of tasks with NATO? What are the ESDP development priorities?
NATO remains a main pillar of our defence. But the ESDP has not yet achieved all of its objectives as defined in 1999 at the Cologne Council. We must first complete our capacities and have the operational capacities to enable us to respond to all the types of crises foreseen by the Petersberg missions (humanitarian missions, peacekeeping, interposition, etc.). This does not only require achieving headline goals. But also to develop the institutional framework as allowed by the Lisbon Treaty, with the reciprocity mechanism and the solidarity clause, for example.

Is Poland still reluctant about the permanent structured cooperation provided for by the future treaty? Are you ready to apply to participate?
We were indeed a bit hesitant in the first version of this permanent enhanced cooperation, presented during the constitutional debate. Because we were faced with a closed concept, with only a few selected states participating. In general, Poland is not in favor of a restricted club of states within the EU. A pioneer group, yes. A hard core, no! The concept finally adopted, and which appears in the Treaty of Lisbon, has been made more flexible and broadened. And so we are an ardent supporter of it. Poland is ready and a candidate to participate in it, from the start of its establishment.

Does this mean that we must strengthen the General Staff, go beyond what was already decided last November?
We are already going to see how the extension of forecasting capabilities and
planning, decided, is applied. The report is expected by the end of the year. But if it proves necessary, yes, it will be necessary to go further. For us, it is clear, we support in this direction the strengthening of this General Staff.

• Couldn't the installation of the anti-missile shield in Poland be a source of disagreement?
The question has been asked. And the Bucharest summit last April replied: Yes, we Europeans are interested in having such a system. Politically, the assessment is therefore positive. But this does not mean that we have approved the establishment in Poland. It remains to be achieved in practice and therefore to negotiate an agreement with the Americans, which is balanced. For Poland, the contribution to the modernization of the army is fundamental. It is not a commercial approach, a carpet merchant. But a necessary balance between the advantages and the costs of the system. The installation of the anti-missile system brings a greater guarantee of security to Central Europe. But on the other hand, we are also exposed more. And it is not our national budget that should bear this additional risk. This is our final Yes or No condition: what contribution can we make to our national security.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).