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    Polish prime minister attends League of Arab States – European Union summit in Egypt

    Less than two weeks after the Warsaw conference on peace and security in the Middle East, jointly hosted by Poland and the United States, the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, on Sunday attended an EU-Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

    At the two-day event, hosted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and co-chaired by European Council President Donald Tusk, EU and Arab League leaders gathered to discuss trade relations, investment, security, migration and the situation in Syria and Yemen. Polish public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency quoted Morawiecki as saying that the leaders gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh were to discuss counteracting terrorism and migration. “We talk about how the humanitarian aid provided by the European Union and Poland could be distributed, so that it could help [in areas affected by war] to avoid big migration waves,” Morawiecki added.


    According to IAR, during the first day of the summit, Morawiecki also took the opportunity to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, and the Czech and Slovak prime ministers for bilateral talks. 


    As one might have expected, the outcome of the summit was the typically bland joint declaration, with leaders agreeing to deepen Arab-European ties to enhance the stability, prosperity, and well-being of the two regions. Stronger regional cooperation is seen as key to addressing common challenges such as migration. They also agreed to boost cooperation towards security, conflict resolution and socio-economic development throughout the region. The leaders committed themselves to working more closely together to address the root causes of terrorism and to continue joint efforts to combat foreign terrorist fighters. They also reaffirmed the need to strengthen economic cooperation between the two regions to spur investment and sustainable growth.


    And when it comes to security, for Poland at least, the government’s sights remain set on securing a bigger US military presence in Poland, something that the defence minister Mariusz Błaszczak said on Monday he has no doubt will happen. “We are not talking [with the United States] about whether the presence of the American army will be increased, only about how,” Błaszczak said.


    Specifically asked whether he had any doubts about whether the number of US troops in Poland would be increased, Błaszczak replied: “I have no such doubts. We are on the right track to achieve this success”. Błaszczak was speaking after the daily newspaper Rzeczpospolitahad reported on Monday that the US was considering establishing a permanent command headquarters in the city of Poznań, in western Poland, to be headed by a two- or three-star general. The paper wrote that the US was also considering permanently stationing air force units in Łask, in central Poland, and in Mirosławiec, in north-west Poland, and special forces in the southern city of Kraków.


    US troops are already present in Poland on a rotating basis as part of the four rotating batallions which NATO decided at the Warsaw summit in July 2016 to deploy to Poland and the Baltic states in response to fears of Russian aggression following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014. In addition, the Polish section of a US missile defence shield over Europe is being built by the US at Redzikowo in the north of Poland. However, a more permanent US presence has long been a goal of the government as way of enhancing security. Given that many NATO members fail to meet the target of committing two per cent of GDP to defence expenditure, and the unpreparedness of some NATO members’ armed forces, the Polish government is right to be cautious and seek its own arrangements with the US. 


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