On 7th June 2022, the APPG on Poland hosted its Annual General Meeting. The meeting was organised to foster a good relationship between Poland and the UK and promote the Polish community’s contribution to the UK and bilateral trade. The Ambassador of Poland to the United Kingdom, HE Piotr Wilczek, addressed the guests with a speech on British-Polish cooperation and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The Annual General Meeting was opened by Daniel Kawczynski MP, who, throughout the meeting, highlighted the importance of strengthening British-Polish relations, especially in the context of Brexit. The commencement was followed by an officers’ election of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poland, during which new potential members had a chance to register.
A trip to Poland has been announced, which will take place at the beginning of the Summer Recess (21-24th July). During the APPG delegation to Poland, UK Parliamentarians will have the chance to meet Polish Parliamentarians and governmental officials in order to understand the Polish perspective on the Ukrainian crisis.
During the trip, there will be an opportunity to meet with Ukrainian refugees and the Polish families who host them. Almost all the accepted Ukrainian refugees are hosted in people’s homes, which makes it an impressive effort as over 3,5 million refugees fled to Poland. Additionally, the visitors will have a chance to talk to NGOs and the Polish Territorial Army. There will also be a possibility to meet British soldiers stationed in Poland.
The main part of the meeting constituted the speech by the Ambassador of Poland to the United Kingdom, HE Piotr Wilczek, who, until 2021, served for five years in the United States. The Ambassador emphasised that “Poland and the UK have a strategic partnership based on common values and interests”.
HE Piotr Wilczek highlighted that the main part of his tenure as an ambassador had so far been related to the ongoing war in Ukraine. He stresses the cooperation between Poland and the UK on a common security policy in the context of supporting Ukraine.
The Ambassador listed three most important issues related to the Polish-British security policy:
- Upholding a strong alliance within NATO
- Tightening bilateral relations on the basis of the Treaty on Defence and Security Cooperation- the UK increased its military presence in Poland and participated in projects modernising the Polish armed forces
- Collectively providing medical and humanitarian support to Ukraine
The Ambassador mentioned energy issues as another vital point of bilateral talks between Poland and the UK. Russia recently decided to halt its gas delivery to Poland. Therefore, Poland relies on the partnership with the UK to develop programmes for renewable energy, nuclear energy and hydrogen usage.
Another critical aspect mentioned was the bilateral trade and neutral foreign investment, which have increased in past years. Poland is the 14th largest trade market for the United Kingdom, while the UK is the 3rd largest market for Polish goods.
Finally, HE Wilczek mentioned the importance of the Polish diaspora in contributing to British society, for example, through Polish Heritage Days. Over 1,1 million Poles applied for settled or pre-settled status in the UK.
“Our people in the UK are not only proud to be Polish but also to call the UK their home and to contribute both locally and on a larger scale to the growth of the British economy”, says the Ambassador.
The Polish Embassy also hopes to establish teaching of the Polish language in British schools.
The Ambassador concluded his speech with a few words of wisdom:
“Only through mutual support and solidarity […] especially now in the threat from Kremlin, can we secure a better future for Europe.”
The speech was followed by a Q&A session during which Lord Alderdice expressed his appreciation for Polish the Polish Cultural Institute in London as well as the education on the Solidarity movement. Many of the guests thanked the Ambassador for the Polish aid during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His Excellency pointed out that many Ukrainians hope to stay relatively close to the border in hopes of eventually coming home. Therefore, Poland depends on the support from countries such as the United Kingdom in helping humanitarian organisation organisations on the ground.