by Sándor ACKERMANN, Analyst at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade
The greatest national holiday in Poland, the Independence Day, took place on 11 November. During the hundredth anniversary, a quarter of a million people marched together in the streets of the capital.
The historical Polish-Hungarian friendships is mentioned quite often in both countries, frequently referring to the similarity and parallelism of the history of the two countries. However, the end of the First World War represented a huge tragedy for the Hungarian people, meanwhile the peace brought glory for Poland. On November 11, 1918, after 123 years, the Polish state has re-gained its independence. Therefore, the fact that the date is a red-letter (or we might say red-white with a slight confusion in the picture) holiday in Polish calendars is understandable.
Similar to the previous years, large-scale events were held throughout the country. In fact, there was not a single settlement without commemoration ceremony for the anniversary of independence. Naturally, the central event took place in the capital city of Warsaw. According to the police communication, more than two hundred and fifty thousand people participated in the joint commemorative march.
At the same time, however, the organization of the parade was accompanied by both political and organizational difficulties. Last year, several extremist right-wing movements participated in the event. Therefore, the ruling party and several other political forces did not want to show any kind of common grounds with such movements. So it was questionable whether it was possible to have a common, non-political commemoration ceremony. Additionally, the march in the capital city was likely to grow behind the last year’s crowd of sixty thousand people. So it was a serious responsibility for the organizers from security point of view. As for the participation of extremist groups, the solution was ultimately the result of the request of Andrzej Duda, Polish President, namely only the red and white Polish national flag was welcomed at the event. Most participants respected the request. In addition to the President, the march was led by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the leader of the ruling party (Law and Justice), Jarosław Kaczyński. It was a great success on the part of the organizers that a quarter of a million Polish citizens participated in the march, celebrating Poland's 100th anniversary of independence.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Poland was divided three times (1772, 1793 and 1795) by Prussia, Austria and Russia. These great powers were surrounding the weakened country. After the last split, the Polish people had to wait for more than a century to re-gain their independence. Then two decades later, during World War II, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union split Poland once again. After World War II, the country remained under the sphere of influence of Moscow until the democratic transformation in 1989-90, just like it happened in Hungary. Considering the aforementioned facts, it is by no means surprising that the mischievous geopolitical lessons of the past centuries have also left its marks on today's foreign policy in Warsaw. Regarding Russia, the Polish political leadership has been quite sceptical since the democratic transformation. This situation was only aggravated by the unexpected tragedy in 2010 by which Polish President Lech Kaczyński and many other leaders were killed in a plane crash. The plane would have delivered high-ranking politicians and their relatives to the commemoration ceremony of World War II in the iconic place of Katyn. In the case of Germany, the course of bilateral relations is also very vicissitudinous. Despite the fact that Berlin is considered an important economic partner, Poland sees its western neighbor as a potential source of danger. In Warsaw, the project of the Nord Stream pipeline that carries natural gas from Russia to Germany under the sea is considered as an anti-Polish endeavor by the two great powers.
In the past couple of years, Poland has started to act like a regional leading power. Many consider this as a consequence of the country’s size, population and the significant economic development achieved recently. The cooperation of the Visegrad Four would not be complete without Warsaw's serious support, but other solemn initiatives are on the agenda of the Polish political leadership. The Three Seas Initiative is a project of twelve Central and Eastern European countries, which is primarily organized on an economic basis, and plans to make Poland to be undoubtedly the leader of the initiative. It is not by accident, since after the independence in 1918 mentioned earlier, the leadership of Warsaw had a similar idea. Then the negotiations began with the leadership of Polish President Józef Piłsudski. However, the initiative could not bear fruits. One hundred years later, in 2018, Polish diplomacy is again trying to make Poland a dominant leader in the region, primarily economically.