Parliamentary diplomacy is the international activity carried out by the Sejm and the
Senate that goes beyond standard executive diplomacy.
In the 21st century, the Sejm is increasingly involved in shaping Poland’s foreign policy
precisely through parliamentary diplomacy. There are apparent differences in the diplomatic activities of the government and parliament. Government diplomats (ambassadors,
consuls) constantly work abroad. They conclude agreements and undertake commitments
on behalf of the authorities of the state concerned and are sometimes the victims of deteriorating relations between states. An example of this is the tension between the Czech
Republic and Russia, which occurred after it was proven that agents of Russia’s military
intelligence had carried out diversions at Czech armaments plants in 2014. On the other
hand, MPs also represent an institution of the state – the Sejm – and act more openly and
in the so-called soft diplomacy, which consists of talks, persuasion, lobbying, and creating
a positive atmosphere for cooperation. Sometimes, in discussions, they present different
views on parliamentary cooperation. It is exemplified by the different approaches of the
various factions in the Polish Parliament to Poland’s place in the EU. Representatives of
leftists and liberals are mostly in favour of strengthening the central authority of the EU by
bringing about the so-called federalisation of the Union, i.e. a substantial diminishing of
the role of member states. On the other hand, the right is in favour of maintaining the EU
as a union of sovereign states organised on the model of a confederation, in which there
are areas of public life for which only the national authority has responsibility. Therefore,
it advocates strengthening the role of national parliaments of Member States.
The direct involvement of parliamentary diplomacy in states’ foreign policy has
increased in recent years. Here are some reasons for this process. Firstly, globalisation,
faster flow of information between people, and increasing diversification of international communication (economic, cultural, and parliamentary diplomacy is developing alongside traditional diplomacy). Secondly, in the last 30 years, critical political changes have occurred in Central Europe. After the USSR and Yugoslavia collapsed, more than 20 countries regained their independence and created sovereign structures, consolidating their freedom. In 2004 and 2008, some of these countries joined the European
Union. Thirdly, in order to join the EU, the Three Seas countries voluntarily agreed to
lose about 60 per cent of their powers, and, as a consequence, the parliaments of these
countries reduced their sovereignty. For that reason, national parliaments are striving
to strengthen their role as the representative of the sovereign, the people. A fourth factor
is the unknown future of Europe and the debate that has begun on the future of the EU,
triggered by the desire of the largest countries (i.e. Germany and France) to impose on
others the concept of a “multi-speed Europe,” involving the introduction of the so-called
“membership,” with which parliamentarians from many countries do not agree. Another
factor is the imperial attitude of Putin’s Russia towards the Central European countries
and the lack of a decisive response from the EU authorities to these threats. An additional argument is the grassroots efforts to develop parliamentary cooperation among
Central European states, following the example of the Benelux countries or the Nordic
Council, and to create a network of inter-parliamentary cooperation.
Parliamentary diplomacy became particularly significant in the Eighth Sejm,
2015– 2019. Traditional forms of inter-parliamentary activity, such as bilateral groups, teams or
parliamentary assemblies in the framework of multilateral cooperation, were strengthened. New formats, such as the Central and Eastern European Parliamentary Summits,
were also launched, and the “Europe of the Carpathians” conference was developed.
The most important forms of parliamentary diplomacy include the following:
■ bilateral (bilateral) cooperation, which is divided into two types – voluntary groups
or parliamentary assemblies;
■ multilateral cooperation, which also varies in nature – from standing delegations
(parliamentary assemblies) to formulas such as the OSCE, NATO, the Visegrad
Group, the Three Seas, and the Bucharest Nine.
Since 2011, the Sejm has been the organiser of the “Europe of the Carpathians” conference – a cyclical meeting of representatives of various institutions and organisations
from Central European countries in 2016.
Among the most important forms of parliamentary diplomacy of the eighth parliamentary term (2015–2019), bilateral cooperation has taken on particular importance
with three countries:
Forms of cooperation in the framework of parliamentary diplomacy
■ Poland-Hungary – this cooperation was raised to the level of strategic cooperation,
i.e. jointly determining international activities in Central Europe and especially at
the level of the European Union;
■ Poland-Lithuania – an example of successful parliamentary diplomacy was the significant improvement in Polish-Lithuanian relations;
■ Poland-Georgia – in 2017, a meeting in Warsaw with the President of Georgia and
the head of the Georgian Parliament was followed by the rapid signing of a strategic cooperation agreement, which resulted in convening the first Polish-Georgian
Parliamentary Assembly in 2019.
Regarding multilateral cooperation, it is worth highlighting new formats or those
already in a place whose role has increased: Visegrad Group, EUROWAW, Three Seas
and “Europe of the Carpathians.”
The Visegrad Group (V4) – brings together Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic
and Slovakia. It seeks to increase cooperation between these countries in the European
political, economic, security and legislative system. Its objectives include strengthening sovereignty, democracy and freedom in the region, building parliamentary democracy and a modern market economy. The V4 countries are also keen to intensify political,
economic and cultural cooperation throughout Central Europe.
EUROWAW, or the Central and Eastern European Parliamentary Summits – the
idea for this format was born out of the conviction that in our part of Europe, parliamentary cooperation should not be limited solely to the European Union, i.e. the Three
Seas or V4 countries. There are, after all, European countries to the east of our borders
which do not have enough capacity to develop as rapidly as the EU countries. These
countries are exposed to the aggression of Putin’s empire and should be supported in
the name of solidarity and the conviction that we all form one big European family.
The Three Seas – is a cooperation of 12 EU countries on infrastructure development, energy cooperation and digitalisation. The countries have set up the Three Seas
Fund to support joint projects. The main areas of interest are communication development, energy and digitalisation. The cooperation form was established several years
ago on the initiative of the presidents of Croatia and Poland as a result of the growing
interest in cooperation in our part of Europe. Recently, efforts have also been made to
establish a Three Seas parliamentary forum.
“Europe of the Carpathians” – is a series of international conferences organised by
the Polish Sejm in cooperation with various institutions. These meetings develop the idea of cooperation between the Carpathian countries and, for several years, the whole
of Central Europe. The conferences are held in different places: annually in Przemyśl
and Krasiczyn, until recently in Krynica-Zdrój and now in Karpacz, in Regietów in the
Low Beskids, sometimes abroad in Truskavets in Ukraine or Sarospatak in Hungary.
Participants include representatives of governments and parliaments, local authorities and scientific institutions, students, NGOs, intellectuals and artists, as well as
ordinary people who want to work for the sustainable development of the Carpathians and Europe.
Participants discuss common heritage, politics, cooperation between states, economy and ideas of civilisation, social issues, and the unique richness of culture and
nature of our part of Europe. Interesting ideas emerge during the discussions: a proposal to establish a Carpathian University, to compile a Carpathian encyclopaedia, or
cooperation between several universities under the Collegium Carpathicum project.
Meetings of politicians and scholars also resulted in efforts to establish a Carpathian
Strategy, which, following the example of the Danube, Alpine or Baltic Sea Strategies,
would help in the sustainable development of the Carpathians. At the 2020 conference, a group of more than 100 students from different countries (from Greece to Latvia) presented proposals for land use along the Via Carpathia expressway, connecting northern and southern Europe, as well as the idea of the Crimson Route, running from Thessaloniki to Klaipeda, among the monuments of European culture.
In the spring of 2021, during the online conference, a not insignificant highlight was
the “Greetings to the World,” sent from various places in the Carpathians in the form
of short recordings distributed online. They featured people from different regions:
artists, mountaineers, athletes, mountain rescuers, regional bands, folk artists, environmentalists and politicians. The idea of inscribing the entire Carpathians on the UNESCO list was also born, and the promotion of the ecological slogan “Carpathians without plastic” was launched. “Europe of the Carpathians” became a popular form of parliamentary activity for all circles willing to cooperate.
We are handing over a publication containing descriptions of the discussion panels
from the “Europe of the Carpathians” conference held in February 2022 in Krasiczyn,
enriched with introductory texts on the issues that have accompanied the meetings
for many years and which will be dealt with during future editions of the conference.