Poland's new president to visit Estonia in 1st foreign trip

AP News
Posted: Aug 17, 2015 7:39 AM
Poland's new president to visit Estonia in 1st foreign trip

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's new conservative president will make his first foreign trip to Estonia, followed by visits to Berlin, London and later New York, where he will meet with President Barack Obama, a top official said Monday.

Choosing one of the Baltic states for his first trip underlines President Andrzej Duda's intention to emphasize Poland's alliances with other countries in Central and Eastern Europe in a bid to become a stronger voice for a region nervous about Russia's resurgence.

Notably absent from his first round of travels are Paris and Brussels, traditional first destinations for Polish leaders. That demonstrates Duda's plans to shift Poland away from focusing on the 28-nation European Union, of which it is a member. The EU was the top foreign policy focus for his predecessor, Bronislaw Komorowski, and the current governing Civic Platform party.

Krzysztof Szczerski, Duda's foreign policy adviser, said Duda's visit to Tallinn, Estonia, on Sunday is timed to mark the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. His visit to Berlin is set for Aug. 28 and London will be Sept. 15.

Szczerski said the purpose of Duda's foreign visits will be to improve Poland's security and economic interests.

The conservative party that backs Duda, Law and Justice, is sometimes skeptical of Germany's intentions toward Poland, and Duda has said he plans to recalibrate Polish-German ties. Some party members have indicated Duda will try to stand up more firmly to Germany.

Szczerski dismissed speculation that stance could hurt ties with Germany, stressing that Duda's visit to Berlin will be followed soon after by a separate visit to Erfurt, Germany.

"As a neighbor we need good relations," he said.

Duda will visit New York from Sept. 26-29.