Polish-French relations in the years 1986–1989
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Uniwersytet Warszawski
Polska Akademia Nauk
Publication date: 2020-06-25
Stosunki Międzynarodowe – International Relations 2015;51(2):353–366
The government of Jacques Chirac, formed after the right-wing coalition victory in parliamentary elections (March 1986), followed a strategy toward PRL authorities of gradual normalization; there were no spectacular gestures. In October 1987, the Minister for Sport and Youth, Christian Bergelin – among others – visited Poland, as did the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Bertrand Raimond, in April 1987. A sign of the times, and a testament to fact that France intended to maintain a dialogue with the opposition, was that the French Foreign Minister also met with representatives of the Polish opposition (at the French Embassy in Warsaw). The development of high-level contacts took place increasingly under the influence of the ongoing political transition in Poland, at the center of which were the talks going on between communist authorities and the opposition that led to the “round table” discussions, and then the first (partially) free parliamentary elections in the postwar era. The great symbol of change was Lech Wałęsa’s trip to Paris in December 1989, which was followed by President Mitterrand’s trip to Poland on 14 June 1989. In economics, the factor that had the greatest negative impact on bilateral relations was Poland’s debt to France. At the end of 1980, that debt was approximately $ 2.5 billion, and in 1988, it was about 3.3 billion dollars. Negotiations on the repayment of Poland’s debt to Western countries took place within the framework of the Paris Club. Polish exports to France fell, primarily due to drastic reductions in the sales of Polish coal, and did not reach 1980 levels until 1988. The introduction of martial law, repression of the political opposition, and the restriction of civil liberties in Poland, also affected academic, scientific and cultural relations. Improvement came in the second half of the 1980s. Academic, scientific and culturalexchange activities took place increasingly outside of the main group of established programs. In the 1980s, France lost its powerful position as a destination for Polish scholars. The 1980s can hardly be called fruitful in terms of the PCF’s relations with the PZPR. When martial law was imposed on Poland, the French communists were in a coalition government, and they were unable to take a position that was very different than the one being taken by their Socialist partners. After the PCF left the coalition government in July 1984, this situation changed; in July 1985, a PCF delegation travelled to Warsaw for the first time since 1979. After that, the network of contacts became broader, though its significance – given the weakening position and influence of the communist movement in Europe – was getting smaller and smaller.