The 4th Polish-British Belvedere Forum took place on 3-4 March 2020 in London. Originally created in 2017, the Belvedere Forum is the most important non-governmental platform for Polish-British dialogue, that is attended by representatives of civil society, politicians, entrepreneurs, experts, scientists and NGOs from both countries. The goal of the Forum is to strengthen mutual relations through debates and discussions on political, economic and social issues. This year’s Forum was organized by two think tanks: Chatham House – Royal Institute of International Affairs and the Polish Institute of International Affairs. The forum was chaired by prof. Zdzisław Krasnodębski, and on the British side by Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The European Business Club Poland was represented by its President, Mr. Janusz Cieślak.
The theme of the plenary session of the first day of the Forum was “Poland and the United Kingdom: bilateral ties in a changing political context” with an attempt to address the issues:
- how Brexit will affect British-Polish relations;
- how this relationship can be maintained and deepened in the future.
On the second day of the Forum, the main topic that was raised during the plenary session was “Sovereignty and Identity in Great Britain and Poland”. Also, much attention was paid to how the European Union will look like without Great Britain and how their relations will look like. The Minister for European Affairs, Konrad Szymański, who was present at the Forum, said that in Brussels there is a widespread belief that without Great Britain, which was inhibiting integration, managing the Union will be simple, but this belief – as he emphasized – is wrong. Szymański thinks that the EU faces the need to answer very serious questions – about the future of the economic model in a situation of increasingly stronger protectionist tendencies, about the scope of its responsibility for matters outside its borders and about the budget, because its reduction, which some countries strive for, means – as Szymański emphasized – reducing the role of the Union.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former member of Margaret Thatcher and John Major governmets, co-chairman of the Belvedere Forum Steering Committee, said there was no desire, either in the British government, in the Conservative Party, or in the UK, for the EU fragmentation. For the same reasons that Winston Churchill called for the unification of Europe in 1946, stipulating that Britain would probably not be part of it – because a stable Europe is in Britain’s interest.
The next, 5th Forum will be held in 2021 in Poland.