Archive for September, 2011

If you went to Brussels these days, besides French and Dutch which are the official languages spoken in Belgium you would also hear a lot of English since Brussels is a very international city and is much visited by tourists. Another language, however, that you would hear quite frequently these days is Polish.

That would be for one simple reason. Poland is currently holding the rotating EU Presidency which it took on July 1st 2011. Every six months a different EU member state holds the rotating presidency with a different agenda. Every Presidency also has a website. The Polish Presidency’s website can be seen here.

Some expert analysis reacted to this event rather positively, such as a post at the GMF Blog, while others, such as The Economist’s Charlemagne made the point that Poland should be rather cautious.

It’s true that the rotating EU Presidency by one country is not as prestigious or important as it was before the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, but it is still a great opportunity for Poland to prove itself. However, Poland will have a tough time leading the way in resolving the biggest current crisis in the EU which is the Eurozone debt crisis, since it is not a member of the Eurozone and still holds its own currency the Polish Zloty (PLN).

In my opinion Poland IS the new EU power and it has a lot of  potential to improve the EU and its problems. For starters Poland is the most populous of the post-communis members of the EU with a population of 40 million and is the 6th biggest country in the EU by area. It has the potential to become the newest big EU Power with a similar stature as France, Germany, UK or Italy. Poland is no longer a battlefield or an issue over which other powers play or fight, but is a new player and a power itself. It could become  a sort of a “leader” of Central and Eastern European countries that are members of the EU.

Poland however does face a dilemma. Is it the “Newest of the Big” or the “Biggest of the New” amongst the EU members, just like the Charlemagne article mentioned. In my opinion it shouldn’t try be both since it is impossible and might cause problems and make its presidency look bad and useless and boring as many previous ones were. Instead it should really try to be the “Newest of the Big” in order to finally make the distinction in the EU, into “New” and “Old” members, finally disappear. This distinction is doing nothing but destroying the fragile unity within the EU.

Poland doesn’t have to try to be the “biggest of the new” since it always has been and always will be exactly that. Being able to gather behind itself the other EU states of Central and Eastern Europe will also help it to be more influential and it can become a responsible leader which could try to defend those countries’ interests. This, however, should not happen at the expense of other EU member states. Poland should try to become a New EU Power naturally, as it most probably will, and not by trying too hard.

Nevertheless Poland has its own problems just like any other EU country does. Like many post-communist countries it has problems with corruption. It still has a long way to in improving its infrastructure. Poland like many other Central and Eastern European countries has to get rid of its reputation as a Russophobe and being “too pro-atlantic” and “too pro-american”. The anti-missile defence plan that was supposed to be based in Poland made these matters more critical.

This finally brings me to the subject of the title of this post. The history and the nature of Polish-American relations.

In the early summer of 2011 Poland was one of the centers of attention in the world. On May 27th Barrack Obama visited Poland. Afterwards, just a little over a month later on July 1st Poland took the over the rotating presidency of the EU. Lots of things happened to Poland, this summer, that made it stood out and become more and more important. Besides Barrack Obama’s visit and the start of the Polish EU Presidency, a prominent think-tank, The German Marshall Fund which has offices in Washington DC, Brussels and all over Europe opened an office in Warsaw. The opening happened on the same day as the US President Barrack Obama visited Poland. No coincidence. Another interesting article to read about these events and Poland’s role is in the Economist by Edward Lucas.

The US-Polish Relations go back further than the Anti-Missile Defence Plan in Europe. (A plan that was abandoned by Obama and made relations with Russia more complicated) The history of US-Polish ties and, in this case also, alliance is just as long as the history of US-French Alliance.  We all know the heroes of the American War of Independence, such as of course George Washington, the great general who became the first US President. Many know the general who led the French troops that supported the American Revolutionaries, Lafayette.

Many don’t know (I didn’t myself, not so long ago) that there is also another hero of  the American revolution who was an important general and helped the American Troops win lots of battles. He was a European too and he was Polish. His name is Tadeusz Kosciuszko. In the USA he is a hero. Naturally he is also a national hero in Poland, since he also led a Polish Uprising against the Russians back in the 18th century.

In Washington DC next to the White House, at the LaFayette Square there is a statue of Kosciuszko (see photo further below). A Chair of studies at a graduate school in Washington DC, The Institute of World Politics, is named after him. The Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies. A Polish based think-tank is also named after him. The Kosciuszko Institute (I included the link to this think-tank in “Think-Tanks and other NGOs” Link Category on my Blog).

Yes, Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s name is difficult to spell  and difficult to pronounce. In Europe you hear of him rarely outside of Poland, Lithuania or Russia, but in American history books he is quite famous.

This proves that US-Polish relations go back very far in the past. Poland after it was partitioned for the third time between Prussia (later Germany), Austria and Russia in 18th century was not forgotten by the newly born United States. The US President Woodrow Wilson was very much in favour of an independent Poland after WW1. After WW2 Poland was a crucial subject during the negotiations between he war-time allies, UK, USA and USSR. During the communism, the Polish resistance and finally the pro-democracy Solidarity movement was supported by the United States. Finally when Poland regained freedom in 1989 US was the biggest provider of help.

And don’t forget the big Polish immigration into the United States and how the Polish-American community and diaspora helped to build great American Cities such as New York, Pittsburgh or Chicago.

Poland’s relation with the United States will continue to be just as crucial as the relations United States has with Britain, France and Germany. This relationship isn’t only important for the United States’s presence in, and relationship with, Europe but is also important both for NATO and thus the atlantic relations and for the EU. The next big country towards the east, and a potential regional power, besides Russia, is Ukraine. It is exactly the EU’s relation and partnership with Ukraine that will be one of the main topics of Poland’s EU Presidency.

For those of you who are interested in finding out more about Ukraine, I wrote a blog post about it back in July 2011. You can view it directly by clicking here. And don’t forget that next year’s Euro Football Championship, the EURO 2012, will be held in Poland and Ukraine. It’s an important event not only from a sports perspective.

Congratulations and Thank you if you made it to the end of this long blog post and read it entirely. I hope you learnt new things about Poland and its relations with the US and its role within Europe. I’m also glad if I ignited a bigger interest in Poland and Central Europe in you.  Poland is also a very nice country to visit. If you ever go there do me a favour and visit my home country of Slovakia as well. It’s right next door and is worth it.

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My First post of this blog this year, that I wrote back in June, was called “Why isn’t New York City the capital of the World” in which I described the importance of Washington DC. I was inspired to write that post because I spent my past summer (10 Weeks to be exact) doing an internship in Washington DC through an internship programme provided by The Washington Center. Part of this program is not only  a professional internship but also an academic course and many workshops and other assignments depending on the specific programme. In this post I would like to describe that experience.

I can say that this experience was an amazing one from every possible perspective and I highly recommend it. I don’t really want to write about what The Washington Center (TWC) is or what it does. (If you click on the link in the name you will find out for yourself.) I can, however, say one thing and that it is one of the best ways to start, not only, your professional career but also your possible academic one or improve your already rich professional or academic experience. I recommend it to all kinds of students: freshmen, juniors, seniors or post-graduates.

I highly recommend  it, especially, if you are into International Affairs. If you are an International Studies student or you have an interest in International Politics or International Economics, Washington DC is definitely the place to be. Washington DC is where all the lobbies of the world are. Every single country in the world has an embassy in Washington DC and some of the most famous US but also world-renowned think-tanks have an office in Washington DC.

One of the best parts of my DC experience is the fact that I could meet people from all over the world who work in all sorts of fields. One will certainly meet people from their respective field of study or field of interest. This is very important in order to become more well read in a specific field. A very good bonus is that I also made lots of new friends at these events.

All these friends together with the ones I met through TWC are at same time useful contacts for my future career and endeavours. In the future I might cooperate  with these people. I might be able to help them out and move the world forward and also vice versa.

Yes, Networking was a very important part of my experience. I went to many public events organized by various think-tanks and NGOs. All these public lectures are a great source of new insight and knowledge. Most of them have free food (which is a crucial piece of information for any intern). Most importantly all these events are attended by people from various backgrounds who all have the same interest. This is an excellent opportunity to network. Networking was great for me. I made many useful contacts for the future.

Another very important part of my Washington DC experience was the professional experience itself and all other related training. Being present in the professional environment surely helped me. I now know what to expect if I ever come and work in Washington DC. I got the taste of what it feels like to be a professional and what is expected of me. I became familiar with all the difficulties and challenges of these kinds of jobs.  At my internship site I tried to do my best to help my employers as much as possible. I also tried to learn as much as was possible at my internship site.

Another thing that I enjoyed very much was the feeling of just being there in Washington DC. If you are working there and not just visiting as a tourist you feel like you are being part of something big. Washington DC has also a great, what I call,  “Intern Culture”. Interns in Washington DC are being very much appreciated. There are many events and special discounts for interns all over the town. In retrospect I know I could have tried to find out more about these sorts of events. But I did go to quite a few. I attended a special Networking Event for Interns call DC Intern Mixer. I took advantage of the DC Interns Rock Week and I also attended the Politico Summer School.

Yes this experience was difficult and it was very difficult to keep a balance between work, discovering DC, having fun and sleeping. But I learnt a lot and through this difficult experience I also became more aware of who I was. I discovered my limits, I discovered my potentials. I found out in what things I am good at and in what things do I still need improvement. TWC experience also required us to write reflections and do various assignments, which helped me a lot too.

On top of all of that Washington DC is a great city do visit and discover. The museums, the sites, the restaurants and the bars are incredible. There is always something to do in spare time.

For any future TWC interns or any who are reading this post and are participating at some TWC programme now, I have a couple of advice and some suggestions. First of all, don’t be afraid or stressed in any way. Never think about reasons why you should not succeed in your internship or in your programme. Think about, and only about, how you can accomplish your goals while doing the internship. My biggest recommendation would be to network a lot. DO attend the events in DC that you want to attend! (Of course as long as it is not taking too much time from your internship site.) DO go to all the different workshops organized by TWC! Do not hesitate to ask questions and learn at those workshops. DO try to learn as much as you can and achieve as much as possible! DO Try to do your Best at your internship site! DO Discover the city as much as you can! In short use up 100% of the potential of the great city that you are in.

In the end, what you all should do basically, and it is also what I did, is the following: “Do Walk The Extra Mile“. Although I know that after already one week in DC you are probably sick of hearing that.

Washington DC Rocks and Good Luck

PS: Link to an Audio by The Economist about Doing Business in Washington DC <a href=”http://video.economist.com/linking/index.jsp?skin=oneclip&ehv=http://audiovideo.economist.com/&fr_story=8081354e1c434197de931f97a9f6c2af1150f589&rf=ev&hl=true” target=”_blank”>

And the Link to DC LinkTank, a website which provides free information about various events in Washington DC.

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The few of you who read my posts probably noticed that over a month ago I started adding links to a new link category called Cyber -Security on the right side of my blog webpage. I thought I should write a short post about why I started putting up these links.

I have decided to add these links for one simple reason. Cyber – Security happens to be one of my biggest interests and that is for one simple reason. It is one of the most important current topics. It is becoming increasingly a more and more important part of our every day life. Cyber – Security and Cyber Warfare which, not so many years ago, was partly science-fiction, is becoming more current and a more common security issue in International Affairs.

In this post I will not be writing a cliché narrative about how Cyber-Security and Cyber Warfare are becoming important. I won’t be writing loads of paragraphs about WikiLeaks, Chinese Cyber Espionage or other stuff that is constantly hitting the news and almost everyone already knows about. My bottom line is this: Cyber – Security and Cyber Warfare are important issues which will become predominant in just few years to come. It is one of my biggest interests and all these links are for those who are just as interested as I am and wish to learn more about it. This is just  a collection of articles by experts, videos, blog posts, links to organizations and interviews with experts that explain the entire spectrum of Cyber – Security. I have done a lot of work for those who are interested in cyber – security by managing all the traffic and selecting informative and relevant links.

I will be adding new links regularly and will find a new link in case one is broken or does not work. I welcome any feedback and any suggestions for a new link that you think is relevant and deserves to be put up.

Thanks a lot and I hope you enjoy finding out about Cyber – Security

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