US Ambassador to Poland: More American investment needed

reprinted from The Warsaw Voice. See full article: Europe More Important Than Ever

U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Lee Feinstein, talks to Hilary Heuler in the run-up to President Barack Obama’s visit to Warsaw.

What potential do you see for greater cooperation between the U.S. and Poland?

In building a relationship for the 21st century together, we have identified three areas of key cooperation. I think the President’s visit next month will be an opportunity not only to highlight all of our cooperation, but also to set a course for the future. Within the areas of greatest importance we have three pillars; the first is working together on security. We have a huge amount to be proud of over the last two years, including reaching an agreement in November in Lisbon to reaffirm Article 5 of NATO’s Washington Treaty and developing NATO contingency plans for Poland and the Baltic states. Presidents Obama and Komorowski announced last November that we have agreed for the first time to send American servicemen and women to Poland on a permanent basis, which is historic. We have also agreed to deploy important elements of our missile defense program to Poland, and missile defense plans in Europe are ahead of schedule. These are things we should be proud of, take stock of, and build on for the future.

The second pillar of the relationship is democracy promotion. We work together in the Eastern Neighborhood, not just on Belarus but also on Ukraine, Moldova and the Caucasus. We also work together globally through the Community of Democracies, which was born in Poland in 2000. I was fortunate to be in Warsaw with Secretary Albright in 2000 and then a decade later with Secretary Clinton when she attended the 10th anniversary of the Community in Cracow last year. Secretary Clinton talked about the importance of civil society in promoting democracy around the world. Since then, America and Poland established a democracy dialogue with each other, something we don’t have with any other country.

The third area is building prosperity. American investment in Poland is probably bigger than you think, but still not enough. There’s definitely scope for us to do more, but we’ve done and we are doing a lot. In the early 1990s, American companies were the first to invest in Poland, and helped build investor confidence in coming here. Since 2008 American investment has been particularly strong, and what’s interesting is that it’s been strong in the manufacturing area and service industries, but also in hi-tech and R&D. Another promising area for us is energy cooperation—we’re interested in helping support Poland’s potential program in nuclear energy; we’re very involved in Poland’s rapid development of wind and other renewables; and we’re equally interested in shale gas.

I know I said three pillars, but let me add one more key area: people-to-people exchanges. 140,000 Poles traveled to America last year, and we have a large and growing American community in Poland. We’re doing as much as we can to promote this kind of exchange. We are proud to cooperate with the Polish American Freedom Foundation to give Polish university students the chance to spend the summer working in the United States for American firms, a program we expect will continue to grow next year. The number of scholarships in the Fulbright Program is increasing significantly. We also try to do a lot of new media outreach—we’ve got a very active Facebook page in English and Polish, and we’ve got a very good website that’s updated round the clock. The embassy community has set a goal of meeting 11,000 students and young people in Poland in 2011, and I think we’re well on our way to reaching it.

President Obama’s visit here is, of course, the ultimate people-to-people exchange. The visit comes at an excellent time in U.S.-Polish relations, which are based on our unshakable historic ties and, as important, on our common values and interests today.