Polish government clashes with president over recall of 50 ambassadors

Poland’s government has announced plans to replace over 50 ambassadors appointed under the former Law and Justice (PiS) administration. That has prompted a negative response from PiS-aligned President Andrzej Duda, who is constitutionally responsible for appointing and dismissing ambassadors.

The clash marks the latest conflict between the president and the ruling coalition that replaced PiS in power in December. It came just one day after Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk had put on a display of unity by jointly visiting the White House to meet Joe Biden.

President @AndrzejDuda and Prime Minister @donaldtusk have jointly visited the White House for a meeting with @JoeBiden to mark the 25th anniversary of Poland joining NATO.

The talks focused on security, in particular support for Ukraine https://t.co/A3TIC5YLo8

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) March 12, 2024

On Thursday afternoon, the foreign ministry announced that its head, Radosław Sikorski, had “decided to end the mission of over 50 ambassadors”. That represents more than half of all of Poland’s ambassadors.

“The government, which has constitutional responsibility for foreign policy, believes that the necessary exchange of Polish representatives abroad serves a better, professional implementation of the difficult challenges facing Polish foreign policy today,” it added.

Shortly afterwards, Sikorski himself told broadcaster RMF that the decision was “pretty much a routine thing. The previous government said that ambassadors represent the government rather than the state. Elections have their consequences”.

Komunikat MSZ w sprawie rozpoczęcia procedury odwołania ambasadorów.https://t.co/BjEmRVfXCa

— Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych RP 🇵🇱 (@MSZ_RP) March 13, 2024

Under Poland’s constitution, foreign policy is the responsibility of the government. However, the constitution also stipulates that ambassadors are appointed and dismissed by the president.

Therefore, any such decisions would have to be approved by Duda, who is aligned with the former ruling PiS party and has regularly clashed with the new government.

Sikorski told RMF that such decisions would be made “in dialogue” with the president and “in a civilised way”. However, he added that for the time being he would not name specific ambassadors who he wanted to replace.

Jestem w dialogu z panem prezydentem, ale o szczegółach nie będziemy mówić, bo ambasadorowie nadal służą. To jest początek procedury. My to będziemy robić w sposób cywilizowany, nie zawsze tak było za naszych poprzedników. Mam nadzieję, że pan prezydent da się przekonać -… pic.twitter.com/lDS6m5TgCA

— RozmowaRMF (@Rozmowa_RMF) March 13, 2024

The foreign ministry’s announcement was, however, quickly met with a negative response from Duda and his senior staff.

The president, who was still in the United States when the news emerged, reminded the press that “no Polish ambassador can be appointed or dismissed without the president’s signature. The decision made by the president is of fundamental importance”.

One of his secretaries of state, Małgorzata Paprocka, likewise told Polsat News that “ambassadors are appointed and dismissed by the president, so the foreign ministry’s announcement is very much exaggerated”.

Paprocka added that the president was willing to “sit down at the table” with the government to discuss the issue. But she said that he would not simply sign off on the government’s demands.

„Please stop trying to violate the law,” President @AndrzejDuda asked PM @donaldtusk at a meeting today amid growing tensions.

Tusk said that his government would continue its efforts to „restore the legal order, whether someone likes it or not” https://t.co/0UyOCRaxvF

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 15, 2024

Prime Minister Tusk also addressed the issue yesterday. He warned that, if Duda was unwilling to accept the government’s recommendations, “we will, of course, recall the ambassadors until the president’s position changes or the president changes”. Duda’s term in office ends next year.

In such a scenario, embassies would be run by their chargé d’affaires, said Tusk. “If such a solution satisfies the President, no problem. Either way, we have to improve and build a team loyal to the Polish state.”

Duda’s chief of staff, Marcin Mastalerek, expressed disappointment that the government was seeking to act in this manner just one day after Duda and Tusk had jointly visited the White House in a show of unity.

“Yesterday, Poland showed cooperation in security and international affairs,” Mastalerek told Polsat. “It is completely incomprehensible that the prime minister acts so unilaterally a day after such a successful visit.”

Szef Gabinetu Prezydenta RP @MMastalerek w #GośćWydarzeń @PolsatNews: 💬Nie rozumiem tego, że bez podawania przyczyn, Premier chce jednostronnie pokazywać brak współpracy i to dzień po tak dobrej i udanej wizycie.

To nie są ambasadorzy rządu, a Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej.… https://t.co/XQpBv1JOSj

— Kancelaria Prezydenta (@prezydentpl) March 13, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: MSZ (under CC BY 3.0 PL)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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