With the recent positive developments particularly on defense, Turkey and Poland, two countries sharing many commonalities in cultural history, cuisine and diplomacy, have ramped up their cooperation and bilateral relations. The constant developments and negotiations indicate that the two nations, both of which are full members of NATO, are keen to intensify their collaboration through more cultural and defense initiatives and investments.
The official diplomatic contacts between the two were established between the Ottoman Empire and the Polish kingdom back in the 15th century. In 2013, Poland and Turkey celebrated 600 years of diplomatic relations. The history of bilateral relations stretches back to 1414, four years after the Battle of Grunwald, when Ottoman Sultan Mehmed I Çelebi received the first Polish diplomatic delegation at his court in Bursa, at the time the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
There are some prominent examples of cultural links between the two countries. In 1842, for example, Polish warriors of the November Uprising, also known as the Polish–Russian War, established a settlement in the village of Polonezköy (town of the Poles) east of Istanbul. The very village in the historic metropolis, also known as “Adampol,” played a significant role in contributing unique cultural memories to both countries. Currently, in the village there are 1,000 Polish-origin Turkish citizens, who are predominantly descendants of the Polish warrior settlers. Roughly 4% of the community, however, can speak Polish fluently. This minority group puts great effort into sustaining their national culture. The village has a Polish cemetery, a museum memorializing its history and a church called “Our Lady Church from Częstochowa” to cultivate Polish religious traditions. Each summer its locals organize a music festival, inviting national folk bands and different fascinating guests to Polonezköy.
Additionally, economic and trade relations give an impetus for stronger Turkey-Poland relations. In 2018, the value of bilateral commerce between the two countries was $6.45 billion (Turkish exports: $3.34 billion; imports: $3.1 billion). Parts and accessories for motor vehicles, compression-ignition piston engines and beef are Turkey's principal imports from Poland. Turkey exports mostly motor cars, parts and accessories for motor vehicles, and tractor implements to Poland.
Between 2002 and 2018, Poland's foreign direct investments (FDI) in Turkey totaled $36 million, whereas the Turkish FDI in Poland totaled $78 million. In 2018, 118% more Polish visitors traveled to Turkey than in the previous year.
Currently, the countries have trade volume of about $6 billion and, as their presidents recently highlighted, the goal is now to increase it to $10 billion. As of this year, about $8 billion is expected to be reached. In terms of tourism, the picture is similar as the goal for Poles to visit Turkey has been set as 1 million visitors and then 3 million visitors within three years.
In late May this year, the countries’ defense ministers signed a $270 million deal for Poland to buy reconnaissance and combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), making it the first NATO and EU member state to purchase Turkish drones. Under the agreement, Warsaw will acquire 24 Bayraktar-TB2 combat drones and four sets of unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with anti-tank missiles.
Meanwhile, Poland is one of the few member states that openly supports Turkey’s accession to the EU, with key officials having said that they consider Turkey as part of Europe and believe in its future in the bloc. Poland, which sided with Turkey during the tough years of struggle after World War I, was the first European country to sign a friendship treaty with the Republic of Turkey.
At a period of time when diplomacy is stuck and world conflicts continue to drive a wedge between countries, Turkey and Poland are taking concrete steps for stronger dialogue. This fraternal cooperation gives hope for world diplomacy. In the short and the long term, it will not be a surprise to see stronger bilateral relations in every sphere.