Analyst Eugene Chausovsky discusses the challenges and constraints facing Poland as it emerges as a leader of central Europe.
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Poland is in the early stages of becoming a leader of Central Europe, and its role in various issues in the region is becoming increasingly important on a number of issues. However, while Poland's ability to influence the region on issues — ranging from political to economic to security — is growing, Poland still faces many constraints on its ability to shape the region. One of the areas that Poland is showing an increasing importance in Europe is on security matters. Poland has been looking to establish security alternatives in the region as Russia is growing in its relationships with Western European countries, like Germany. This includes building up the importance of formal groupings, such as the Visegrad Four (V4) which includes Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, while Poland has also proposed initiatives such as the EU-wide security framework and military headquarters. But these groups are all in their nascent stages, and while they could grow in importance, especially as NATO continues to face growing pressures and divisions, in their current context, Poland has to work within the E.U. framework, which means that it doesn't have a true leadership role in these groupings. Poland has been one of the only European countries to post economic growth during the current crisis in Europe. Poland is projected to grow at an annual rate of 4 percent for 2011 while many other European countries, and even major economies like France and Germany, are posting little to no growth during this time period. However, the Eurozone has been undergoing some serious financial pressures as a result of the ongoing debt crisis. And because Poland is not a member of the Eurozone, it has only played a marginal role in addressing these issues that the Eurozone is facing. On the other hand, one area where Poland has the most potential to emerge as a regional leader is in the energies sphere. Poland has been actively working on various energy projects in order to diversify away from Russia and perhaps even serve as a source of energy diversification for other countries in the future. These projects include the construction of an LNG (liquified natural gas) import facility in Northern Poland, as well as building natural gas interconnectors to regional countries such as Czech Republic and Slovakia. Perhaps most importantly, Poland has large volumes of shale gas and has drawn much foreign interest and investment in exploiting these resources. However, it is too early to tell how feasible and practical shale gas production will be in Poland, and it will likely be another five to 10 years before any meaningful production is online in the country. Therefore, Poland could have an important role in shaping the future of Europe in various areas from security to economic issues to energy. But the country's impact, and its abiltity to emerge as a regional power, in a true sense, faces many obstacles and constraints as well.