WARSAW, Poland (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron began a two-day visit to Poland on Monday that both sides hope can improve strained relations.
Arriving 40 minutes behind schedule, Macron was greeted by Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and the military Guard of Honor in chilly weather in front of the Presidential Palace, before going into talks.
Macron’s office said the visit is a crucial part of France’s efforts to bolster ties with European partners. It is his first official foreign visit this year.
After Britain left the European Union on Friday, Poland rose in rank as one of the most populous and biggest EU economies.
The talks are set to focus on European issues, defense, climate, the economy and energy, at a time when coal-reliant Poland is seeking partners for a planned nuclear power plant.
The French delegation includes the foreign and defense ministers as well as ministers of finance and environment.
Macron has previously been critical of Poland’s right-wing government and its policies of refusing to accept migrants, continuing reliance on coal and taking steps to put the judiciary under political control.
His predecessor, Francois Hollande, canceled a visit in 2016 after Warsaw scrapped a planned purchase of French helicopters.
On Monday, Macron is to meet Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the parliament speakers and Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, who described the visit as a â€œbreakthroughâ€ in bilateral relations.
On Tuesday, Macron travels to the southern Polish city of Krakow where he will visit the royal Wawel Castle and give a speech at the Jagiellonian University.
His agenda includes meeting with the French community in Poland and with Poland’s intellectuals.