After the Second World War, Poland was left dependent on the USSR and for nearly half a century was deprived of the right to decide its political alliances independently. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Bloc that Polish ambitions to play an active role within the sphere of Western civilisation and to participate in the Euro-Atlantic structures became feasible. The process of European integration, based on the principles of democracy, protection of human rights, and a market economy became Poland's models of civilisational development. The European Union countries are Poland's main partners in the creation of a free market and the formation of new conditions for external security. After the collapse of the old alliances (dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and COMECON), Poland became a member of the European Council in 1991 and of the OECD in 1996, assuming the leadership of this organisation in 1998. Poland is integrating with the Western European countries and establishing relations with its neighbours. Following the changes in the balance of powers within Central and Eastern Europe, joining NATO became Poland's main political aim. Extending NATO eastwards meant changing Poland's geo-political position. Its admission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on 12 March 1999 constitutes one of the most important events in its contemporary history. Poland became a part of a defence alliance which guarantees security and grants conditions for stable development. Apart from NATO membership, Poland is pursuing a security policy as an associate member of the European Union and participating in the political dialogue within the framework of the European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy. Poland is also actively participating in the anti-terrorist campaign initiated and carried out by the United Nations (in March 2002 Poland assumed leadership of the UN Commission on Human Rights for the term of a year). The priority issue in Polish foreign policy was accession to the European Union.
Poland entered its structures in 2004. Joining the Union meant a guarantee for the permanent character of the changes begun in 1989 and speeding up of civilisational development. Since 1989 Poland has devoted much of its attention to the development of bilateral and neighbourly relations based on bilateral treaties. Alongside its close cooperation with the Euro-Atlantic countries, including the USA with regard to the anti-terrorist operations, Poland wants to maintain the current dynamic relations with its principal European partners: Germany, France and Great Britain. One of the events symbolic of Poland's return to the family of democratic states was the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs: Krzysztof Skubiszewski of Poland, Hans Dietrich Genscher of Germany, and Roland Dumas of France, which took place in Weimar in August 1991. It began the trilateral cooperation between Poland, Germany, and France, known as the Weimar Triangle. The Weimar meeting was preceded by the signing of the Friendship and Solidarity Treaty between Poland and France on 9 April 1991 and the Treaty on Neighbourly Relations and Cooperation between Poland and Germany in June of the same year. The Polish authorities, both at the central and regional levels, regard the progress of trans-border relations as an effective tool of mutual understanding, helping people to stop thinking in stereotypes. The achievement of one of the strategic aims of EU policy - the pursuit of good neighbourly relations with Eastern European countries - is very much in Poland's interest. As a country neighbouring directly on Russia via the Kaliningrad District, Poland welcomes all initiatives to promote cooperation, including the development of economic cooperation. Poland declares its strong support for Ukraine in that country's efforts to join the institutions of the Euro-Atlantic zone.
After the collapse of the Communist system, the mutual experiences of the past and the awareness of new political, social and economic challenges convinced the countries in the region - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - to tighten their cooperation. In February 1991, the Visegrad Group was created, becoming a significant element of regional cooperation, strengthening the position of the four partners in the process of European integration. The signing in 1993 of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), which was initiated by the Visegrad Group, offers a signal testimonial of the regional approach to economic problems. Other forms of regional cooperation, treated by Poland as key elements of the process of European integration, include the Central European Initiative and the Council of the Baltic Sea States. Initiated in 1989, the CEI is a platform for the cooperation of Eastern and Central European countries. Poland has participated in CEI activities since 1991. Despite the diverse positions of the member countries, the Initiative remains a platform of political dialogue on regional issues and a forum for cooperation between the Central European countries for the continent's integration. In turn, the aim of the Council of the Baltic Sea States is to coordinate efforts in the environmental protection of the Baltic Sea, the development of the power and transportation infrastructure, closer cooperation among the Baltic countries, and with the European Union. The members of this oragnisation, established in 1992, are the countries of the Baltic Sea basin. With its democratic foundation, Poland is deeply engaged in the promotion of friendly and partner relations with its neighbours. Since the early 1990s, following the ratification of the basic documents for trans-border cooperation (the European Framework Convention of Cross-Border Cooperation, the European Charter of Local Government and the European Charter of Border and Cross-Border Regions), Poland has been actively cooperating in the creation of Euro-regions, the objective of which is to develop economic cooperation and infrastructure, environmental protection, tourism, cultural and educational activities.