November 1, 2015

Ukrainian-Polish Relations: “... without a Free Ukraine There Will Be No Free Poland”

Oleksiy Volovych

October 25, 2015 there took place elections to the National Assembly of Poland — 460 Deputies to the Lower House — the Sejm, and 100 Senators to the Upper House — the Senate. Eight parties and blocs had been struggling for seats in the Parliament. The term of office in the Parliament is 4 years. The elections to the Polish Sejm were held under the proportional system. The threshold was set at 5 % for parties and 8 % for blocs. Polish Senators are elected by direct vote in single-member constituencies. 8 thousand candidates took part in the elections to the Sejm. 425 people competed for seats in the Senate. Under the Polish law, to run for the Sejm deputies can a citizen of Poland who has reached the age of 21, a Deputy of the Senate can be a Pole who has reached the age of 30 years. Apart from the party ambitions and desire to serve the State, candidates for elections to the Sejm and Senate probably are also attracted by a good salary, which is 9,500 zlotys (about 2,250 Euros) a month, plus 2,500 zloty (600 Euro) for business trips. According to reports, the turnout was 51.6 %.


The Elections' Results

October 26, 2015, the Polish State Election Commission announced the official results of the Parliamentary elections, which were won by the ex-Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's National-Conservative “Law and Justice” Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość — PiS), which got 37.6 % of votes. Ideologically the Party is somewhat similar to the Hungarian “Fidesz — Hungarian Civic Union”, the British Tories and the Czech Conservatives. After its triumph at the latest Presidential elections (May 2015), the victory of Ja. Kaczynski's PiS Party at the Parliamentary elections was expected, but not with such a high result. The former ruling Liberal-Conservative Party “Civic Platform” (Platforma Obywatelska — PO), won 24 % of votes.

The former rock musician Pawell Kukiz's Party — “Kukiz'15” (which is considered the PiS' partner) has also made its way into the Sejm with 8.8 % of votes. The new Liberal Party “Modern” (“.Novochesna”) has won 7.6 % and the “Polish People's Party”5.1 %. Most likely, the above-mentioned parties will also join the coalition with PiS.

Ярослав КачиньськийFor the first time in the modern history of Poland, representatives of left-wing political forces — the “United Left” have not got into the Sejm. Nor have “Solidarity Poland” and “Poland Together”. The Party of the scandalous MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke, known Putin's supporter, has got negligible — 0.2 % of the vote.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that after the change of power in the country   “... the Law will be respected and PiS would not resort to “revenge” towards their opponents”. Former Polish Prime Minister and leader of the PO Ewa Kopacz congratulated her opponents, pointing out that she was passing over to “Law and Justice” a completely different Poland — better than the one that was 8 years ago when the PO came to power. Meanwhile, the Head of the European Center of Geopolitical Analysis Mateusz Piskorski does not rule out that after the defeat in the elections, a part of the PO's functionaries can go over to the PiS, and the PO will most likely have to choose a new leader — instead of Ewa Kopacz.


What Country Have A. Duda and PiS Party Received

Indeed, during the Liberals' staying in power, Poland's economy grew by 50 %. According to the CIA (CIA-World-Factbook), Poland's GDP at purchasing power parity in 2014 was 941 billion US dollars (for comparison: Ukraine's GDP — 373 billion US dollars, Russia's — 3 trillion 568 billion US dollars). Thus, Poland's GDP is almost three times larger the GDP of Ukraine and is about one third of Russia's GDP, although Poland's territory is more than 55 times smaller than that of Russia, let alone the large discrepancy in natural resources and economic potentials. At this, until recently, Poland had only one billionaire — Jan Kulczyk with a fortune of 16 billion zloty, who died in late July 2015 at the age of 65. By the way, Jan Kulczyk sincerely supported Ukraine, in particular, he proposed to export cheap Polish coal to Ukraine, and to import cheap electricity from Ukraine to Europe.

In 2014, Poland's budget (expenditures) was 101 billion US dollars (Ukraine's budget was 45.8 billion US dollars). Income per capita in Poland in 2014 amounted to 25.1 thousand US dollars (in Ukraine — 8.7 thousand US dollars). Foreign exchange reserves in Poland in 2014 amounted to 105.7 billion US dollars (in Ukraine they made 18.3 billion US dollars, in Russia — 385.5 billion US dollars).

Після кризи 2008 року польська економіка була єдиною в ЄС, де спостерігалося зростання ВВП

After the crisis of 2008, Poland's economy was the only one in the EU, where the GDP kept growing, and in 2012 amounted to 1.8 % in 2013 — 1.7 % and in 2014 — 3.3 %. According to estimates of the Central Bank of Poland, foreign direct investments into the Polish economy in 2012 amounted to 151 billion Euro (for comparison, in Ukraine in 2012, foreign direct investments into the Ukrainian economy amounted to only 6 billion US dollars).

The rapid economic growth and development of the Polish economy is also due to the growth in domestic consumption thanks to the constant increase in the average wage, which in 2012 equaled 3,526 zloty /1,175 US dollars/, and in the first half of 2014 — 3816 Zloty /900 Euro/. Poland's accession to the European Union on 1 May 2004 also helped the growth of the Polish economy, improvement of living standards and strengthening of the political stability of the country. In 2007-2013 Poland received almost 68 billion Euros from EU funds. And over the nearest seven years — Poland expects to receive from the European Union a little more than 100 billion Euros.

But the question arises: why, despite these impressive economic achievements, the party “Civic Platform” has lost both, the Presidential and Parliamentary elections?

According to political scientists and experts, the moods of the voters had been influenced by the following: problems of young people, who cannot find work and must emigrate; raising of the retirement age; serious shortcomings in the organization of health care; influx of refugees from the Middle East. Perhaps they simply fed up with PO functionaries, whose reputation has suffered as a result of the “cassette fraud” that had made public some scandalous details of their lives and relationships.

Some experts believe that the reason for the PO's defeat, despite the quite significant economic achievements over eight years of rule, was the moral degeneration of the ruling class, relaxed by these achievements, and the lack of charismatic leaders that would put forward new ideas attractive to the electorate. According to some analysts, Donald Tusk's decision after his election to the post of Chairman /President/ of the European Council (December 1, 2014), to appoint as his successor the Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz “... was wrong because she lacked charisma and determination”.

 Анджей Дуда

Formation of the New Government

According to preliminary information, the representatives of PiS are receiving an absolute majority (242 seats) in the Parliament for the first time since 1989 and will be able to form a government without making a coalition with anybody. These are the first Parliamentary elections in the modern history of Poland, where the winning party will be able to form a new government. Thus, as predicted by the overwhelming majority of political observers, the newly elected President of Poland Andrzej Duda, PiS' candidate, will have a loyal Parliament and “his own” government, which apparently will allow him to realize most of his election campaign promises. The PiS' candidate for the post of Prime Minister of Poland is Beata Szydlo.


Беата Марія Шидло


Beata Maria Szydlo was born April 15, 1963 in the family of a miner in Auschwitz at Vistula — in southern Poland. In 1989, she graduated from the Department of Ethnography of Jagiellonian University in Krakow. In 1997, she completed postgraduate studies for cultural managers at the Warsaw School of Economics, and in 2001 – from standard doctorate of Cracow University of Economics. In 1997-1998, she was Director of the Cultural Center in Brzeszcze. In 1998, she was elected for Mayor of Brzeszcze, which post she held until 2005. In 2005, she joined the party “Law and Justice”, and was elected to the Sejm (was reelected in 2007 and 2011). Since July 2010, she has been Deputy leader of the party “Law and Justice”. From 2011, she was Deputy Chairman of the Public Finances Committee of the Sejm. During the recent Presidential campaign last spring, B. Szydlo was Head of Andrzej Duda's election headquarters. In Poland, many people believe that A. Duda owes his victory to Beata Szydlo's efforts and skillful organizing work. After the Parliamentary elections of October 25, B. Szydlo is the only candidate to the head the new government of Poland.



Less than three days after the elections, in the Polish media there began to appear forecasts and estimates — who will come to the new government with B. Szydlo? Thus, the weekly “Wprost” has published the names of politicians who are likely to enter the new Polish government. Deputy Prime Minister without portfolio can become Professor Piotr Glinski, who will be in charge of planning and development of the government's strategy. Minister of the Energy Sector may become one of the most experienced politicians Piotr Naimski, who a few years ago protested against the agreement with the Russian “Gazprom”. As the Foreign Affairs Minister is seen Kazimierz Ujazdowski who in the previous PiS' government in 2005-2007 served as Minister of Culture.

B. Szydlo has pointed out that she has already prepared a list of new ministers, but the decision will be taken at the party's level. Besides, she has said that the first step of the new government will be the so-called “democratic package”, which includes inviting opposition parties to cooperate. The new government is going to unite the Ministries of Finance and Economy. After the formation of the government B. Szydlo promises to reduce the retirement age, to increase the minimum wage to 12 zloty (about 3 Euros) per hour, to provide an allowance of 500 zloty (120 Euro) for each child in families, to increase taxes on banks, to put an end to crime and corruption.

B. Szydlo has repeatedly stated that she will not be a marionette head of the government: “My name is Szydlo, I have my own opinion and I can be stubborn. I will not get under external control”. At the same time, experts are discussing the question of to what extant B. Szydlo will be independent as the Prime Minister. According to the former Deputy of the European Parliament and former Head of the National Security Bureau Marek Siwiec, the leader of PiS Ja. Kaczynski will stay “in the shadows” not occupying important posts, but it will be he who will be shaping the government's policy, which will be realized by the people appointed by him.

According to Michal Kobosko, Director of Wroclaw Global Forum at the Atlantic Council of the United States, Ja. Kaczynski will fully control not only the Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, but also President Andrzej Duda, the Senate and Sejm, and all this without having clear official authority. Powers usually change the behavior of many politicians and they often “forget” those who brought them to power. Moreover, they even do not want to remember this. They also do not like being reminded of this or asked for something in return. Besides, A. Duda is not officially a member of the PiS Party, while the newly elected Sejm Deputies and Senators are already servants of the people.


Poland-Russia: Partners or Rivals?

This year, Poland has marked two sad anniversaries, both connected with Russia. The first — the 75th anniversary of the killed by Stalin's NKVD 22 thousand Polish officers in Katyn (near Smolensk) and the 5th anniversary of the crash of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski's plane on board of which there had been more than 100 people of the government's delegation that had been flying to participate in memorial activities at Katyn cemetery near Smolensk. And today, five years after the Smolensk catastrophe “... Russian-Polish relations are at a point close to the conventional freezing point”.

According to the above-mentioned Mateusz Piskorski, “... relations with Russia are so bad that they simply can't get worse”. And it is not only the result of Russophobic sentiments among the majority of Polish political forces. Their attitudes reflect the moods that exist in the society. Thus, according to the survey of the Pew Research Agency, while in 2013, 54 % of Poles were set negative against Russia, by the end of 2014 this number increased to 81 %, and now is probably even higher. On the other hand, those in Poland who liked Russia, in 2013 made 36 %, and in late 2014 — only 12 %, and now probably even less. According to recent Russian polls, Poland has consistently been in the top five countries that, according to the recipients, are the most hostile to Russia. First of all, this shows the sad consequences of Russia's aggressive policy towards Ukraine. Thus, the majority of Poles believe that in 2014 Russia provocatively violated international law and territorial integrity of our country — Ukraine. Polish political forces and society are quite united in the sharply negative assessment of the Kremlin's policy towards Ukraine, which wants to become part of the civilized European world, and Russia does not allow it to do it.

According to the Polish political observers, the two leaders of the Parliamentary race — Ewa Kopacz and Beata Szydlo — “have no sympathy for Moscow”. However, some believe that B. Szydlo is set even more critical of Moscow than Ewa Kopacz. Both the leaders are in favor of the West's tougher sanctions towards Russia after the annexation of the Crimea and occupation of a part of the Donbas. In one of her speeches, B. Szydlo stressed: “... we would like Russia to be an economic partner, but we are well aware that it is first of all a rival”.

In assessing the prospects of dialogue between Warsaw and Moscow, most observers are inclined to think that it will be a very tense and uncompromising dialogue, although some analysts give a rather strange forecast. For example, Adam Michnik, Editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza argues that J. Kaczynski's Party will bring “Putinism” to Poland (?). In his opinion, the PiS' victory would be “a disaster for Poland”. According to him, this party “... may turn the country towards Russia. And the fact that this political force is demonstrating its open Russophobic moods, does not matter...”

According to “Borysfen Intel's” experts, this is an absolutely fantastic forecast, which we hope will exist only in the imagination of its author. Besides, the strong opposition and powerful Polish civil society will not allow such unnatural political transformations in the country.


What Will the Ukrainian-Polish Relations Be Like?

In today's Poland, when it comes to Ukrainian-Polish relations, one can't help recalling the words of the famous Polish state and political figure, the first head of the revived Polish state, the founder of the Polish Army, First Marshal of Poland Jozef Pilsudski, who said that “...there can be no free Poland without afree Ukraine”. These words remain relevant today.

During his election campaign, Andrzej Duda kept calling for full support for Ukraine, which has become a victim of Russian aggression, pointing out that “... there is no such economic interests, which would become the ground for us — honest people — to sell Ukraine”. A. Duda called Russia “... the first European state that after the Second World War made military intervention into the affairs of another independent European country, and captured a part of its territory”. In September 2015, President A. Duda spoke about the threat of marginalization of the war in Ukraine and stressed that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict must result in lasting peace and resumption of the “internationally recognized borders”.

During the TV debates Ewa Kopacz has repeatedly pointed out that Poland is Ukraine's “reliable ambassador” to the EU and takes a firm position regarding Russia's aggression against Ukraine because the danger for Ukraine is also a danger to the neighboring Poland. I think that being in the opposition, Ewa Kopacz will continue to promote the development of friendly and allied relations with Ukraine.

Instead, Beata Szydlo during the debates has never uttered the word “Ukraine”. Today we can only guess — what exactly will be B. Szydlo's policy towards Ukraine, what will be her vision of further development of Ukrainian-Polish relations, but it seems that it will largely reflect President A. Duda and PiS Party's policy. Most likely, it will be the one political force's solidarity and team policy.

According to Ambassador of Ukraine to Poland A. Deshchytsya, almost all influential political forces in Poland understand the importance of Ukraine and Ukrainian-Polish relations, and are aware of the situation in which Ukraine is today due to the Russian aggression. A. Deshchytsya admits that the emphasis in the Ukrainian-Polish relations can be arranged differently, because every political force has its own vision of different aspects of this relationship. The Ambassador of Ukraine to Poland is sure that the intensity and dynamics of the Ukrainian-Polish relations will not weaken, but on the contrary — will grow.

September 28, 2015, within the framework of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, there took place the first meeting of the Presidents of Ukraine and Poland. During the meeting, A. Duda pointed out that “... Poland was and will remain Ukraine's reliable ally in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity, in the implementation of pro-European reforms”. The Polish President emphasized the inadmissibility of “freezing” of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

The Presidents of Ukraine and Poland also exchanged views on development of cooperation in Eastern Europe in the “Visegrad Four + Ukraine” format and agreed on the next meeting in this format and on the President A. Duda's visit to Ukraine before the end of this year.

While on an official visit to Paris on 28 October 2015, President of Poland A. Duda called on France to see to it that there was no selective implementation of Minsk Agreements. For Poland, it is important, said A. Duda — that Ukraine had no “frozen conflict” and Kyiv fully controlled Ukrainian borders. At this, A. Duda pointed out that President F. Hollande's point of view on ways of resolving the conflict in Ukraine is the same.

Поляки пам'ятають своїх співвітчизників, які стали жертвами тероруIt should be noted that the vast majority of the party leadership of the PiS has a rather critical and uncompromising attitude to the theme of the UPA and continually supports all decisions of the Sejm, that present the OUN and UPA as “looters and killers”. We also have to realize that despite PiS' positioning itself as an anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian political force, it is still necessary to find final mutual understanding around certain historical events. First of all, we mean the so-called Volyn Tragedy (Polish Rzeź wołyńska, “Volyn Massacre”) — mutual ethnic cleansings of Ukrainian and Polish population made in 1943 by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Polish “Home Army”, with the participation of Polish Schutzmannschaft's battalions and Soviet partisans. The need to disclose the full truth about these and other events between the two nations have been repeatedly spoken on by the leaders of the PiS Party. So, in our opinion, the appropriate Ukrainian governmental, academic and civic structures should be prepared for a rather complex and apparently lasting dialogue around the aforementioned issues.

We also have to bear in mind that the PiS' future partners in the Parliament, like the Kukiz' Party, which believes that Poland helps Ukraine more than is needed and is against giving military support to our country, will try to make the Polish-Ukrainian relations more pragmatic. But the rest of the parties that will cooperate in Parliament with the PiS, to varying extent are in favor of further development of bilateral Polish-Ukrainian relations. Thus, “Novochesna” is interested in developing economic cooperation with Ukraine. The “Platform” is ready to assist Ukraine in conducting reforms. The “Polish People's Party” is sympathetic to assist Ukraine in reforming the Army and rebuilding the destroyed Donbas. But these parties do not see Ukraine's membership in NATO and the EU earlier than in 4-5 years.

Ukrainian political scientists give rather ambiguous forecasts about the development of Polish-Ukrainian relations after the “Law and Justice” Party's victory in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Thus, the analyst of international relations S. Tolstov believes that after the Parliamentary elections in Poland, the new Polish authorities' attitude to Ukraine “... can change quite significantly and acquire a number of elements of hostility, including political and territorial claims on the part of some political forces”. Another well-known political scientist, journalist and writer V. Portnikov believes that relations between Poland and Ukraine “... do not depend on the change of government in Warsaw, as this is a strategic relationship, in the development of which both Ukraine and Poland are equally interested”. In our view, it is V. Portnikov's assessment that is more reasonable and convincing, while S. Tolstov's fears seem to be very hypothetical and not grounded enough.


The Baltic-Black Sea Alliance

Therefore, between Ukraine and Poland there is a strategic partnership, which would little depend on the change of leaderships in the countries. As for the further development of Polish-Ukrainian relations, the vast majority of experts believe that the current President A. Duda will continue his predecessor, former President B. Komorowski's policy towards Ukraine.

Балто-Чорноморський пояс

In our view, the most important and strategic for Ukraine is A. Duda's proposal to create a “partnership alliance of states” from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic Seas. At this, A. Duda expressed willingness to discuss the idea during meetings with heads of states of Central and Eastern Europe. But before the Parliamentary elections that would have been premature. Now, when the Parliament and the government will be working in a team with the President, A. Duda can intensify the process of realization of his idea of ​​creating a “Baltic-Black Sea Belt (Alliance)”.

Today's conditions, when Russia's aggression against Ukraine has clearly demonstrated the modern European security's incapability, despite the presence of UN, NATO, EU and OSCE; and the United States, China and Britain have not fulfilled their obligations to protect Ukraine's sovereignty under the Budapest Memorandum, according to “Borysfen Intel's” experts, the ​​Polish President A. Duda's idea of creation of the Baltic-Black Sea Alliance requires careful study and all kinds of support from the Ukrainian leadership. The West's protraction with Ukraine's joining NATO and the European Union makes Ukraine search for allies to defend its independence and sovereignty from the Russian aggression. These potential allies are first of all Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Georgia and Moldova, which, like Ukraine, have repeatedly been victims of imperial policy of the Russian and Soviet empires.

Балто-Чорноморський альянсToday, when in the West and in the East of Great Europe there have been formed two antagonistic allies of states — the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Community (the future Eurasian Union), in our view, there is an urgent need for a “middle” association — the Baltic-Black Sea Alliance composed of countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which could be a sub-regional component of the European Union and NATO. The core of the Baltic-Black Sea Alliance could possibly become a regional organization consisting of Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (in the future perhaps Belarus). Being a part of the Baltic-Black Sea Alliance, Ukraine, among others, could significantly strengthen the degree of independence and guaranteed safety from Putin's Russia's aggressive attacks. Therefore, the current leadership of Ukraine should not lose time, but vigorously support the President of Poland A. Duda's idea of creation of the Baltic-Black Sea Alliance and begin its implementation.


* * *

According to experts and analysts of the Independent Analytical Center “Borysfen Intel”, the fact that the majority of Polish voters voted in the presidential and parliamentary elections for PiS's representatives, can be explained by at least two factors:

firstly, the Poles are a little “tired” of politicians of the “Civic Platform”, despite their generally successful activities and wanted something new, more “fresh”;

secondly, after A. Duda's having been elected President, Poles realize that if the PiS does not control the Parliament and government, the President will actually fulfill almost exclusively protocol functions and won't be able to implement those plans and programs with which he went to the elections.

Moreover, between the President, Parliament and government there would be tensions that in itself would slow down the country's development. We have witnessed how some representatives of Ewa Kopacz's government and she quite heavily criticized the first steps of the newly elected President A. Duda. Therefore, expressing trust to the appointees from the PiS, most Poles just wanted to give the Party a chance to freely implement its policies and to show — what it is really capable of. But this trust will act exactly as long as the activities of the President, Parliament and Government are successful. If this does not happen, the Poles will certainly bring to power some other political force, perhaps even the same “Civic Platform”, which will not just wait for its time, but will do everything to bring this time closer.

We, Ukrainians, unfortunately, have got used to the fact that every political force that won the Parliamentary elections, keeps disgracing its “bad predecessors.” We can only envy the Poles with their high political culture, continuity and responsibility of their government. When one political team completes its cadence, the other that comes as its successor, says thank you to its predecessors and together they continue to do the common work — development of Poland. This long-standing practice of parliamentarism in Poland shows that the opposition is generally constructive. Therefore, the “Civic Platform”, which will occupy about 135 seats in the Parliament, would be the main opposition force, which will continue to work for development and prosperity of the Polish state, and not just “put a spoke in the wheel of the ruling party /coalition /” as it usually was, and is likely to be for a long time in Ukraine.

I can't help wishing all our politicians and MPs: please, learn from our friends — Poles!