Interview By Anatoliy Martsynovskyy with Aleksander Kwasniewski
Holos Ukrayiny, Kiev, in Ukrainian 30 Mar 04; p 1, 5
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, in English, Apr 10, 2004
KYIV - Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said that The Year of
Poland in Ukraine should complement mutual political understanding and
dialogue. Speaking in an interview with a Ukrainian daily, Kwasniewski said
that it would accelerate the resolving of many issues. Speaking about Poland
joining the European Union in May, he said this would assist Ukraine as
foreign companies working in Poland were likely to be encouraged to operate
on the Ukrainian market. He was critical of dividing the world into
Christianity and Islam as this might lead to a tragic confrontation.
(Click on image to enlarge it)
The following is the text of an interview with Kwasniewski conducted by
Anatoliy Martsynovskyy, published in the Ukrainian parliamentary newspaper
Holos Ukrayiny on 30 March entitled "Aleksander Kwasniewski: The Year of
Poland should complement political understanding through contacts between
people"; subheadings have been inserted editorially:
[Martsynovskyy] Mr President, what do you think should be the final outcome
of The Year of Poland in Ukraine? What does it signify to Ukrainian society?
[Kwasniewski] I think that events like The Year of Poland in Ukraine should
add a societal human factor to political dialogue and understanding. These
are occasions which make it possible to show cultural achievements, to
foster contacts between common people, artists, scientists and youth. This
will be very important so as to deepen relations between Poland and Ukraine.
On the other hand, this will sort of demonstrate that Poland, which joins
the EU this year, does not turn its back on its closest eastern neighbour
and wants to continue cooperating with it.
I hope that thanks to a good start on Tuesday and then thanks to the
different actions by various establishments we will succeed in alleviating
the tension that existed. Poland has well-kept Ukrainian cemeteries in
Krakow, Lublin and Warsaw. Ukraine also has a cemetery in Kharkiv. A
cemetery in Lviv, though we have not opened it formally, is also in a good
state. There are monuments in Volyn [Region]: these are all the things which
remove tension in relations between people. Many older people can go and see
places familiar to them since their childhood. And it is exactly that moment
when contacts between people and good positive feelings should complement
Consequences of Poland's accession to EU
[Martsynovskyy] As of 1 May Poland joins the EU. How could this affect our
economic relations? Does this pose a threat in terms of falling trade
[Kwasniewski] Entry into the EU gives Poland a chance to develop, but I am
certain our membership of the [European] Union will promote development of
relations with Ukraine and other eastern neighbours, Belarus and Russia.
From the very beginning we firmly decided that Poland's accession to the EU
should not erect any barriers in relations with our eastern partners and
that there should be no "curtain" even if it is very light.
I think we managed to formulate a good visa system, and economically we will
become increasingly interesting partners for you, more attractive from the
perspective of the export of Ukrainian products to Poland and a Ukrainian
economic presence in our state, investment.
It is crucial for us to have Ukraine engaged in common European processes
through such significant cooperation. I even assume that for investors from
third countries which already work in Poland, its entry into the EU might
provide encouragement to operate on Ukrainian markets, so more investment
could flow not only into Poland but also into Ukraine.
This will certainly require corresponding effort, but this is quite
feasible. I would also like to stress that being in the EU we will be
seeking to use our geographic position and urge the EU to determine its
eastern policy so that this dimension would become as active and clear as,
for example, its policy on the Mediterranean region, that is, North African
countries. Access to Polish markets will become simpler and easier, so I am
calling on Ukrainian entrepreneurs to look at this positively and think what
could be gained from Poland's entry into the EU.
It will become more stable, have the same economic and legal standards as
those in other EU states, and our immediate neighbourhood provides even more
opportunities for cooperation. We would like Ukraine to move towards the EU,
and we hope in the future it will become an associate and then fully fledged
member of the EU.
Privatization of Polish steel plant to be checked
[Martsynovskyy] The story with the bid by the [Ukrainian Donetsk-based]
Industrial Union of Donbass corporation in the privatization of the Polish
[metallurgic] plant Huta Czestochowa proved to be a somewhat sore issue for
the Ukrainian side. What is the situation with this now? Could Poland
reconsider the results of the tender which have been announced?
[Kwasniewski] First of all, I should point out that this issue lies within
the government's remit, not within the president's. Individual ministries of
the government deal with it. But I can say that in tenders like this
somebody wins and somebody loses, and those who lose have a certain sense of
displeasure. We treat the Ukrainian government's remarks very seriously.
[Ukrainian] Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych sent a letter to our prime
minister, Leszek Miller, and it will receive a competent reply. For this we
have set up a task force which should evaluate the whole procedure and see
whether any mistakes were made. The task force should finish its work and
present results next week. If we see that tender procedures were complied
with, we will uphold the decision. If we see that any incorrect actions were
involved, the situation will be different.
However, in any case one should not interpret this case as, to put it
figuratively, "to be or not to be". We also take part in many tenders. Some
of them we win, some of them we lose - that is a nature of this process. And
I would like to say: we are interested in the presence of Ukrainian capital
and Ukrainian enterprises in Poland. The Polish Ministry of Property
presented a list of over 200 privatization facilities, and we invited our
Ukrainian friends to take part in their privatization. As to the Industrial
Union of Donbass, which we regard as a very serious enterprise, we also
invite it to bid in the privatization of other facilities, in particular
those in the metallurgy sector.
Cultural, religious divisions in Europe should be averted
[Martsynovskyy] In his recently published book ["The Limits of Europe"] EU
[Single Market] Commissioner Frits Bolkestein writes that Ukraine will never
gain membership of the EU because it will remain a "buffer" zone between the
EU, Russia and Muslim states in the south. How would you comment on such
[Kwasniewski] You know, we live in democratic countries where every person
can express his views. And so I view the stance which you mentioned as being
one of these views. I do not agree with such a concept. I am strongly
against this. Especially in view of the fact that the world blended together
a long time ago: Muslims are today present in Europe, many of them live in
France, Germany and other countries. Christians live in many Muslim states.
So the concept according to which we will define the EU's geographic
boundaries and a geographical "buffer" zone and then protect ourselves
against influences of other cultures or religions is a bad concept which
will breed conflict.
Of course, the EU's borders exist in the sense that it is hard, for example,
to imagine its stretching up to the Pacific Ocean. There are no reasons for
this, and in this case the EU would lose its active capacity. In the future
the world will have several centres, and Russia and the EU, that is, a
united Europe, will be among them. It is obvious to me that Ukraine lies in
the European part and should join European structures as an equal partner.
As regards Russia which is by nature a Eurasian state, the question is much
more difficult. I am absolutely convinced that Ukraine has a place in
Europe, and things are in your own hands. If we live by the same democratic,
legal and economic standards, geography does not matter much. When these
standards are adhered to, Ukraine will occupy its place in the European
[Martsynovskyy] Do you think it is possible to heighten the level of
cooperation between Ukraine and NATO at the Istanbul summit in June? Will
Poland uphold this?
[Kwasniewski] Without doubt. We want the summit between Ukraine and NATO
to be held at the highest possible level, in a sincere and benevolent
atmosphere. We have a hope that this will be a successful summit, although
one should keep in mind that it will be held when presidential election
campaigns are being waged both in Ukraine and in the US. This will not be an
easy time, but I believe it will be a good summit.
Urges foreign partners not to ignore Ukraine
[Martsynovskyy] A few months ago you met US President George Bush, and
reportedly, your conversation brought up Ukraine among other things. What
exactly did you discuss?
[Kwasniewski] I gave my assessment of the situation in Ukraine, and it
seemed to me that both President Bush and his entourage listened with
interest. I was under the impression that I was regarded as a sort of expert
on Ukrainian issues. Believe me that during contacts abroad I always call on
partners to cooperate with Ukraine as closely as possible so that they do
not give up due to various difficulties and problems, so that the relations
between your state and the EU and US are active and consistent. Although
these were not easy issues, I discuss them very often and quite candidly
with foreign colleagues.
Ukrainian society needs more dialogue
[Martsynovskyy] You, of course, are quite familiar with the current events
and processes inside Ukraine. How important or decisive could they be for
further development of Ukrainian-Polish relations?
[Kwasniewski] As regards Ukraine's domestic political situation, I can say
the following: if I myself did not know the problems in Poland, I would
probably be more generous in offering advice. However, since there is no
lack of such political problems at home at the present time, I will refrain.
I tell all my interlocutors in the world: Ukraine has made great progress
towards democracy, its major democratic institutions have been set up and
the foundations of multiparty political pluralism set up.
I think that the problem in Ukraine is a lack of dialogue between different
sides with a view to finding an optimal solution. Poland's experience, which
comes from the palace where we find ourselves at the present time, is
experience of a "round table". Such dialogue should ensue in parliament,
society and the mass media.
The more dialogue, the better it is: I have always worked with Ukraine in
such a spirit. I want Ukraine to develop. I wish it all the best and believe
that your state has the best prospects. I stress that independent sovereign
Ukraine is a great asset to Europe. And we should cultivate this.
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