IN THE KINDERGARDEN OF EUROPE
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with Paweł Kowal about closing up in the grey sphere of security, neglecting neighbourhood and forgotten Jagiellonian idea
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: – Recently the marshal Radosław Sikorski has justified his personal oblivion about the proceeding of the governmental visit in Moscow six years ago. Cannot we say today that the Polish diplomacy in the eastern policy is characterized by such an ‘oblivion’, referring especially to Ukraine?
PAWEŁ KOWAL: – I would rather say that we are in danger of historical oblivion. We forget not only about political doctrine of Jerzy Giedroyc (sovereignty of Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus is a factor favouring the independence of Polish Republic and the other way round: gaining domination over these countries by Russia opens a way to subjugation of also Poland), but also about teaching of John Paul II who in his book ‘Remembrance and identity’ refers to the so-called Jagiellonian idea, clearing supporting this kind of the pro-eastern policy. Today hardly anyone remembers that one of the first interlocutors of the Pope was the superior of the Greek-Catholics, and he sent his first zucchetto to Ostra Brama.
– We might have missed these symbols…
– We are not worried by it, although they were signals for Poles about what is really important. One of my colleagues from Podkarpacie, who was an alumnus of archbishop Ignacy Tokarczuk, has told me recently that the archbishop, similarly as John Paul II, had not had doubts that cooperation of Poles and the Ukrainians is very difficult, but he always said that our future is in the East, that we cannot turn away from the East.
– The similar ‘Jagiellonian’ way of thinking was the reason for mockery at Lech Kaczyński.
– I am surprised by my colleagues from the Law and Justice party, that they do not say a lot about it. There came a moment in which a political ‘festival’ of thoughts of Lech Kaczyński should be organized, which would show him as a statesman who can notice geopolitical tendencies very well and setting such road signs for Poles which are inscribed in the history of the Polish political way of thinking, co-created earlier by the doctrine of Giedroyc, and even by some elements of political actions of president Kwaśniewski….In Poland a serious state thought appeared, which, what is valuable, was not a creation of only one political group.
– Maybe the current governing elites are afraid of implementing this idea?
– This is a big mistake that today it is not even mentioned! It is worth changing this deeply state Polish attitude towards the current situation in Ukraine, especially after elections which showed that the Ukrainian political scene is different than it was last year. Nobody cannot say that big impacts belong to communists, that the biggest obstruction is the extreme rightist party because it turned out that in the Ukrainian society it is hardly supported. Extremely nationalist parties did not go beyond even the electoral threshold. So, we have new conditions which will form political life of Ukraine for a few dozen years in the future.
– How could Poland mark its neighboring presence now?
– An important principle for Poles has always been the one that neighbourhood obliges to something. Today it obliges us mainly to send humanitarian aid. We should be on time with it before Christmas so that the Ukrainians would be aware that when they had hard times, at least washing powder came to them from Poland…
– It is embarrassing to say but so far Poland has not been eager to bring any help, even the one not politically involved, that is, the humanitarian one…
– Unfortunately, that is true. It was Germany – although Germany is not a neighbouring country of Ukraine – which sent its big humanitarian convoy. Whereas, if not had been for efforts of some social organizations, we would not have participated in any help. Although a lot was said about it, little was done.
– But haven’t we forgotten not only about ordinary neighbouring help, but also about interests resulting from neighbourhood?
– Unfortunately, we did. Poland should join assistance in difficult moments – when economy is being transformed, there are ownership changes – certainly, considering well-understood mutual advantages. Whereas, it turns out that we do not have an offer for Ukraine.
– The Vice-Prime-Minister, the economy minister announces radical actions in this issue!
– Yes, but this action of the Polish government is to be an offer of sale rich Polish coal to made to Ukraine by the vice-prime-minister! If we understand a cooperation in this way, we expose ourselves to mockery. We should offer common investments, common companies to Ukraine as well as opening the common market in the EU countries. It is time we thought what the Polish and Ukrainian agriculture will be like in the future. So, I would expect the Polish government to make the prime minister announce a new opening of Polish-Ukrainian matters.
– But the first reaction of the prime minister Ewa Kopacz was to slam the door against a danger….
– However, I hope that it will not be so, but that she will go to Kiev, to present the new prime minister of Ukraine her particular plan of cooperation. Unfortunately, so far there has not been an impulse of neighbouring aid, as well as an idea for a business common future, there is no impulse to think about the Polish raison d’etat.
– How did such neglect happen? Actions of the Polish diplomacy concerning Ukraine were praised but at one moment they disappeared. When and why?
– It seems that something must have happened in the beginning of March when minister Sikorski returned from Majdan… Since that moment, a slow-down appeared, unnoticeable at first. Later, on 4 June – the issue of Ukraine was the main topic of ceremonies of the Polish 25th anniversary of independence regaining. At that time it seemed that Poland is a respected subject of European diplomacy in the matter of Ukraine. But two days later in Normandy – during a ceremony attended by Władimir Putin – we gave away our chance….
– To whom?
– Since then there has been an opinion in Poland that it is the consequence of the Union. However, the problem is that also the Union does not deal with it.
– There were statements that Poland – which is the best expert on imperial attempts of Russia – will be the best ambassador of Ukraine in the European diplomacy? And what results from it?
– Nothing. I think that we should cross out the words from a dictionary, such as: ‘we help’, ‘an attorney’, ‘an ambassador’ in reference to Ukraine, because they got devalued. We should try to define the current relations with Ukraine in other words. It does not about treating a neighbor-partner as someone clumsy, but mainly about fulfilling one’s duty of a neighbor and suggesting something sensible in the future. In a situation when Poland does not participate in any talks about solving the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, when even EU representatives do not participate in them, we cannot speak about our being attorneys trying to defend interests of Ukraine. It is time we pierced the balloon of diplomatic aspirations.
– What happened in the beginning of March when, in your opinion, Polish interest in the issues of Ukraine started slowing down?
– In my opinion, Radosław Sikorski was not properly supported by the Polish government then. I think that if he had been supported by Donald Tusk, he could have played a role in Ukrainian matters. Unfortunately, for some reasons Poland withdrew completely…
– For what reasons?
– My hypothesis is that there might have been a condition which Tusk felt, that if he was involved in Ukraine, it might have brought a harm to him in elections for a chief of the European Council. It is obvious that many European countries do not want to get engaged in Ukraine, and it is not an important issue for them because they do not perceive Russia as a danger for their interests. The fact is that also Poland stopped engaging in Ukrainian matters and its consequences are bad for us.
– What consequences? After all, we have the Polish president of Europe!
– Despite that in Europe there is a strong stereotype that Poland is ‘crazy’ about Russia, so if Russia is somewhere, then Poland cannot be there. I think it is a scandalous attitude.
– In fact only because of this anti-Russian attitude, was Poland marginalized on the forum of the European diplomacy? Moreover, very little from the plan of being a leader in our region has been realized…
– Mainly because we paid very little attention to good functioning of Central Europe. This is a myth that we could be moved from Central Europe to the West! We will always have the Lithuanians, Latvians, Belarusians, Ukrainians as our neighbours…
– Did we idolize the West too much?
– We paid rather too little attention to the neighbours from the East….
– So, is it possible that we can become a lonely island (not necessarily the green one)?
– We are this island already. Today, for example, countries of the Visegrad group have their own policy, to a large extent subordinated to the interests of Gasprom whereas the Baltic countries do not treat us as a serious partner because they see that Poland is not able to take a consistent attitude, that Poland even does not want to play the role of the leader of the region. Our raison d’etat is being in Central Europe and have partners; to pursue the policy in such a way so as other countries would like to do something with us.
– Don’t they want to do anything with us?
– No, and it turns out that we are alone in Central Europe. And nearly in every situation.
– But not long time ago did we say hopeful words after John Paul II that Poland can give so much to whole Europe. What can it give today?
– The power of Poland could be introducing the common sense in Europe in various spheres. And one would like to refer to texts of John Paul II, in which he saw our engagement in Europe. This Saint was a good politician and understood the Polish raison d’etat very well. Nothing more, nothing less and one knows what to do.
– Whereas it seems as if we did not know what to do. Taking the example of Ukraine, it is seen how much we lose when we close ourselves…
– However, according to the Ukrainian surveys about positive attitude towards other nations, Poles are still leaders! The problem is that such phenomena do not last forever and they should be used very quickly. Political elites in Ukraine started understanding that there is something wrong with us, that maybe we have different plans…There appears uncertainty and surprise by low activity of Poland. It is significant that after Majdan the Polish prime minister did not visit Kiev, that politicians of the government avoided Ukraine, that the Polish governmental economic mission did not appear there. In the beginning nobody noticed it, and now more and more people ask me what it is all about…
– What is your answer?
– It is really difficult to explain – that somebody does not understand something…
– The former prime minister would say that nothing wrong is happening, that nothing wrong happened…
– Whereas we lose what is very important in the international politics, that is, a good name of the country which is a serious partner in the political game. We maintain the image of Poland as a grey sphere of security, that serious matters are not discussed with Poland, that Poland is still in the kindergarden of Europe.