'Poland imposes its vision of history because of void of such vision in Ukraine'

Author : Andriy Deshchytsia

Respondent : Andriy Deshchytsia

Ambassador of Ukraine to Poland, Andriy Deshchytsia discusses a wide range of issues in Ukrainian-Polish relations: from common historical heritage to attracting investment and solving problems on the Ukrainian-Polish border.

23:16, 8 August 2017

Read original article at eurointegration.com.ua

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- Do you think that Poland remains our strategic partner, a friendly country and a lawyer for Ukraine's European aspirations?

- The statements and position that Poland takes in the European Union, give grounds to argue that it is still interested in supporting Ukraine on its way to Europe.

This was demonstrated during discussions in the EU and the extension of sanctions against the Russian Federation, and on granting Ukraine a visa-free regime, and to speed up the ratification of the Association Agreement.

It is also worth paying attention to intensive Ukrainian-Polish contacts at the level of presidents, governments, parliaments or public organizations. In Poland, dozens of Ukrainian children of our soldiers are now on vacation, and their local self-government bodies made it on their own initiative.

- How, in this context, can you explain the recent statements of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland?

- First of all, we need a differentiation of issues of politics and history.

- But the Polish side itself deliberately connects them!

- We advocate that historical issues, which are really extremely important, should be discussed at the level of experts and historians. At a stage when this work continues, it is still too early to take these issues to the political level. Especially since ultimatum approaches in the historical dialogue do not help much.

- In Ukraine, Waszczykowski 's statements were seen as the withdrawal of Poland from the status of a lawyer of Ukraine. Do you agree with this assessment?

- Again - let's see what Poland does for Ukraine and what position it occupies in the international arena. I have already mentioned the clear position of Warsaw regarding the European prospects of Ukraine, the same clear position with regard to other international organizations.

- But from the Polish side there is not a discussion, but the imposition of its vision.

- Therefore, first of all, we need to develop our position and our assessment. There shouldn’t be the void in assessing your own past.

Because if there is such void, there will always be someone else's attempts to fill it. I mean, first it was the Soviet Union, then Russia, then Poland, which are trying to impose their point of view on us. The sooner we come to our own assessment, the stronger our positions will be.

- Now we are talking not only about statements from Poland. Let us recall the events in Peremyshl or the dismantling of the Ukrainian monument in Grushovychi. Is this enough to talk about the trend?

- Yes, with the change of power in Poland, historical politics took a prominent place in our dialogue.

Our position is unchanged - the historical policy, which is aimed at the internal electorate, should not be mixed with interstate relations. That's why you need to maintain your position, giving historians the opportunity to calmly understand what was happening in Volyn and Eastern Galicia in the 30s, 40s and 50s of the last century.

- Poland has answered all questions for itself, in particular - in the last year's decision of the Sejm and the Senate. Is dialogue possible in such conditions?

- That's right, that's why we should give an assessment of what happened in Volyn in the 1940s, and the reasons that led to the tragedy. Before this, it is necessary to give historians a chance to conduct such objective research and public discussion. Including - to condemn those crimes that need to be condemned.

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Our political assessments may differ from Polish ones. But that's what diplomacy exists for - to find common ground.

 - Poland reacts very loudly to any steps that it considers the rehabilitation of criminals. And at the same time there is a heroization of the Polish "damned soldiers" who participated in war crimes, including against the Ukrainian people. But Ukraine is silent about this. Should we also react?

- I agree with you, but no one forbids Ukraine, Ukrainian politicians to make such statements.

The problem is that the Polish society is more aware of its own history than the Ukrainian one. And this has its continuation, including - in the actions and statements of politicians.

Remember how past voting on historical issues in the parliament took place, and how they voted on the Volyn question in the Sejm and the Senate. Polish deputies worried about their political image, because they felt the pressure of voters.

The position of the Polish parliament was unambiguous: the genocide of the Polish people took place in Ukraine. I note that this is only a Polish political assessment, and not an assessment of the international court.

However, one should not hope that this problem will disappear one day, for example, after another change of power. Now in Poland there is no party that is ready to cancel last year's ruling. But this does not mean that we do not need to work and conduct a dialogue with Poland.

- Should Ukraine react to each such statement?

- We are reacting. It is enough to recall our reaction to the interview of the Polish Foreign Minister. The Ambassador of Poland was summoned to our Foreign Ministry, and it was pointed out that such a statement was inadmissible. For my part, I had a conversation about this with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland.

- It's not just about the statements of officials. Similar things say the famous media persons, without having any punishment for it. Is this a problem?

- Yes, but this is a problem of the Polish state. Such statements were made not only against Ukrainians. For inciting inter-ethnic strife, one must bear responsibility and punishment.

- Did the historical debates affect the attitude of the Poles to the Ukrainians?

- If you ask Ukrainians living in Poland now, I am sure that they will say that mostly they do not experience such changes in everyday life, although we already have some cases of negative attitude towards Ukrainians.

In Poland, there are ultra-right parties and movements that use hostile rhetoric and try to generalize all Ukrainians as bandits and "killers".

And this is very similar to Soviet propaganda, when anyone who spoke in Ukrainian received the brand of "Bandera"! But in my experience of communicating with Ukrainians in Poland, this is not a common phenomenon that would affect the domestic life of our compatriots, but such trends can intensify if there is no corresponding reaction from Polish politicians and officials.

- Another issue is that the Polish authorities are trying to present Ukrainian workers as migrants who do not pay taxes, and also require assistance.

- Last year, we already reacted to this statement of the Polish prime minister, and we continue to provide relevant explanations in the Polish media.

Such statements are aimed at "consumers" in the EU. Poland is trying to use this argument to refuse accepting refugees from the Middle East. As far as we know, such an argument is not perceived by the European Commission, but such statements are still heard from time to time.

- With what other initiatives should we proceed?

- There are two priorities: increase of Polish investments and creation of transport corridors, which would unite Ukraine with Poland and the rest of Europe.

Now our economic cooperation is developing steadily, every year we have a small plus in bilateral trade. But investments level is not growing.

One of the reasons is the doubts of Poles regarding security of such investments. We try to convince them of sufficient stability of the situation in the east of Ukraine, but investors are still pausing. And lack of investment means, among other things, a lack of strategy and vision of our common future.

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- Poland has already started buying liquefied gas in the US. Is it possible to supply this gas to Ukraine?

- We buy gas in Poland through the reverse flow. But these are small volumes, to increase them we need to complete the interconnector - about 100 km of the pipeline. Such work continues. This will allow increasing gas purchases in Poland for several times.

This also applies to US gas, but there is a price issue. If the price is profitable for us - we are ready to consider the possibility of buying US gas. Preliminary talks are already underway, but so far neither Poland nor the United States know what the price of this gas will be under long-term contracts.

- Another energy project, already forgotten, is the Odessa-Brody-Plotsk pipeline. Does it have prospects?

- We have two big energy projects on the negotiating table with Poland. This is the already mentioned Odessa-Brody-Plotsk, as well as the energy bridge from Khmelnitsky NPP to Ryashev. The key issue for the pipeline is the question of filling them with oil and another question – on payback. If there is a favorable proposal, the project can be implemented.

As for the energy bridge, both economic and political solutions are needed.

We have the opportunity to sell excess electricity, but does Poland want this? Not really.

- Poles are afraid of cheap electricity from Ukraine. In the end, we can continue this energy bridge across Poland to other European countries.

Therefore, this issue should also be discussed in the framework of the Energy Community.

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