Ukraine wants everything but what it gives in return?
Agnieszka Piasecka, NGO activist and journalist, drawed some features of Ukraine's image in Poland and the EU and spoke on latest elections, lustration and anti-corruption activities in Poland and Ukraine
112 International publishes the finishing part of the interview with Agnieszka Piasecka. She is a project manager at the Open Dialog Foundation, responsible for strategic planning and organization of the reforms support project with focus on lustration and reform of the judiciary. Agnieszka cooperates with USAID FAIR Justice Project, and EU Advisory Mission in Ukraine, among others. She is a member of Reanimation Package of Reforms Judiciary Group and Analyst of Imorevox – a project of Vox Ukraine. Majored in International Relations. Previously - a journalist and columnist in Poland.
- In Poland, the authorities changed, "Law and Justice" won the elections. How this change of power configuration may affect Polish support of Ukraine in Europe? Recently there was a statement that Kyiv must recognize the events in Volyn in 1943 as genocide against the Poles. How this problem, together with the popularity of extreme right forces, OUN and UPA issue, is perceived in the EU and may affect the attitude to Ukraine?
I am not a historian, but I can say one thing. Together with my colleague Oleksandr Zinchenko from the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, we had a long discussion about this. I see one issue: two states say often “sorry” but there is always a list of “buts” that follows. These "buts" prevent the mutual reconciliation. If you need to forgive each other - just forgive, that’s all. You must just say sorry - and stop. Without any "buts"! This is the same as in relations between people.
- As for the popularity of extreme right-wing forces in Europe, is it connected to the refugee crisis, or to some internal factors? Can you explain it on the example of Poland?
Returning to Polish-Ukrainian relations, Poland began to defend Ukraine during and after the Maidan. Among the few Polish politicians, Kaczynski attended the protests on the Maidan, for example. You must also be aware that after 2010, when the Polish president died in the plane crush, Poland did not support the countries of the Eastern Partnership too much. Support was back only during and after the Maidan, it shall be remembered. The party that was in power in Poland ["Civic Platform"] began to repeat late president Kaczynski’s words, said in Georgia, and started implementing the support policy. So, I would not say that it is bad for Ukraine that "Law and Justice" has come to power.
But when I meet with Ukrainian MPs, almost everyone has such attitude that Poland simply must defend Ukraine in the EU. There is a question - you want everything, but what Ukraine is giving in return? Interstate cooperation - it is always some kind of trade, exchange. What Ukraine can give in return? I do not know the details of political negotiations, I can only say about the position of Polish entrepreneurs - it is difficult to do business here, the resistance of the system is huge, and the State Fiscal Service always creates some problems for them and so on. This is an example that Ukraine can give - the better attitude.
There is also a case of one Polish citizen, which is held for four years in jail in Odesa. When the Polish representatives meet with Ukrainian officials on the subject, we can say that there is a blank wall. I just remembered only two relevant and problematic cases. Poland will support Ukraine, but with more severe attitude: "Dear friends, we have some issues to be discussed." This is my opinion.
- I know that you have recently returned from Poltava. We have ongoing local election process, votes calculating. Were you involved in this process, how could you estimate it? In particular, many Ukrainian experts were surprised by results reached by "Svoboda" in non-traditional areas for this party, particularly in Poltava region. They suffered the trend of falling support, and now it is rising. How do you feel about this?
It's a little bit funny, it was evident that these local elections demonstrated the serious level of political advertising, as if it were presidential elections. I was not surprised that "Svoboda" got so many votes in Poltava region. I was there at the seminar on lustration, but had a chance to hear the views of ordinary citizens. They are tired of the lack of reforms. It is very hard to access the public information. "Svoboda" has used this psychological fatigue. Elections is the issue of psychology of voters, when they are tired of former incumbents, they vote for new faces. Nobody thinks, is a candidate an expert, what is his education. It doesn’t matter, they seek for the new faces.
- To the subject of anti-corruption reforms. After Maidan, the issue of lustration was raised. How lustration and the fight against corruption could be used as a tool of political persecution and pressure?
Even if the law on lustration has its disadvantages, it is still a tool that can and should be used to deal with the old bureaucracy. In every post-Soviet state, there is one huge problem with mentality: people come to power and think that everything should depend namely on them – they forget to create the system which they will leave one day and leave it working as a legacy for next generations.
With this level of resistance of the old system I do not see lustration laws to be a tool of political persecution in any way, but I see exactly the above problem – lack of readiness to be a statesmen and lack of readiness to trust other people than narrow circle of friends.
The President’s Administration doesn’t even protect these laws, majority of higher rank of Ministry of Interior, Judiciary, a lot of ministers are against, so how it would become an instrument of pressure? But the authors of the lustration law surely should communicate the aims in transparent way, and – seriously work on the needed amendments.
Lustration legislation is already working a little, but I cannot say that I see the work of the National Anticorruption Bureau - it is absolutely passive. When one gets to the website of the Polish CBA (Central Anticorruption Bureau), there are at least 3 different options shown how a citizen can anonymously inform the agency about corruption crimes. At the Ukrainian CAB homepage – I do not see such option. There must be the principle that people could contact anonymously. Otherwise, corruption crimes will prevail.
- What should be done step by step, for the same Anti-Corruption Bureau to begin working? What should we start with and in which way move in the fight against corruption?
I will tell you, how it was in Poland. Our anticorruption legislation was adopted rather late, the Central Anticorruption Bureau was established in 2005, when the "Law and Justice" has come to power. But we also had a huge public campaign in support of the fight against corruption. The views of the older generation change difficultly, but if you start with the younger generation, say them: "You cannot give and take bribes, because it is unethical", it must serve. And the elders are just accustomed to bribes, their opinion is hard to change, and this is problematic.
Regarding anticorruption instruments. There must be the defense of witnesses and the possibility to complain anonymously regarding major corruption schemes. If criminals know the person's name, address, where his or her children go to school - it's a threat to life.
You must also begin the judicial reform because majority of hard cases are decided by court gives the verdict. Of course, the judicial system must be trusted. And right now this is not the case. You need to avoid the situation where there will be a good prosecutor preparing solid case, honest cop arresting a criminal, witnesses willing to testify and all of this effort will be spoiled by corrupted judges. So – I would start with the judges. In Poland there is an old pre war building of the court where it is written “Justice is the foundation of the power and durability of the Polish Republic”. In Poland people lost faith in this slogan cause after the fall of the communism pretty much same judges remained in the system for a long time. You should create the state where this slogan is associated with respect and faith instead of a laugh – and then you will be on the right path.
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