Speaker of Polish Senate: For 72 years, we were silent about German reparations

Author : Yuriy Panchenko

Respondent : Stanislaw Karchevsky

Source : 112 Ukraine

Stanislaw Karchevsky on German reparations to Poland, perspectives of Three Seas model, criticism of two-speed Europe initiative, and Polish-Ukrainian mnemonic battles
12:43, 18 September 2017

Read the original text at

Polskie Radio

In recent months, a number of controversies between Ukraine and Poland have erupted. Some of the conflicts were promptly settled; for example, the initiative to place the image of the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów ("Memorial of Eaglets") on the pages of new Polish passport. But still some problems remain unsolved.

During Economic Forum in Krynica, we managed to talk with Stanislaw Karchevsky, Marshal (speaker) of the Senate of Poland. We have discussed the most urgent issues on our agenda.

Recently, a number of events have occurred in Poland, which can be called anti-Ukrainian. I mean, attacks against Ukrainians, dismantling of Ukrainian tombstones ... In the context of these events, does Poland remain friendly to Ukraine?

I assure that Poland was and remains a country that is friendly to Ukraine. Just recall the efforts of the Polish authorities to form friendly relations with Ukraine. We are in constant contact with the Ukrainian authorities and promptly solve all the challenges. The last example is my meeting with Mr. Parubiy (Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Andriy Parubiy - Ed.), during which we managed to discuss a very wide range of issues.

And finally we have very close communication at the level of society. People travel from one country to another, after Ukraine has got visa regime, these trips became more frequent, and business relations have become stronger.

How would you explain the controversies on the ground of history?

Historical policy always requires communication. Both historians and politicians should be involved into the discussion. Only then, the dialogue might yield positive results. And there is nothing anti-Ukrainian, I repeat, our attitude towards Ukraine is extremely positive.

Related: Memorial to Polish victims of Huta Pieniacka massacre rifled in Lviv region

On the other hand, one should admit that historical misunderstandings between our peoples have occurred. Their solution is the goal of the historical dialogue. I hope that the Ukrainian side understands the importance of such a dialogue and is ready for it.

Related: 7 prominent Kyiv monuments damaged by the vandals

How would you explain the initiative of the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs to place an image of a Lviv memorial on the pages of a new Polish passport then? Isn’t it anti-Ukrainian?

As you probably know, next year Poland will celebrate one hundred years of regaining our independence. In connection with this, the idea was to update the design of passports, placing on them images of places important for the Polish consciousness. After discussions, projects of such images were identified. Then there was an idea to place an image of the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów ("Memorial of Eaglets").

Related: Ukrainian and Polish memorials in Kyiv region desecrated by vandals

If you recall our story, then you will have no doubts why this memorial is important to us and occupies a great place in our memory. And of course, this was designed as a provocation against Ukraine. After we heard the objections of the Ukrainian side, we revised our plans. That is why we will not put this image on the pages of our new passports.

Despite the assurances of friendship, the level of economic cooperation between our countries remains low. How can we change it?

First, politicians should create a positive climate for our trade cooperation. This is what our governments should do. Poland is interested in investing in the Ukrainian economy and increasing our commodity turnover.

Gazeta Wyborcza

Why then these desires do not lead to real investments?

Polish business environment becomes more and more interest in investing in Ukraine. It has increased due to the signing of a free trade regime with the European Union. We also expect implementation of a number of European programs in Ukraine and finally we see a gradual recovery of Ukrainian economy.

This would further enhance the investment attractiveness. However, to do this, Ukraine needs to create safe business conditions, which should be the top priority.

Poland does not hurry to involve Ukraine in the implementation of the Three Seas Initiative, even though Kyiv considers this initiative interesting for itself. In particular, President Poroshenko was not invited to the last Three Seas forum in Warsaw.

This forum cannot necessary be the only one basis for making conclusions – President of Poland invited the heads the Three Seas countries (the Baltic countries, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria – Ed.), members of the European Union (President of the United States Donald Trump was also invited - Ed.).

Related: Polish view of the future of Ukraine and Europe

This does not mean that it is impossible to expand the project. However, the approval of such a decision falls within the authority of the president, so I would not comment on this topic in more detail.

But in your opinion, would Ukraine ever join this initiative?

It seems to me that sooner or later Ukraine will take part in Three Seas initiative. However, I repeat, the adoption of such a decision is the president's initiative.

Now let us speak about Ukrainian workers. Polish authorities stubbornly call then refugees. What is the reason for such a misconception? These people do not receive subsidies; on the contrary, they pay taxes?

That’s right. Poland, as well as a number of other countries, is not inclined to accept migrants by the quotas imposed by the European Union. Instead, we have a very good experience of working with Ukrainian citizens, and we are very proud of it.

Related: Polish political crisis and three lessons for Ukraine

But we are talking about substitution of notions: refugees and economic migrants. Why do you call those people, who pay taxes, “refugees?”

That is why we appreciate Ukrainian citizens. They work, integrate into the Polish environment, pay taxes. That is why we have always supported the abolition of visas for Ukrainian citizens.

Well, let us talk about refugees then. Poland refuses to accept them for EU quotas. How then can we solve the problem of refugees in Europe?

We are confident that this problem should be quickly rectified on the spot – where home of these refugees is located. Here we are ready for maximum support: we are ready to invest in the restoration of schools, hospitals, cities, roads... Our task is to enable people who are forced to move to Europe to return to their homes.

But often it is about the territory torn in war!

We are also ready to help resolve this conflict. In any case, there is always the possibility of finding safe areas where refugees could return without a threat to life.

Related: Ukraine to not enter Europe with Bandera, - Polish MFA

Tell us about the new initiative of Poland to demand reparations from Germany. How realistic is this initiative?

I do not know how realistic it is, but I know that Polish citizens have the right to get such reparations. If you look back at the history, you would see how Poland have suffered as a result of World War, I mean human resources and the economy. The entire Polish economy after the war recovered from the ruins. It took decades to recover!

For 72 years, we have remained silent about the issue of German reparations. Now we talk about it, because we are confident that our position is absolutely correct both from the legal side and from the point of view of morality.

However, Germany considers the issue of reparations closed. What will Poland do?

Yes, but their explanations do not suit us. We continue to calculate our losses from military operations, and our lawyers are studying ways of recovering these reparations. When this work is completed, we will be able to formally raise this issue. And then we will see what their answer will be.

Would Poland appeal to the international arbitration to get the reparations?

We will see; we are now only at the beginning of this path. Let us just wait and see what happens next. In any case, such an appeal on our part is possible, but it will only be a last resort. While we look forward to resolving this issue in the format of bilateral talks with Germany.

Related: Experts from Ukraine and Poland jointly developed Stokrotka missile system

How would current political crisis that arose after President Andrzej Duda's veto of two draft laws on the judicial reform package be resolved?

The president has actually vetoed two bills. We respect this decision, and we expect him to submit his proposals for judicial reform. Now  the office of the president is developing them, and the work is already in the final phase.

In any case, there is no reason to talk about the crisis. Both the president and me, and the members of the government belong to the same party, and we have close opinions. Therefore, we should not expect any turn of the course - the president shares our values and our vision of justice.

But this vision is already criticized by the European Union. Have you ever thought of a possibility of imposing sanctions against Poland?

The European Union cannot and does not have the right to interfere in our work. We are ready to prove that our initiatives are in line with European legislation. Instead, European Commission criticizes the initiatives before the moment they have acquired the form of legislative acts. Old bills have already been vetoed, new ones have not yet been submitted.

Related: Poland is ready to support deployment of UN peacekeepers in Donbas

But the EU is already criticizing these initiatives, not even being familiar with them. It is weird!

Poland is actively criticizing two-speed Europe initiative. What do you see as a threat?

Not only Poland criticizes two-speed Europe - this initiative is criticized by the countries that have recently joined the EU, and by the countries that are planning entry.

The fact is that under such a scenario, the European Union loses its foundation. This foundation is our unity and equality. Instead, we can get a situation where someone's voice is more important, and someone’s - less. It is unacceptable.

That is why we insist on preserving the key principle of the EU - all countries are equal.

Related: Polish Minister plans to build fence on border with Ukraine and Belarus

The final question is about modernization of the Eastern Partnership program. Including - by increasing opportunities for countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

I will not say something new here – Poland advocates for the enlargement of the EU. Therefore, we will support initiatives on deepening cooperation, including with Ukraine.


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