- June 28, 2012
Zakarevičienė: Lithuania and Poland are more similar than different
In terms of the size of the foreign investments, Poland is in second place – would a similar situation be possible in real conflict situation? – asked Loreta Zakarevičienė, Ambassador of Lithuania in Poland, while being interviewed by PL DELFI. In many fields, a constructive and intensive dialogue takes place, and it’s a shame that media do not see it – says the ambassador.
How do you assess the current Polish-Lithuanian relation? Both political scientists and politicians say that in fact we have a conflict situation. Do you agree with this opinion? How can this conflict be solved?
I appeal to political scientists, politicians and all the other people to choose words more carefully and responsibly when assessing the current relation between Poland and Lithuania. I’m sure that claims like “conflict situation” or “conflict solution” does not correspond to reality. According to the Dictionary of Foreign Words, conflict is a situation of contact of the contradictory and mutually exclusive aspirations and viewpoints. Wikipedia gives a similar definition: “conflict” is the opposition of two hostile parties, and in politics it is the action of two groups of people having mutually exclusive goals, aiming to reduce the other party’s possibilities to achieve their goals.
The forces seeking conflict between Poland and Lithuania have always existed; they exist even now. But the reality is, thank God, a bit different than some people try to portray it. Should however be acknowledged that relations between Poland and Lithuania are now different than they were until recently. I would say that these relations are ambiguous and layered. Lithuanian Foreign Minister was right when he said that relations “for show” had disappeared and specific issues came in their place. There are a lot of fields where a constructive and permanent dialogue is continued. It’s a shame that media are silent about it.
It is known that the relationship between the Minister Radosław Sikorski and the Minister Audronius Ažubalis is not exemplary. Does it bother you in your work?
What is the personal relationship between Sikorski and Ažubalis can only say the ministers themselves. However, what is said about these relations in mass media is nothing but rumors and interpretations.
Radosław Sikorski said recently that he expects improvement in relations with Lithuania after the autumn parliamentary elections. How do you assess this statement? Is it possible to improve the Polish-Lithuanian relations in the nearest future, or this “pause” will last longer?
I wouldn’t like to comment the statements of the Polish foreign minister which has been said in the Parliament this spring. I respect the minister and I respect his opinion.
Regarding this ‘pause’, I can’t agree with the words you proposed. I just want to repeat that there are plenty of fields where an intensive and constructive dialog is kept, providing many benefits to both sides. Besides, Lithuania and Poland, being in multilateral relations and being members of the UE and NATO, very often have to discuss their positions, to support each other in many issues important for us and our region.
A year ago in another interview you doubted the loyalty of Polish minority towards Lithuania. Could you comment or explain your statement?
There were enough comments on this issue. Now there will be new comments about this interview. Some will approve my thoughts, some will get angry. Just as it was last time.
The Lithuanian minority living in Poland says that they have a lot of problems as well. Could you bring these problems to our readers?
I believe that all the national minorities, being citizens of another country, have some unsolved problems. The Lithuanians in Poland are no exception. The problems of my countrymen are old and well known, most of them is related to education. For example, as a result of education reforms in Poland the number of Lithuanian schools dropped by nearly half. Secondly, the problem of the issuing of school textbooks in Lithuanian language has not been solved yet. Starting from the fourth grade, there are no textbooks for any subject translated to Lithuanian language, and this means that students of Lithuanian schools must learn using Polish textbooks. The examination papers are another problem; the tasks are given only in Polish. The test of the Lithuanian language is conducted only in high school, while it should take place also after the completion of primary school and gymnasium. Another problem is inadequate funding of Lithuanian schools. The truth is that establishing of the “Žiburis” school, which runs since 2005, was financed completely by Lithuania. Currently, the budget of Lithuania covers 40 percent of the necessary school maintenance funds.
There are more unsolved problems. Some are linked to the commemoration of the Lithuanian cultural heritage, others to access to the Lithuanian television programs or radio broadcast in Lithuania.
Although the political space between Poland and Lithuania contains many unsolved problems, in business, in the economic field, things are moving in the right direction. Polish businessmen invest a lot in Lithuania. Poland is in fourth place in terms of the size of investments in Lithuania. Are there any Lithuanian investments in Poland?
Do you think anything could be arranged well if there was a situation of conflict? I don’t think so…
In fact, in most fields, except one or the other, we work quite normally together. Lithuanians and Poles understand each other well; they coexist and carry out joint projects. The representatives of culture, art and science visit each other, organize joint seminars and conferences, exchange their experience and share information. Not to mention the energy sector where we share many interests and strategic objectives.
Our ministers of defense and military command give us a great example of how neighbours and allies should talk and commune. I can also give an example of great cooperation of border regions of Lithuania and Poland.
In conclusion, it’s not that bad as it is sometimes shown.
Poland is in second, not fourth place in Lithuania in terms of the size of investments. We’re very pleased with it and we always emphasize it. As many as 185 Polish companies came to our country. In addition to well known Orlen and Lotos, the transporting company TRANS should be mentioned. Its branch in Vilnius deals also with the markets of Latvia and Estonia. Currently, the services of TRANS are used by 4000 companies and 6000 of people in Lithuania.
Another Polish investment project in Lithuania is to open a branch of the ABC DATA company, IT distributor. The company plans to invest 700.000 euro in it.
It’s more difficult to talk about the Lithuanian investments in Poland, because unfortunately we don’t have enough official information. With not quite understandable reasons, not all the Lithuanian companies investing in Poland inform us about their activities. From what I know, in Poland are companies such as Achema, Skuba czy Scope Baltija. The Polish market is attractive primarily because it is the largest in Central-Eastern Europe, but it’s not easy to find a place there because of strong competition – there are over 20.000 foreign companies on the Polish market already.
What goals will the Embassy of Lithuania face in the near future? What are the plans and initiatives?
In the near future we want to open two new consulates led by honorary consuls in Kraków and Olsztyn, because we had such agencies only in Gdańsk, Toruń, Szczecin, Poznań and Katowice. We are grateful to Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for quick and positive decision on the proposed candidate for the position of honorary consul in Kraków. We just need to settle formalities and we will be able to think of opening this consulate. Now we are waiting for a decision about an agency in Olsztyn and we have great hopes that this decision will be positive as well.
We have plenty of plans and initiatives; next year, from July 1, Lithuania is going to chair the Council of Europe. We pay attention to the development of relations and contacts between young people from Poland and Lithuania, because the young generation is our future and it’s very important that our countries should be ruled in future by people who know how to converse and collaborate with each other.
How do you feel about life in Poland? Can you compare life in Lithuania and in Poland? How is your cooperation with Polish politicians, social and cultural activists, with ordinary people?
How is my life? It’s good. Cannot be otherwise, if you take the country to which you came with an open heart. You can compare life in Lithuania and in Poland if only specific fields are chosen; otherwise the day is not enough to compare everything. Poland is ten times bigger than Lithuania. On main Polish roads traffic is much bigger than in Lithuania. Lithuanian drivers are more disciplined, and the roads are better.
Both countries are in the same climatic zone – there are more cloudy, rainy and windy days than warm and sunny ones. In the northern Poland, as in Lithuania, there are a lot of lakes. There are mountains in Poland, Lithuania has no mountains, unfortunately. But we have a ski slope in Druskininkai. And so on.
I cannot complain about the lack of friends. I can complain about the lack of time for them, so I appreciate every meeting and I care for the time spent in my friends’ company. We talk, discuss, sometimes argue and joke. We’ve got a wide range of common topics, from global politics to knitting and planting flowers. Recently, of course, our discussions were dominated by football. I supported Poland. It’s a pity that the Poles didn’t go on to play in the quarterfinals.
I appreciate the contact with Polish intellectuals, people from the world of culture and science. During these meetings once more I am convinced that a lot of things connect Lithuania with Poland. Much more than divide them. And it gives me optimism.
Tłumaczenie Ewelina Zarembska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Ewelina Zarembska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.