- February 6, 2013
Wilczewski: Will diplomatic visits reconcile Poland with Lithuania?
Linas Linkevičius, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is visiting Warsaw on the 7 of February. The minister is going to meet with his Polish opposite number, Radoslaw Sikorski. Linkevičius will also have to organise favourable conditions before the Prime Minister, Algirdas Butkevičius, comes to Poland. The head of Lithuanian government was to come to Poland in the second half of January but his visit was unexpectedly postponed. Finally, his visit is taking place on the 12 of February.
Diplomatic visits are nothing out of the ordinary in the international relations. It is proper and obvious when two countries declare to be strategic partners. It used to be like that a few years ago, when Lithuanian and Polish presidents and prime ministers would visit each other regularly in order to ensure the stability of “friendly relations and neighbourly help” (to refer to the title of the treaty made in 1994) which unites both countries.
It seems that not much was left of the atmosphere of those times. The President Dalia Grybauskaitė, who was in Warsaw on the National Independence Day on the 11 of November 2011, did not find time to visit Poland last year. On the other hand, the Lithuanian side was affronted during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the January events, held in 2011, when the rank of Polish government delegation was lowered.
Two years ago, in March 2010, Lech Kaczynski visited Vilnius to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania. Month later, Lech Kaczynski came to Lithuania again to raise, for instance, unsolved issues of Polish minority. The Lithuanian parliament “welcomed” the Polish president by rejecting the bill that would legalise spelling of names in minorities’ languages (including Polish). It was Lech Kaczynski’s last foreign visit before the tragic flight to Smolensk…
One may think – when looking at the statistics – that a cooling in Polish-Lithuanian relations is a fiction. After Lech Kaczynski’s death, President Bronislaw Komorowski still is active in this field. He regularly participates in subsequent anniversaries of the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1918 (He will come this year as well.). He uses the opportunity to assert the Polish minority rights, to pay homage to the victims of Ponary massacre or to honour people who served both countries (In February 2011, the President met with Father Jozef Obrebski – “the patriarch of Vilnius Region” – and honoured him with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland).
The Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, is less eager to visit Vilnius. We remember his well-known visit in 2011, which was in the middle of a fiery dispute over the education bill. The effects of that visit are rather disappointing, because this ulcer, which is the new education law, has not been cut yet. Sikorski did not hide his reluctance to visit Lithuania. The resolution of Polish minority’s problems were factors conditioning his visit in Vilnius. Now it seems that the atmosphere must have changed, since minister Sikorski has no qualms about visiting his Lithuanian opposite number.
From the statistic point of view, it can be concluded that the Polish-Lithuanian relations remained intensive during the presidency of Lech Kaczynski and Bronislaw Komorowski and – on the other side – during the presidency of Valdas Adamkus and Dalia Grybauskaitė; in case of governments: PiS and PO in Warsaw – and on the other side – social democrats and conservatives in Vilnius. It is thought that the previous relations used to appeal to the community of values or to this, difficult to capture, “strategic partnership;” then, between years 2008 and 2009, the relations became more pragmatic and later on they cooled because of differences of opinion on the minority’s issue.
Despite the frequent meetings of the heads of states’ and of the prime ministers’ at the time of Kaczynski and Adamkus’ presidencies, the quantity did not change into quality. More critical commentators claim that at that time Polish minority was sacrificed at the altar of good Polish-Lithuanian relations and the main focus was on the energy and economic sector. When we recall how great emphasis late Lech Kaczynski put on the role of national unity, such opinions seem to be rather unfair. Who knows how would Polish-Lithuanian relations look, if his presidency was not tragically interrupted…
From the perspective of time, taking offence at Lithuania would be useless. Problems can’t be resolved if both countries grow apart and lose contact. Before the war, till the year 1938 (the 75th anniversary of Polish ultimatum is coming), the Polish-Lithuanian relations did not exist. It did not hamper, or even it did give a local government in Kovno a free hand in introducing severe policy towards Polish minority living in Lithuania at that time.
We must therefore wish that more visits and meetings be shared but at the same time we would like to expect that they be filled with authentic content, and should refer to genuine values and affairs which unite both countries.
Tłumaczenie Patrycja Olszówka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Patrycja Olszówka the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.