- February 26, 2013
Sidorkiewicz: „I would not call it a breakthrough”
“I would not call it a breakthrough, I would not count for it but rather for concrete and systematic resolution of problems. The character is very significant but it may turn out to be not enough”, said in an interview with PL DELFI Ms Krzysztof Sidorkiewicz, a research fellow from the State School of Higher Professional Education in Elbląg who works as researcher of Polish-Lithuania relations. There is no denying that Tomaszewski’s points of view remain unchanged. After the elections, the president of EAPL acknowledged that the most important thing is not to remain in coalition but to deal with the programme affairs. The Matura exam is coming closer, yet the problem is still unresolved”, reminds the lecturer.
Recently, a great intensification of visits at the highest rank was visible in the Polish-Lithuania relations: Mr Linas Linkevičius and Mr Algirdas Butkevičius visited Poland whereas the President Komorowski visited Lithuania. How do you esteem the results of these meetings, can we already talk about a sort of breakthrough or these were just empty diplomatic rituals?
Having heard about the reports on the meetings, I have an impression that for the time being, only are the possibilities of mutual interest and cooperation examined. The Poland’s support of Lithuania’s current year presidency in EU starting on 1st July, the organisational and political support for the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius or the case of joining Lithuania to Polish gas network are signs of the beginnings of the mutual cooperation. There are also important matters which take their own courses and concern both States. Polish-Lithuanian electrical bridge, as a part of EU cross-border electric programme, might be ready in 2015. Whereas in 2012, Polish airmen took part for the fourth time in the NATO mission called “Baltic Air Policing” which consists of guarding airspaces of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. These are tangible facts.
Lithuania has already made the significant announcements…
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Linas Linkevičius talks about appointing a working group which would deal with though problems. Its main aim would be to prepare an amendment to the resolution referring to the guidelines of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. There is an announcement of solving the problem with the bilingual spelling of cities’ and streets’ names. At the same time, Mr Linkevičius called it in one of interviews a “complicated and long-lasting” process. The Prime Minister, Mr Butkevičius, underlined that the motions of ways of resolving these issues could be filed already in March. After the announcements of improving the relations with Poland, which were made during the electoral campaign, this is another important step forward.
Is it already a breakthrough or just words?
I would not call it a breakthrough, I would not even count for it but rather for concrete and systematic resolution of problems. The character is very significant but it may turn out to be not enough. In 1997, both States pronounced strategic partnership and mutual relations were said to be the best in history. In the subsequent years, the character of conversation was still good, problems were about to be solved and even some proposals were put forward. Yet, unsolved matters have become a source of conflicts. The growth in the number of visits in the recent time is quite optimistic as a dialogue is always better than a lack of conversation. Still, I would not call it a breakthrough but rather a normalisation.
How should the role of Miss President Grybauskaite in the Polish-Lithuanian reconciliation be esteemed? Recently, the head of the State heaped criticism on the Minister of Foreign Affairs for his apologies related to the Seimas’ decision from 2010. What is more, in the TV audition for “Laba diena Lietuva”, she acknowledged that Lithuania should seek for real, not fake friends, which was considered to be an allusion to Poland. She could not also find the time for a press conference with the President Komorowski. Will Dalia Grybauskaite be “a brake” for the amelioration of Polish-Lithuanian relations or is she just trying firmly to defend the Lithuanian interest and wants to be re-elected?
This is absolutely interior issue of Lithuania, I mean the difference in points of view, of two important centres of power. Actually, we have a system of cohabitation and differences are completely normal. Of course, if it concerns foreign politics of a state, it poses a problem, especially in the external relations. Let me refer to the situation which happened a couple of years ago when the President Lech Kaczyński (deceased) had an opposite opinion to the governmental one concerning the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. In the existing political realia the differences will be arousing in various cases. It is the society who, by elections, has the final decision.
Recently, the Polish community in Lithuania has been agitated by Waldemar Tomaszewski’s declaration about the EAPL’s plans of quitting the ruling coalition. What is your point of view on that? Does the president of the Action act consciously for the realisation of the programme which was set up for the elections or did he just “misestimate the situation”, as one of Polish political scientists said in an interview for PL DELFI?
There is no denying that Tomaszewski’s points of view remain unchanged. After the elections, the president of EAPL acknowledged that the most important thing is not to remain in coalition but to deal with the programme affairs. The Matura exam is coming closer, yet the problem is still unresolved. Was it the appropriate time for making declaration of possible withdrawal from coalition? Well, this is a contentious issue. If we look at it from the political perspective, it was probably a sign, a sort of reminder of electoral manifesto addressed to the Action’s electorate. All in all, all parties do that, in more or less spectacular way. However, the yesterday’s information shows that the members of the coalition cleared up the problems. The announcement made says that the majority of contentious issues have been resolved. Working meetings were announced, which would result in setting up a schedule of examining particular issues. Yet, the details of meetings were not disclosed. The coalition has survived this crisis.
How in your opinion will develop the Polish-Lithuanian relations in 2013? Are there high chances for the present centre-left coalition to survive or will the resolutions on national minorities or spelling names be adopted? Will the issues tough for Polish-Lithuanian relations be finally resolved and will we move on to the pragmatic cooperation with the EU or will we act together in the field of energy?
The resolution of problems you mentioned is not that easy. For example, the results of an opinion poll in reference to the resolution of national minorities’ problems carried out recently in Lithuania show that 37% of the Lithuanians are strongly against fulfilling the Poles’ demands concerning spelling of names and Polish educational system. The 45% acknowledge that the demands should be fulfilled only if the demands of the Lithuanians residing in Poland will be fulfilled. Only 15% of questioned were for fulfilling the demands of the Poles. Well, politicians, even these from the coalition, follow the results of sociological research. Will the public opinion change its mind? In the long run it is possible but it will not happen soon.
In 2011 you became one of the signatories of the Forum for Polish-Lithuanian Dialogue which was established even before the Forum for Polish-Lithuanian Dialogue and Cooperation. How does the activity of the Forum look like, what has already been achieved and do both institutions not double themselves?
The Forum for Polish-Lithuanian Dialogue was created on 23rd June 2011 in Seinai. The representatives of academic and cultural communities were its creators. The Forum had a civic character. An independent body of opinion was about to support the rule of both States in order to ameliorate the Polish-Lithuanian relations. The next meeting was held on 20th October 2011 at the Vilnius University on the occasion of 220th anniversary of the Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations. I had an honour to participate in panel meetings at the University of Warsaw where Professor Irena Vaišvilaitė, Professor Alfred Bumblauskas, docent Eligijus Raila and other members of the Forum presented their opinions. The members of the Forum were of the belief that the then deterioration of the relations did not serve anyone and they wanted the reestablishment of good collaboration. If we managed to contribute even symbolically to the better mutual understanding, it means a lot. I think that these kinds of initiatives should be undertaken as often as possible as the collaboration between different communities is a common thing. It is the only way of building the fundamentals of dialogue, mutual understanding and willingness of getting to know the other party. It is much easier to resolve problems then. It is also one of the elements of the civic society which has been developing for over twenty years in both States.
What can the academic society do for the Polish-Lithuanian reconciliation?
The academic societies of both States are in general in good relations. Conferences, seminars and lectures are being held on both sides of the border. The fact that sometimes we have divergent opinions on some issues is not a problem. No matter how different an opinion is, we try to understand it, at least I see things like that. The academic society makes opinions and this constitutes its power. There are also experts who advise the governmental, presidential or parliamentary bodies on what decision they should take.
You are the author of the publication entitled “Między demokracją a buntem: działalność polityczna i samorządowa Polaków w Republice Litewskiej (1988-2011)” (Between the democracy and the rebellion: political and council activity of the Poles in the Republic of Lithuania (1988-2011)). If we were to sum up, what would the Poles manage to achieve during the last 25 years and what would be still perceived as a problem at council and national level? How much of the “democracy” and the “rebellion” is still visible in the Polish-Lithuanian relations?
We, I mean Poland and Lithuania, have been going through the period of transformation all the time, in spite of all these years which has passed since the both States regained their independence. And we still have been familiarizing with this situation. I have an impression that the majority of us wished some changes to be introduced much faster. In case of the “democracy”, both nations still learn how to act within the rules imposed by this system, whereas the “rebellion” is an integral part of the democracy. Sometimes, it is necessary to present a problem in a firm way and it is a part of the democracy. I hope that these issues will be solved soon, yet I know it is not easy. Great organisational abilities contributed certainly to the success of the Poles in Lithuania. It is very helpful when the Polish national minority focuses on one domain. In some local governments, the Poles decide themselves about their future and their representatives wield executive and legislative power. In some other local governments, the EAPL joined governmental coalitions or supported ruling parties, which was seen as the willingness to participate in the governing of the State and in consequence, in taking the responsibility of its future. This situation happened after the elections in 2012. It showed the efficiency of the community which managed to pass the election threshold for the first time in Lithuanian elections. However, it is a tough task to be decisive for the future. If Lithuanian parties put forward an interesting offer for the Polish national minority, the situation may also change.
The last question will concern the issue of the region. You live and you teach in Elbląg, please describe how does the collaboration between your city and your State School look like?
The official document on collaboration between Druskininkai and Elbląg is dated on 1994. In the subsequent years, many joint undertakings were upheld, starting from organisation of delegations and foreign visits. Concerts and expositions were held in both States. In Elbląg, the artistic community form Druskininkai was presenting their pieces of work and the artists from Elbląg were presenting theirs in Lithuania. Sport events were organised as well. In the last years, contact between two cities is not as regular as it was before. However, Elbląg is still open to cooperation. In my opinion, the current financial crisis and limitation resulting from it has a significant impact on this situation. In 2014, we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of signing the agreement on collaboration. Perhaps, it will be the occasion for summarizing the achievements up to now or exploring new solutions to problems.
As for the State School of Higher Professional Education in Elbląg, it has the agreements on collaboration with the Universitas Studiorum Polona Vilnensis and Kaunas University of Technology. Currently, the preparations for signing an agreement with the Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius are being made. Following actions are being undertaken: participation in seminars and academic conferences, exchanges of information and experiences or academic teachers.
Krzysztof Sidorkiewicz – historian and political scientist, researcher of the Institute of Economics in the State School of Higher Professional Education in Elbląg, assistant at the Institute of History and Foreign Relations at University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn. In 2003, he defended his PhD thesis entitled “The civic-political situation of the Poles in the Republic of Lithuania in the nineties of XX century.” In 2011 he published a monograph entitled “Between the democracy and the rebellion: political and council activity of Poles in the Republic of Lithuania in the years 1988-2011.” He is a member of the Polish Society of International Studies (pol. PTSM) and the Polish Historical Society (pol. PTH). Currently, he is working on a book concerning Polish-Lithuanian relations after 1990.
Tłumaczenie Bartłomiej Cichoń w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Bartłomiej Cichoń within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.