• May 26, 2015
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Duda talks exclusively to zw.lt: Polish attitude towards Lithuania is unreasonable

“The actions aimed at improvement of Polish minority in Lithuania shall be preceded by the reconstruction of methods used to influence Lithuania and whole region.” Andrzej Duda, the president elect of Poland, told us. Andrzej Duda gave this interview during the electoral campaign.

What is your opinion on the Polish politics towards Lithuania in the last 7 years? To what extent did it turn out to be effective (in the field of international relations and national minorities issue), to what extent it was our failure? Was the Minister Sikorski right with bringing the matter to a head and as a result setting Poland against the Lithuanian establishment?

Looking from the perspective of a few years it has to be stated that Civic Platform’s and the president B. Komorowski’s policy towards Lithuania led to nowhere. Serious and strategic conversations between Warsaw and Vilnius basically do not exist. There is a gap between today and the times of the late President Lech Kaczyński’ presidency, when step by step and with great difficulty we were successfully calling for the rights of Poles living in Vilnius Region while being in good terms with Lithuanian government. Of course the blame does not lie exclusively with one side, however the improper policy of Polish authorities in last years has undoubtedly contributed to the current situation. First of all, the policy was very inconsistent which was a huge mistake in the international relations. We have made hostile moves towards Lithuania, for example we did not support them in their disputes with Russia during European debates, then Minister Sikorski and the President Komorowski talked about their hope for a new opening of relations which was naive. And so on. Second of all, the most important issue is that policy of the current Polish authorities towards Lithuania is the result of taking a general position with regard to the Eastern European politics. Sikorski, Komorowski and Tusk decided to resign from strengthening the alliance with countries in our region in favour of “following the main European thought” and “Piast policy” instead of “Jagiellonian policy” which imitation is a misuse of history. In practical terms, it comes down to the subordination of our foreign policy to the interests of leading EU countries. Current authorities do not appreciate the potential of the countries in our region, instead they are dreaming about terribly erroneous ideas of Weimar and Kaliningrad Triangles, especially the latter one (between Germany, Poland and Russia) is a destructive delusion tearing away our roots in the region. Such approach resulted in cooling the relations with Lithuania and with other Baltic countries and depriving ourselves of ways to improve the situation of Polish minority in Lithuania. I want to be clear, it is the authorities in Vilnius who are responsible for the issue of Polish minority in Lithuania because they are in charge of breaking the European standards by their country, however achieving such regional policy and bilateral cooperation in order to have influence on the Lithuanian government’s decisions is Polish authorities’ bounden duty. It needs intuition and consistency. It is easy to argue and to create distance between each other. But it is far more difficult to conduct an effective dialogue. Yet there are examples which prove it is possible, we just have to be more determined in our actions. And we need to remember the proverb “two dogs strive for a bone and the third runs away with it”. It is adequate to the policy within our part of Europe. And we all know who is the “third” one. Yet, the relations between Poland and Lithuania froze in the last few years, and the situation of Polish living in Vilnius region has not improved. We cannot say such policy is effective.

What kind of policy will you pursue towards Lithuania as the President of Poland, taking our participation in NATO and in EU into account, and having in mind the bilateral problems regarding energy, transport and Polish minority in Vilnius region?

I would like to pursue a reasonable policy, because currently Polish attitude towards Lithuania is unreasonable. Supporting Poles living abroad is Poland’s constitutional duty, thus the rights of Poles living in Lithuania and Lithuanian government’s respect for the obligations arising from the agreement between Poland and Lithuania and stated in the EU law will be my issue of fundamental importance. Nevertheless, the actions aimed at improvement of the Polish minority in Lithuania shall be preceded by the reconstruction of methods used to influence Lithuania and the whole region. It needs effectiveness and reason, the qualities of the President Lech Kaczyński. I would like to mention, that his actions contributed to the funding of Polish University in Vilnius. During his presidency, the alliance based on mutual respect and solidarity between the countries in our region was active, which we could observe for example during the war in the Republic of Georgia. Today there is no cooperation although it is essential, the threat was not decreased at all, it has raised instead. This is why the cooperation is needed but – I declare it clearly – never to the detriment of the Poles living in Lithuania. I hope the Lithuanian government will understand it properly. However, in order to convince each other to our arguments we need a dialogue which is now lacking. Lithuania itself has to see an improper policy towards Poland as a wrong choice. Today Lithuania claims to be independent from Poland and does not need anything from us, and so there is no need to debate the national minority issue. We have to reconstruct our relations so that our partners see it was wrong attitude. What is more, Poles in Lithuania have to be a strong, united and reasonable partner to both countries’ authorities. An honest discussion within Polish authorities on our goals and choices is much needed either.

The critics of the President Lech Kaczyński’s policy point out that he was too open and gullible towards Lithuania, constantly emphasizing the threats from Russia and aiming at creation of bloc of countries between Poland and Russia. However, he did not convince neither the President Adamkus, who was his friend, nor the President Dalia Grybauskaite to make concessions. Did Lech Kaczyński failed in the “Lithuanian field”?

I do not agree with this judgment. Things does not happen overnight when it comes to the international relations. We need to be consistent. Anyone, who had an honour to work with the late President Lech Kaczyński, without doubt would say that being gullible was the last thing one can say about him. The late President was an excellent politician because he was assessing situation and acting reasonably. Deepened relations with Lithuania resulted not only in the already mentioned university but also in the energy cooperation and in pushing forward other issues. I admit it was a difficult and strenuous dialogue, but that is the way it goes and we need to bear it in mind. Everything needs time, the late Lech Kaczyński was able to fully pursue his policy towards Lithuania only for two years. After government change in 2007, Tusk changed this policy. Today we all understand that our countries are in danger. Lithuania however, being a country with less potential and worse geopolitical location, certainly understands the threat even more. Thus, they surely see that our cooperation and good relations are necessary. Nevertheless, until the problems of Poles living in Lithuania are not solved, we cannot achieve good relations.

Translated by Julita Filant within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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