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Poland ready to work with Russia despite difficulties: FM

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 07.08.2017 14:23
Russia is a difficult neighbour for Poland, but this neighbourhood also holds out a number of promises, Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski has said in an interview with Russian business daily Kommersant.
Witold Waszczykowski.Witold Waszczykowski.Photo: W.Kusiński/Polish Radio

“Russia is a huge market and it would be an ideal situation for us if Russia had a democratic government ready to cooperate with the European Union,” Waszczykowski told the newspaper, as quoted by his ministry.

According to Waszczykowski, Poland’s readiness to cooperate with Russia was evidenced by Deputy Foreign Minister Marek Ziółkowski’s visit to Russia last year and by Polish-Russian consultations attended by Deputy Minister Joanna Wronecka in Moscow in July this year.

Poland has also come up with an initiative to revive a Polish-Russian Group for Difficult Issues and appointed the team’s new co-chairman on the Polish side, Prof. Mirosław Filipowicz, Waszczykowski argued.

‘We cannot see readiness for dialogue’

“On the Russian side, however, we cannot see reciprocity and a readiness for dialogue,” Waszczykowski said.

He nonetheless expressed hope for broader cooperation with Russia as part of the United Nations Security Council of which Poland will be a non-permanent member in 2018 and 2019.

Asked about the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project opposed by Poland, Waszczykowski said that the pipeline -- which would run from Russia to Germany circumventing Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states -- was a “political instrument.”

He also said that “the position of the EU and its individual members” on the project threatened to make Poland “dependent on unstable and politically motivated Russian gas supplies.”

The foreign minister pointed out that Poland is currently dependent on Russian gas, but is determined to diversify its supplies. He pointed to Poland’s new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and an agreement signed with Denmark and Norway on the construction of the so-called Baltic Pipe connection.

He expressed his belief that in about five years Poland would be “less dependent on Russian gas,” if not “completely independent” of it.

At the moment, he said, Poland meets a third of its demand for gas through its own resources, and expects to meet another third through the LNG terminal, and the remainder by pipeline from Norway.

Nevertheless, Waszczykowski said Poland is ready to continue buying gas from Russia as long as it comes “at a competitive price”.

Tension over monuments

During the interview, he also commented on the sensitive issue of new Polish "de-communisation" regulations that ban monuments glorifying totalitarian regimes. The regulations enable Polish authorities to destroy any signs of Soviet domination, he said.

“Neither international laws nor bilateral agreements protect such monuments,” he said.

He added that this does not apply to tombstones and cemeteries of Soviet soldiers which he said are protected by “international law, the Polish state and bilateral agreements.”

Russia’s parliament has called on President Vladimir Putin to enforce "limiting measures" which could affect Polish MPs who backed the new laws in Poland.

Russian parliamentarians have unanimously said they wanted Putin to “demand that the Polish side uncompromisingly meets the terms of a [bilateral] treaty” from 1992 on the mutual protection of memorial sites.

Poland’s ruling conservatives have said the deal applies exclusively to war cemeteries, but Moscow says it extends also to symbolic monuments.

Polish commentators have noted that Russian soldiers’ role in liberating Poland from Nazi occupation led to more than 40 years of totalitarian oppression during the Moscow-backed communist regime which lasted until 1989.

But Moscow has called Polish plans to remove monuments to Soviet forces from its streets and squares a “blasphemous” insult to their memory and an “unscrupulous” attempt to rewrite history.

Monuments are currently being catalogued in Poland and those which are removed will be placed in museums, officials in Warsaw say. (str/pk)

Source: Polish Foreign Ministry, PAP

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