The country’s ruling conservatives on Tuesday announced their country was set to go ahead with work to build a strategic canal to the Baltic Sea, a project they hailed as a boon to the nation’s sovereignty.
Five metres deep, the 1.3 km canal between the Vistula Lagoon and Gdańsk Bay in the Baltic Sea is expected to be built by digging through the Vistula Spit, which separates the bay from the lagoon on Polish territory.
The aim is to allow deep-draught vessels to enter Poland’s Elbląg seaport without passing through the Strait of Baltiysk in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.
The chief of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński, on Wednesday told a radio broadcaster that "in the direct sense” the project was about enhancing his country's economic sovereignty.
But “in a more indirect sense, it’s about sovereignty in all areas, including militarily,” he said, as quoted by the niezalezna.pl news website.
The new strategic canal “will be a waterway through which … vessels with a displacement of up to 10,000 tonnes, which is about as much as a destroyer has these days … —meaning large warships—will be able to pass," Kaczyński told Radio Olsztyn, a broadcaster in northern Poland.
Kaczyński on Tuesday led a ceremony in which officials symbolically completed the process of marking out the route for the project in the north of the country.
The project is still waiting for an environmental impact study to be completed and an official building permit to be issued before it can get under way, Poland’s PAP news agency has reported.
Speaking on Radio Olsztyn on Wednesday, Kaczyński said that the project was "important in every respect” and that it would enable Poland to make full use of the potential of its seaport of Elbląg.
He refuted Russian claims that the project posed an environmental threat to wildlife, arguing that Moscow's position was "political" and that the canal would in fact “help the flora and fauna of the Vistula Lagoon,” the niezalezna.pl news website reported.
Kaczyński in September said that the plan to build the canal showed that Russia, Poland’s former communist-era overlord, could no longer dictate to Warsaw what to do.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in late August said that his government had set aside funds for the project in the budget.
According to estimates last year, the project is expected to cost Poland PLN 880 million (EUR 208 million, USD 246 million) and be completed by 2022.