Leszek Sykulski: Poland and Russia should seek to further normalize relations
27 February 2013. PenzaNews. Relations between Poland and Russia are gradually returning to normal, which is, in particular, demostrated by mutual steps of the two countries aimed at visa regime facilitation. This is the opinion expressed by Leszek Sykulski, famous Polish political analyst, director of the Czestochowa Institute of Geopolitics, in an interview with news agency “PenzaNews.”
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“However, just the desire for rapprochement between the two countries is insufficient. The two states need to have common strategic goals and a common vision of Europe,” he said.
According to him, cooperation between Poland and Russia in economic, scientific and cultural spheres could be more vigorous.
“The relationship between our two countries is clouded not only by unresolved issues but hostile statements made by politicians or journalists,” the expert explained and added that the plane crash in Smolensk had strengthened anti-Russian sentiment.
“A short time ago Gazeta Polska, which is closely connected with the opposition Law and Justice Party, published an article headlined “War with Russia: Possible scenarios.” This only adds fuel to the fire. I am convinced that in the long term the two countries should give up antagonism,” Leszek Sykulski said.
Moreover, in his opinion, Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski officially changed his attitude towards Russia when he called the North European gas pipeline the new Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
“However, there is an understanding in Poland that we should not ignore Russia or let alone try to fight it. I think the head of the Polish Foreign Ministry has understood it as well, especially since he’s got great political ambitions, for example, to become the president of Poland,” the expert added.
Commenting on the Polish diplomacy in Russia, the analyst noted that some diplomats continue to use the name Krulevets speaking of Kaliningrad, despite the fact that it is internationally accepted to use the official toponyms.
“I consider the persistent use of this placename a mistake; however, it is even used on official websites. This does not help to create atmosphere of trust between Russia and Poland,” Leszek Sykulski said.
At the same time, according to the expert, one of the positive results of the republic’s foreign policy was the meeting of heads of diplomatic missions of Poland, Germany and Russia in the framework of the so-called Kaliningrad Triangle in the beginning of 2012, and the entry into force of the agreement on local border traffic (LBT) between Poland and the Kaliningrad enclave.
Analyzing the two countries’ attempts to facilitate the visa regime between Russia and Poland, the expert noted that in the initial stage, the introduction of LBT agreement between the Kaliningrad region and the northern provinces of Poland was a necessary step. However, in his opinion, the states should not focus on facilitating travel within the small border only.
“We need to expand the agreement and include the maritime border crossings in it, as well as to consider the prospects for visa free relations between Russia and the whole EU,” Leszek Sykulski said.
In addition, the analyst noted that there were certain difficulties in obtaining documents to cross the border in accordance with the LBT agreement.
“I know that not all the people could get the LBT cards. From my point of view, the main reason for this was lack of effectiveness of service and work techniques,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the analysts reminded that five years ago, the Russian government has unilaterally adopted a resolution permitting foreign tourists arriving by sea to stay in the country without a visa for up to 72 hours.
“This was a real step into the future, which, unfortunately, was not understood by European politicians and officials. Now a 72-hour visa-free travel is a one-sided measure, though it is much more effective than the LBT agreement. It would allow not only residents of Kaliningrad, but all Russians to visit even the south of Poland, which would significantly increase trade and tourism flows,” Leszek Sykulski noted.
He also added that cancellation of visa regime between the Russian Federation and the European Union requires mutual interests of the two parties.
“The European Union has entered a new stage of development. One of the geopolitical goals of the EU is to establish closer relations with Russia. Many European politicians are considering various options and steps to achieve it,” the Polish expert said.
However, in his opinion, this “period of consideration” should not be time of quiet and silence because the countries need proactive policies.
“I am convinced that the parties should seek rapprochement of not only Kaliningrad but the whole Russia with Europe. Abolition of visas between the EU and Russia is a serious step towards partnership for modernization,” Leszek Sykulski concluded.