CouDiplomatic Debate Raised up between Lithuania and Poland

By Arthur Dunn

Lately Lithuanian and Polish politicians has exchanged with mutual accusations. Vilnius calls groundless the admonitions of Warsaw concerned the status of Polish national minority and the terms of investments of the PKN Orlen Group.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania has reported that it draw the attention of the Ambassador to the “false, untrue and misleading” comments of Polish authorities to the Mass Media on the issue of energy projects and the situation around national minorities.

They talked about the public comments of the Ambassadors of Poland to Latvia and Lithuania, where they presented false facts about the activity of Orlen Lietuva, the construction of the new nuclear power plant in Lithuania and the issues of national minorities; the investment climate in Lithuania and Baltic region was evaluated with bias.
The Views of Polish Diplomats
The Ambassador of Poland to Lithuania Skolimowski during the interview to the newspaper Lietuvos žinios stated, that the “catalogue of violated and unaccomplished liabilities of Lithuanian authorities towards Polish national minorities remains the same”. He mentioned the kind of issues as the return of the lands in Vilnius region and Vilnius, the maintenance of the status of education in Polish language, the spelling of names and family names in ID’s, two-language names of streets within the area of dense inhabitance of Polish national minorities.

Meanwhile the Ambassador of Poland to Latvia Jerzy Marek Nowakowski blamed Lithuania for discriminating Polish investors. “An unpleasant situation has established regarding the investments of Poland into the Mažeikių oil-processing plant, that is owned by Polish Goup PKN Orlen, that is why the relations can change. The company Orlen Lietuva is the biggest foreign investor in Lithuania and the biggest client of “Lithuanian Railway”. However the set tariffs of goods transportation to the terminal Klaipėdos naftа is higher than for Lithuanians. And they will keep on grow. The discrimination of Polish investors in Lithuania influences the activity of our investors in Latvia and in the whole Baltic region ", – said Nowakowski. According to him, now the treaty-in-power with the “Lithuanian Railway” forces Polishes to lose hundreds millions euro annually.

”The purchase of the Mažeikių oil-processing plant in Lithuania, including its modernization costs 3 billions USD". And now they suggest Poland a billion for it. Making a decision of the purchase of the plant, Poland first of all followed political motives: it seemed to us that it was important to support neighbors. It turns out that it was a mistake. And when there is no policy, only an economic issue remains ", - said Nowakowski. In the interview for BNS he also noted that Poland is still ready to participate together and finance the project of the new NPP construction in Visaginas, but it doesn’t move on, as Lithuania drowned in endless discussions. And meanwhile Russia, according to the Ambassador, has started the construction of the Baltic NPP since February 2010 and plans to finalize it by 2016. Warsaw expresses the increasing dissatisfaction, as it thinks, with the unwillingness of Vilnius to solve old problems with Polish national minority in Lithuania and the Polish owned oil-processing plant in Mažeikių.

”I think in reality our relations with Lithuania has been the kind for a long time,. But only now they are characterized properly”, – said the Head of Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sikorski during the interview to Polish radio, answering the question, why the Government started talking about the worsening of the bilateral relations.

”We’ve had unsolved issues more than a year, and we’d be glad to practice better relations ", – he said. Warsaw expresses concern regarding the rights of Polish national minority in Lithuania, which comprises 6-7% of the total population. The problems also include – the spelling of names and family names in ID’s as well as the return of lands and education. The tension increases also due to the demand of Warsaw for Vilnius to assure favorable conditions for oil delivery for the oil-processing plant in Mažeikių, owned by PKN Orlen Group.

Poland firmly supported the intention of Lithuania to become the EU and NATO member and since than it has been its devoted partner. However they don’t do the same ", – said the leading expert of the International Affairs Center (Warsaw) Eugeniusz Smolar. According to him, Poland came to the conclusion that Lithuania slows down deliberately. “Polish Government expresses its disillusion, we can hope that soon this issue will be considered at the EU level”, – said Smolar.

The oil-processing plant in Mažeikių  which cost 2,6 billion euro was the biggest Polish foreign investment. The company PKN Orlen purchased the plant from “Yukos”, this was considered as strategically useful step for Lithuania and Poland. However as Russia stopped the oil supplies by the oil pipeline, the plant didn’t gain the expected profit. “In this situation Lithuania also has liabilities…and they weren’t fulfilled”, - noted Sikorski. Harder view of Poland is determined by the changed strategy of foreign policy of Warsaw and economic interests, however the prerequisites for the “comments”-war between the neighbors are given by Lithuania, which doesn’t accomplishes its promises concerning some rights of national minorities, think Lithuanian political analysts.

“The most important is the changing strategy and economic interests. But when you are wrong, even in insignificant matters, still you are deprived of the moral right to blame anyone else ", – said BNS a political expert, historian Antanas Kulakauskas. “After the death of the President Lech Kaczynski and the election of the new President Bronislaw Komorowski the concentration of the power in the hands of one party increased, there was no balancing situation that was pretty profitable for Lithuania. Kaczynski had a pretty friendly dialogue with Lithuania ", - said the political analyst Tomas Janeliunas. Experts noted that the blames that have been recently sounded by the Foreign Affairs Minister of Poland Radoslaw Sikorski can’t be called completely new. The demand of Poland to spell the names and family names in the language of original with the use of not existing in Lithuanian language letter w – is not strategic, however gives Poland the reasons for blames.

"We should acknowledge that Lithuania hasn’t accomplished all its promises. Strategically this is insignificant, but it is the reason for blames. There is a lack of strong sense and rationality in small issues", – said Kulakauskas. The historian also criticized the attitude of some Lithuanians towards the citizens of Vilnius area and that they always underline the difference between other Polish people, and the polonization of Vilnius area is always focused on. “No matter what the origin of this minority is – polonized Lithuanians or arrived Belarusians – we should acknowledge the right of people to consider themselves whoever they want in national sense”, – stated Kulakauskas.

We remind that the Lithuanian Parliament declined the project on liberalization of spelling of Polish names and family names in ID’s despite that this suggestion is supported by the President Dalia Grybauskaite and the Prime-Minister Andrius Kubilius. Critics claim that the new order would violate the Constitution of Lithuania.
Views of Lithuanian Experts

Lithuanian political analysts underline that after the tragedy by Smolensk, Poland has got closer to Russia. “Concerns arise that Russia divides the EU states in different categories. For Poland Russia is at the first place now, as well as Germany, France, Italy but not Lithuania ", – said the expert Janeliunas. He thinks that the view of Poland is defined also by the protection of its interests on the oil-processing plant in Mažeikių. “Some Lithuanian politicians and diplomats relate the pressure from Poland with the Mažeikių nafta. They say that the decision has already been made to sell the plant, and they only need to find a buyer to pay as much to cover reduce the loses of PKN Orlen as much as possible. However before that the value of the plant should be increased. The only mean is to get definite preferences from Lithuanian Government (for example to join Klaipėdos naftа)", – writes Lithuanian daily paper Vilniausdiena.

Lithuanian Prime-Minister called the accusations of Polish politicians the “echo of the domestic policy of Poland”. Poland will hold municipal elections in November and December, and in 2011 – Parliamentary elections.

Kubilius Under the initiative of the Prime Minister A. Kubilius during the session of the conservative party council the document was presented, that suggests the departments to discuss the problems of South-East Lithuania, and for the Government to establish the Committee on Dialogue, which would discuss the most important issues of Polish minority in Lithuania and the problems of Lithuanian minority in Vilnius district.

"Thanks to the actions of Polish election action (especially lately), the district becomes less open. As a result the district doesn’t really use the potential it possesses by many indicates ", - said the Prime-Minister.

He also expressed the demand for the Polish politicians in Vilnius district to care of Lithuanian minority the same as Lithuanian national Government cares about Polish minority.

The Prime-Minister also noted that he won’t ignore if Polish authorities will prevent Polish or Belarusian families to bring children into Lithuanian schools.

The Patriarch of Conservative party V. Landsbergis acknowledged that the Government really should focus more on the district. According to him, there are individual politicians and political powers that do their utmost to isolate the district, but some people are against it and this gives optimism.

He noted that the wish to integrate the region into the life of the state will be perceived by many  people as assimilation, but he thinks that they shouldn’t lose heart because of it. Also V. Landsbergis underlined that the problems of Lithuanian Polishes are often presented as the problems of bilateral relations of Lithuania and Poland, but he thinks that this is an exceptional domestic matter of Lithuania. “Then we find ourselves in the international situation with the new Big Brother, if we are ourselves are so worried for the Big Brother to be satisfied. Big Brothers never can be completely satisfied, it’s important for us to be pleased and fair with what we do for the well-being of people ", - summarized the politician.

Lithuanian officials, declining the accusations of Polishes, saying that they create for the Polish national minority the best terms in the sphere of education in comparison with those established in other states. About 200 000 Polish people live in Lithuania.
Suggestions to Break the Dispute

British observer Edward Lukas suggests to solve the diplomatic dispute between Lithuania and Poland with the help of international experts. In the middle of this dispute lie the discussions on the rights of national minorities and Polish investments in Lithuania.

”I would suggest the both Parties to refrain from any public claims in the expectation of the investigation that would be carried out by the group of high-class third-party experts, first of all this group should include Latvians and Czechs (both had troubles with the adjustment of foreign names within national writhing and grammar) together with Swedish and American people, that would add power to the investigation. This would allow Lithuania to make concession more gracefully, and Poland would get the thing it wants without gloating ", - writes Lukas at the Site The Economist Eastern approaches.

There is an intention to suggest discussing the diplomatic dispute between Lithuania and Poland and the established situation during the bilateral Parliamentary Assembly. The Head of the Lithuanian Sejm delegation to the Assembly, the MP Algis Kaseta plans to address the Polish colleague Eva Kierzkowski with the suggestion to discuss the established situation, which according to him “is full of fire and sometimes with no reason”. He thinks that “it’s better to discuss the situation without mediators”.