The interview of Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Poland to Armenia Zdzisław Raczyński.
Mr. Raczyński, Poland is one of the initiators of Eastern Partnership. Which goals does your country pursue within the framework of this program?
Eastern Partnership is the program of all the European Union, although, really Poland and Sweden initiated it. Yet in 2001, not being the EU member, Poland developed a program under the name of “Eastern Dimension of the EU Foreign Policy”, anticipating extended cooperation of the EU with neighboring states. We grounded on the fact, that after the expansion the EU will find itself in a qualitatively new situation, connected with the rise of new Eastern neighbors. By this time, the EU had already a rich and successful practice of cooperation with southern neighbors. We think that the states, bordering the EU in the East, i.e. 6 states included into the Eastern Partnership program, should be treated in a special way, as these are the states that are tightly connected with Europe with its geography, history and culture. The EU is not indifferent to the development of stability, economy, free market and democracy in a direct near to its borders.
The EU wants its eastern neighbors to be successful within the establishment of independent, rule-of-law states and oppositely doesn’t want for the processes in these states to turn into an opposite less favorable direction for the sake of people of these states as well as for the EU. The goal of the program is the maximum rapprochement of the members with the EU, together with associated membership the way, for economic rules, political regimes, legal systems, all norms and standards were as similar as possible to those existing in the EU. By this, the issue of a formal membership of these states in the EU is not yet in agenda, as at the moment there is no real basis for that. The EU doesn’t put towards the eastern partnership members a dilemma, either you are with us or with someone else. We suggest an attempt to get closer with us, as we think that the standards, norms which we operate are the right ones. And the intensity of definite cooperation projects depends on those states. For example, if the given country thinks that it has problems of legal system operation, independence of courts and they want to correct something, than the EU is ready to assist. Today it’s really important for the EU to develop also close economic relations with these states within the framework of which the factor of stability and security plays a significant role.
And what is the attitude of Russia towards the Eastern Partnership program?
In the beginning Russia revealed definite suspicion towards this idea, as it thought, that the program’s aim is to distance these states from it. This was just a misunderstanding. Today we also invite Russia, as well as other big states, to join the friends of Eastern Partnership – with its efforts, financial abilities to assist in the accomplishment of some projects. Simply speaking, the Eastern Partnership program is an invitation and suggestion to interact. To which extent and how – it depends on the participants.
The Eastern Partnership program includes the feuding Armenia and Azerbaijan. How does this conflict impede the integration processes within the region anticipated by the program?
In terms of the development of political, economic relations Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan are observed as one region, one whole.
And big business, big investments won’t come here without stability and at least minimal interaction between the three states. It’s really difficult, say, to persuade this or that investor, that the problem existing in one part of South Caucasus doesn’t affect another one. Europe has a generalized view on this region. Any tension, any instability between these states, naturally, impedes integration processes. Current format of Karabakh conflict regulation, considering the developments of the OSCE Minsk group and all the nuances related to the problem, can be viewed as the most optimal, but I think that the EU’s potential could give a new impulse to the negotiation process, and especially within a post-crisis regulation. Although many formal mediators can only interrupt the settlement. Final settlement of Nagorny Karabakh conflict, first of all, is the job of two peoples. Third parties can help, but till parties to the conflict have a strong commitment, that problem should be solved somehow, until the two parties have enough strong political will, external influence won’t be able to reach the settlement.
Does the recent visit of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to the region lie within this context?
This was the first visit of the Head of Polish Government to Armenia. As you know, we have a parliamentary system, and respectively real power belongs to Prime Minister. He came here with communiqué, the sense of which states that Poland as the EU member is interested in stability within South Caucasus. It votes for the solution of all existing here problems using only peaceful means.
Our line within Karabakh conflict is neutral, as we see that the problem is a complicated one. Another part of his political communiqué covers the support of Armenian-Turkish relations normalization. Armenia, as well as Turkey is our friend, historically our relations with Armenia have developed really specifically, there is a definite commonness of the destinies of our peoples. With Turkey we participate within one military union. I’d like to note that the visit of Mr. Tusk was an attempt to find a bearing point for the development of bilateral economic relations, as exactly economic cooperation brings stability into political interaction between states.
Is there a real ground for economic cooperation?
Of course, there is. For example, Armenia produces and exports copper ore. It has no financial resources and respectively demanded technologies to process this ore. Poland has an ore processing plant KGHM Polska Miedz, which is the fifth biggest in the world. It purchases ore from Canada, and from the number of states in Africa. Within this context, I think, that we can invest into Armenia and build here a copper smelting factory. At this stage we are analyzing the conditions for these investments.
Do you plan definite terms of investment?
We have no time frames. We are talking about more than 250 million dollars, and all the elements of this program should be thoroughly studied and all the details analyzed. Poland also considers a possibility to invest into modernization of “Nairit” factory. As I understand, the parties have not yet agreed on all the issues, particularly, related with the Armenian guarantees for these investments. In general, I guess that each party has underestimated each other’s potential. Naturally, Armenia is a relatively small market, but it opens the doors to Caucasus and possibly Iran. I also hope that finally Armenian-Turkish border will be opened. There is a sufficient potential for the cooperation in agriculture. Although a share of agricultural export of Poland is not big, nevertheless we are compatible enough within this sphere.
During the recent visit of Polish National Defense Minister Bogdan Klich to Armenia they discussed the issues of military-technical cooperation promotion. Whichdirections we are talking about?
Poland doesn’t export offensive arms to this region, considering that the situation is explosive here. We don’t cooperate with Azerbaijan in this sphere, we can’t interact with one party to a conflict, in the prejudice of the interests of another one. Today we have definite possibilities to supply means, more likely for the use within emergency situation, for example mobile stations, purifying contaminated water. We have a good experience of interaction of our Armenian and Polish military men within peacekeeping operation in Iraq. This fact also enhances the level of mutual trust to each other. Within the context of cooperation, we also should consider the issue of training of Armenian military men in Polish universities. In general the existence of contacts on the level of establishment of two states is really urgent. Armenia has its vision of the situation in the region and in the world in general, Poland has its own. But thanks to such contacts, the parties gain an opportunity to look at the problems of global and regional security wider.
As known, the relations between Armenian and Polish peoples have deep routes, considering that first Armenian settlements were founded also in Poland. And which is the role of Armenian community within social, political and economic spheres of your country today?
Armenian community in Poland is not big – 20-25 thousand people. Nevertheless, it possesses an official status of a minority. This means that it is supported by the states to accomplish cultural, educational programs. There were two waves of migration of Armenians to our country. The first wave covers Middle Ages and the establishment of the mentioned settlements. The second wave covers the end of previous century. To my view although it is easy for Armenians to adapt to new conditions of living, they adopt language, culture, customs fast, but the life of an immigrant in any state doesn’t predict big successes from the very start. And in this view, “new Armenians” will have to integrate into the society of our country. Frankly speaking, today Armenian Diaspora in Poland doesn’t influence the processes in the country, but historic contribution of Armenians into our culture is great. And naturally, it’s possible that further our descendants will prove the same role and place of current migrant in the life of Poland.
It’s easy for Armenians to fit well into Polish society. Single religion, commonness of historic destinies, historic memory - these all creates a favorable background for close contacts between our peoples.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from ArmInfo