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Łukasz Grajewski

Economic Integration and Democracy – Interview with Under-Secretary of State Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz (Polish MFA)

Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz was nominated for the Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland on 18 January 2012. The MFA departments in her care are as following: Department of Development Cooperation, Department for Implementation of Development Programmes and Eastern Department. With Ms Pełczyńska-Nałęcz we talked about the Eastern Partnership and situation in Belarus.

Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland since 18 January 2012, author: Ania Woźniak, source: Eastbook.eu

Łukasz Grajewski: The report “German Foreign Policy and Eastern Partnership” issued by the German Council on Foreign Relations came as a surprise. While everybody was pouring scorn upon the Eastern Partnership programme and predicting its impending demise, a respectable German institution published a wildly optimistic document that, as it turns out, had been consulted with the Polish Ministry of Foreign affairs and Centre for Eastern Studies. It looks as if this well-thought-out move is to revive the discussion about cooperation with the Eastern European countries.

Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz: I consider this text a think tank creation. In no case it could be interpreted as an official standpoint of the German government. It’s also difficult to comment upon a consultation process with Polish institutions that I didn’t participate in. The document is, however, extremely interesting in terms of its content, in particular for its German origins. I’d like to bring into focus one thing, which, in my opinion, experts ought to take into further consideration. It’s an assertion that merging democratic and economic dimensions of cooperation should perhaps become the object of EU’s critical reflection. Whereas it doesn’t mean diminishing importance of democratic issues, which are and will be of great significance to us, the economic matters should be means as well as an end itself in regard to cooperation.

While reading the report, a few sentences in particular absorbed my attention: “Conditionality, which declares certain democratic and constitutional reforms as conditions for cooperation, should be subjected to critical scrutiny as it has little substance in terms of practical politics. Such reforms are the goal and not the precondition for cooperation … ”. It sound as if the policy “more for more”, popular in the EU countries, has been challenged. Germans underline that cooperation should take place regardless of state of democracy in partner countries.

I’d incline to a rather different interpretation of that part. First, the “more for more” policy remains the prevailing doctrine, although here we should bear in mind its actual definition. If we witness a genuine progress and readiness for economic reforms in a given country then the offer regarding cooperation should be adequate for efforts. And it should be directed to specific regions. Let’s assume that a partner state indicates its readiness regarding implementation process of no-visa traffic. In such case, we should offer more, and this is how I understand the “more for more” policy. However, I contemplate a hypothetical situation in which we slow down progress of visa liberalization on account of a lacking democratization process in a partner state. We shouldn’t react this way. Yet another matter is focusing on development of economic integration regardless of deficiency in democratization. It’s more debatable, but we must remember that economic integration is also a path towards democratization itself. Economic cooperation doesn’t need to be fostered at expense of democratization process. The course for human rights and democratic values must be kept.

How do you perceive preparations of the European Commission for imposing sanctions, including economic ones, against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus?

Earlier I used the term “economic integration” instead of “cooperation” on purpose. Integration depends on a country’s willingness to adopt European standards – the Community acquis – in order to act lawfully and in accordance with EU regulations in the sphere of economy. This is my comprehension of logic behind initialling DCFTAs. And there’s a total lack of such will on the Belarusian side. This country is in no way interested in any form of economic integration with the Union. Unlike Georgians and also Moldovans, Minsk doesn’t concern itself with it at all. And sanctions applied against Belarus are to be understood as selective – they are not aimed at annihilation of this country’s economy. We do realize that Belarus equals its citizens, and it’s not about getting them into even deeper troubles they are already in. When we talk about sanctions, we mean selective actions directed against particular persons.

For instance against Vladimir Peftiev, a businessman who, as the second-richest man preceeded only by Lukashenko, was banned from crossing EU border, which de facto resulted in his great business difficulties.

Please note that actions against this particular person are hard to reduce to sanctions against whole Belarus. It’s limiting the action range of regime treasurers instead of a general ban on import. No sanctions against citizens will be used.

Author: Ania Woźniak, źródło: Eastbook.eu

There’s no need to convince anybody that Minsk-Warsaw relations, as well as the internal situation in Belarus, are not in a good condition. What plan towards this country has the Polish Foreign Ministry?

Polish diplomatic service has a plan, but at present it’s high time that we, in Warsaw as well as in Brussels, stop to consider generating radical changes externally. Seeking radical solutions that would bring allegedly radical change is a mistake. First, the situation in Belarus depends on the local society, NGOs, oppositionists, and, at last, authorities. We might have our own preferences and ideas what is good for Belarus, basing on our own experience regarding transformation process. We certainly give a clear message about the way that Belarus is supposed to follow. Yet the real change depends only on Belarusians themselves. Polish Foreign Ministry is not responsible for the internal situation of our neighbours.

Poland and many other countries have tried to interfere in internal affairs of Belarus through both financing opposition movements and tricking Lukashenko, It has failed though. Am I to understand that we are to accept this state and calmly observe the coming turn of events?

It’s not what I said. We don’t have to accept it, for it’s clear what we expect from Belarus.

And we want Belarus not to be absorbed into the Russian sphere of influence,

Let’s not explore the geopolitical aspect, for it’s a common trap we fall into quite frequently. And, on the other hand, it’s an argument of the Belarusian regime: “accept us along with our methods violating human rights, otherwise Russia will come here”. We shouldn’t be governed by such a simplistic narrative. There isn’t just one solution, one policy that would cause a change in Belarus.

So perhaps it’s time to renew talks with Belarusian authorities?

We’ve already followed this path and many others as well. There’s no way to establish a dialogue. All we can do is remain consistent in our actions. If we demand a release of political prisoners and encourage a dialogue with the society, then we must persevere. Nobody said that there’s no opportunity for a dialogue between officials and civil servants on the both sides – Polish and Belarusian. We are fully open about liberalization of local border traffic. In this matter we are willing to cooperate with Belarusian authorities in the name of making life easier and more beneficial for citizens from both countries. The only thing is the evident reluctance of said authorities. We are still waiting for Alexander Lukashenko’s signature under the agreement.

Translated by KD

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Łukasz Grajewski

Socjolog, absolwent Studium Europy Wschodniej UW. Pracował w administracji publicznej, aktywny w trzecim sektorze (Fundacja Wspólna Europa, Polska Fundacja im. Roberta Schumana, Inicjatywa Wolna Białoruś). Autor licznych publikacji o Europie Wschodniej w polskich mediach.

Contact: [email protected]

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