Read an excerpt of the interview with Paweł Kowal, Polish MEP and expert on Ukraine, published on Eastbook.eu on 14 February 2014. Eight days later President Viktor Yanukovych had fled from Kyiv to Russia and was replaced by Oleksandr Turchynov, speaker of the Supreme Council. Since then much has changed in Ukraine. Russia annexed Crimea and invaded Donbas. Although the conflict was declared as an antiterrorist operation, Ukraine is really at war with Russia. Many people from Eastern Ukraine were forced to flee their homes. The winter is coming and many citizens face the perspective of a future without a job, homes and sometimes even a lack of warm clothes. Because of the Russia-sponsored terrorism, Ukraine is at a brink of humanitarian catastrophe.
This makes the issue of the “Marshall Plan for Ukraine” even more urgent than before.
14 February 2014. The European Parliament has finished its mission in Ukraine. After a series of visits made by EU diplomacy chief Catherine Ashton, Neighbourhood Commissioner Štefan Füle and several Members of the European Parliament, the expectations arise as to real actions of the European Union in Ukraine. “No grand idea seems really feasible at the moment of its conception”, comments Polish MEP Pawel Kowal on the proposed „new Marshall Plan” for the EU’s neighbour.
By Paweł Lickiewicz, Eastbook.eu Editor-in-chief:
A “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine? Is it realistic?
Paweł Kowal: Let’s remember that no grand idea seems really feasible at the moment of its conception. There are always people who complain and say: “What’s the point?” or consider a new concept not worth fighting for. What can a humble MEP, who deals with Ukraine on daily basis, really do? My task is to initiate discussions or influence them, to let people see how important the issue of Ukraine is right now, to show that this is the moment when Poland can play a big role.
Should we act now or wait for the parliamentary elections in Ukraine in 2015? [After winter/spring events of 2014, the early preliminary elections took place in October the same year – ed.note]
There won’t be a good opportunity to do anything after the elections in 2015. The situation in Ukraine may change. Signs are that the best moment to act is right now. We have people’s interest and support. It is a great chance for our PM Donald Tusk, President Bronisław Komorowski and the whole Polish political class to focus on the big goal. If achieved, it would bring benefits also for Poland.
Let’s assume that Poland plays its role. Yet the new Marshall Plan without Washington will remain only… a plan. How to involve the US into solving the situation in Ukraine?
Observing recent activity of US diplomacy in Ukraine, I have this impression of a feeling in the White House and the Department of State that Central Europe shouldn’t be dealt with. It’s heard in President Obama’s declarations. It’s visible when we analyse various elements – we got used to the fact that’s the current policy of US administration. However we can also see a healthy reaction of US diplomats and analysts, who say “We cannot leave things as they are”.
The US give much attention to the humanitarian aspect of the situation. In Ukraine I have seen that sometimes ten phone calls from European politicians do not achieve as much as one call from Joe Biden, who has a good reputation in the country. That is why – at least at the political level – we should make the US co-responsible for what is going on in this particular part of the world.
There is a chance for another awakening of the US-European Alliance. If we reconsider why the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013 did not work out, then, among various reasons, not only will we see a visibly negative role of Russian diplomacy but also a too passive role of US diplomacy at that time. Today we can change this situation e.g. by including international financial institutions. The whole problem consists of how to setup correct parameters of the new plan – so it proves effective in the economic sense for the middle class and from the civil society point of view. Today, we should replace “Marshall” with the name of a politician who will take the implementation of our plan upon himself or herself.
Is this politician a citizen of Central-Eastern Europe?
I would very much like a Polish politician to engage for more than two weeks, to make organizing a big assistance plan for Ukraine his or her obsession and hobby. Such engagement is in the vital interest of Poland as our country can directly benefit from it. Today, the trick is to present the whole plan as not only a Polish initiative.