How to resolve crisis in relations between Kyiv and Warsaw – a perspective from Poland

Monday, 29 January 2024

The great warming in Ukraine-Poland relations was abruptly interrupted in April 2023 by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who at the Law and Justice Party convention announced a blockade of agricultural imports from Ukraine – without warning the Ukrainian side.

Donald Tusk's visit to Kyiv began the process of redefining relations between our countries.

Read more in the article by Dr. Michal Matlak, advisor at the European Parliament – After Tusk's visit to Kyiv: let’s not base our relations on gratitude.

Among the most pressing problems are the possibility of exporting Ukrainian agricultural goods to EU countries and the participation of Ukrainian transport companies in the EU single market.

The problem of competition with Ukrainian agriculture and the issue of blocking the border was played out disastrously by the previous Polish government. The overly nervous Ukrainian reaction, as seen in President Zelenskyy's statements, didn't help either.

Here, the solutions will have to be long-term and flexible.

There seem to be a number of possible solutions: under discussion with the European Commission now is the introduction of quotas for Ukrainian goods in countries where economic sectors are threatened by competition from Ukraine.

In the months before Polish-Ukrainian relations sunk, there was frequent talk of a new – treaty-like – form of giving our relations new content – citing the Franco-German Treaty (the 1963 Elysée Treaty, subsequently updated in Aachen in 2019) and the Franco-Italian Treaty (the Quirinal Treaty – of 2021).

The crucial step should be the introduction of higher requirements for Ukrainian companies, or an efficient transit system through neighboring countries.

The two governments should regularly exchange information on possible threats and look for opportunities for synergy between the two countries. This could take place as part of a revival of the Polish-Ukrainian Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation, as advocated by President of the Polish-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce Jacek Piechota.

Pawel Kowal (authorized by the Polish government for the restoration of Ukraine) with Jan Krzysztof Bielecki (former Polish PM) also propose joint meetings of governments twice a year and parliaments once a year, a good symbolic idea to show the strategic dimension of mutual relations.

Today, it would seem sensible to have a Polish deputy minister in the office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration and his counterpart in the Polish Minister for European Affairs.

It will make it possible to coordinate Polish-Ukrainian cooperation in the context of European integration.

There is a sizable group of countries in the Union that is skeptical about enlargement – it's not just Hungary and Slovakia, but also the so-called Atlantic Group (Belgium, Denmark, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland), which, at Portugal's request, meets regularly to "balance the shift of the Union's center of gravity to the east."

Not all countries in this group are ready to block enlargement, but the possibility exists.

Therefore, the formation of a Polish-Ukrainian contact group on the issue, announced by President Zelenskyy, is a good signal.

For now, however, the Weimar format of cooperation seems to make more sense – one can imagine that a cooperation format between Poland, France and Germany involving Ukraine could counterbalance the "Atlanticists" (and keep France among the supporters of Ukrainian accession).

Today, however, the most important thing is military cooperation, especially since Ukraine is in a difficult situation today.

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