H.E. Leszek Hensel: Crimean Referendum Dictated by Force
Interview of Novinite.com with Poland's Ambassador to Bulgaria, Leszek Hensel, on the situation in Ukraine, the European Union, and Poland's economic transition.
Poland has been very active in the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis. With Crimea's decision to join Russia, can we say that the EU's diplomatic strategy failed?
Our position is clear. Crimea's decision to join Russia was not freely made, but a result of Russia's military intervention on the sovereign territory of Ukraine. A referendum, which was dictated under the pressure of foreign armed forces, cannot be seen as legitimate.
In its position regarding Crimea, Russia referred to the case of Kosovo. It is worth noting, that in the case for Kosovo at the International Court in the Hague, Russia was among the countries advocating for a very limited applicability of the "right to self-determination" principle. Thus, Russia denied itself the right to use such an argument in the case of Crimea.
Looking at all this, we cannot speak of a failed EU strategy.
Are you worried that the events in Crimea could set a precedent for similar crises in other post-Soviet states?
I believe that any political act, which puts into question the internationally recognized borders established after the war, poses a threat and sets a dangerous precedent. It is regrettable that concepts like redrawing borders, annexation, and aggression, which pertain to a past era, are still present in today's geopolitics.
We cannot exclude the possibility that the Russian-speaking minorities can be used in the future to create similar scenarios, not just in Ukraine. We are currently witnessing a very strong media offensive on the part of Russia. Let us not forget, that this is a country recently ranked 148th among 170 nations in media freedom from Reporters Without Borders.
As such, we must carefully prepare our reactions, to address adequately the reality of the situation. I am getting more and more concerns from different countries, who see the need to return to the times of "realpolitik".
EU states have been divided on their positions for sanctions against Russia. Are we likely to see a common stance on this at the end?
In a recent interview for German "Bild", our Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said that "sanctions against Russia are like a nuclear weapon – they are good to use as a threat, but not in action". However, with its behavior, Russia has not left the European Union with much choice.
The EU is a democratic body, and it is natural that there would be differing positions, on Crimea, as on any other topic. However, on the last European Council meeting, the EU adopted a common decision for the freezing of assets and travel bans against those responsible for the aggression on the territorial integrity of Ukraine. I remind that Bulgaria is one of the countries that accepted the sanctions against Russia.
What needs to be done to reconcile relations between the West and Russia?
First and foremost, Russia must pull its troops out of Crimea, and Ukraine's territorial integrity must be restored. After that, Moscow must accept the democratically elected leadership of Ukraine (in the upcoming elections) and support the process of a system change in its neighboring country. This is very much in the interest of the local Russian-speaking community as well, since they will be part of this change.
Russia must not treat Ukraine's political agreement with the EU as a threat. On the contrary, it can be used to bridge EU-Russia relations. Stabilizing Ukraine and its economic potential is in the interest of Russia as well.
We hope that in the nearest future, an observers' mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will be allowed to assess the situation and the reasons for the eruption of the conflict in Ukraine. Its importance was also outlined in this weeks' meeting of the Weimer Triangle's foreign ministers (France, Germany, Poland).
Poland has been hailed as the role model for a successful economic transition in the post-Communist era. What do you attribute this to?
This was made possible in the early 90s, when the model of market economy was introduced with huge public support, triggering the mechanism of competition in the economy. Paradoxically, the crisis of the late 90s was instrumental in bringing about the necessary reforms. There was much concern, especially among the agrarians, that Poland would not be competitive enough with regards to its western partners. We began investing more actively in agriculture, although the biggest investments came after joining the EU, in 2004. As a result of this, Poland is currently the 6th biggest food producer in the EU.
The opportunity to use European funds has contributed greatly, for the modernization of Poland, and for its infrastructure. EU membership has also attracted major foreign capital and technologies. According to a UNCTAD report, Poland will be the 4th most attractive economy in Europe and 14th in the world by 2015. In 2012, when Europe saw a 2.8% decline in its economy, Poland registered a 20% increase in investment projects compared to the year before.
Poland's success relies on political stability in the country, highly educated and competent workforce, youth, and a big internal market. In times of economic recession around the world, Poland was able to establish its position firmly in the region and throughout the continent, with one of the highest economic growths.
Europe has been struggling with several years of economic recession and growing unemployment. Have the international strategies in resolving the crisis been adequate?
I find that it is not Poland's job to assess the methods of other EU countries in dealing with the economic and financial crisis. It is worth noting that the crisis and the threats to the banking system have led politicians to take measures for deepening European integration, something that is having a positive effect.
The Solidarity Movement was emblematic for Poland's transition. Is Europe in need of "solidarity" at the moment?
The Solidarity Movement was able to unite around 10 million Poles behind the idea of change, of liberating the country from the previous system. This June, we mark 25 years from the first free elections, which also paved the way for change in the whole region. The idea of solidarity is bigger than any civil movement, and we see how significant its meaning is every day. As one of the emblematic figures in the movement, the late Zbigniew Romaszewski once said, "solidarity is not a word, it is a value". It is the basis of the European Union, and the mechanism of distributing financial resources, through which countries like Poland and Bulgaria can narrow their civilizational differences with other parts of Europe.
Energy solidarity is one of the concepts that Poland addressed during its rotational presidency of the EU in 2011. The Russia-Ukraine gas crisis in 2009 as well as the current situation in the region, prove that Europe is in desperate need of a unified energy policy, unified infrastructure, and full diversification of the energy sources. Our Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced last week that Poland will propose the creation of an energy union within the EU, which would be based exactly on the principle of solidarity, in the case of a gas shortage.
The idea of solidarity must also involve countries which the EU is cooperating with. Without it, it would be hard to imagine how they can conduct effective reforms. In this respect, the European Endowment for Democracy was created, with the initiative of Poland. Bulgaria actively supports this project, for which we are extremely grateful.
Are you optimistic about the future of the European Union and the Eurozone? Should this be a time for their expansion or rather a time for consolidation?
When you build a skyscraper or a huge bridge, you must be optimistic that the construction is stable and can endure extreme conditions. The EU is not expansionist. Its enlargement was of a political, economic, and even historic character, and this was prepared for many years. There is no room for improvisation here – in order to enter the EU, you have to be mature for it. Thus, enlargement should not exclude consolidation. Both processes can be done simultaneously, with the full participation of all member states.
What are some main areas of cooperation between Poland and Bulgaria at the moment and do you envision any new major projects in your bilateral relations?
In 2012, there was an opportunity for a serious investment in Bulgaria. The employees, however, did not accept the candidate, fearing for their job security. The project failed, the plant had to close down, and nobody was able to keep their job. Personally, I am quite disappointed from this, since the investor was stable and trustworthy.
As a Polish Ambassador, I am happy about the increased Polish capital in Bulgaria. It is opening new jobs. It is good to work carefully, step by step in building partnerships.
The current Polish investments in Bulgaria exceed EUR 130 M. They have increased 100% from 2007. In 2013, trade between our countries was worth EUR 1.1 B, which is double the 2009 value. Maintaining these tendencies for the future will be a priority in our bilateral relations. Meanwhile, if we manage to realize any big projects, so much the better.
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sasha comes from White Russian background, so he will not likely put on a Red Army or KGB uniform. I would be happy to wear them.
Yes America would like to re educate us but we dont want to be bombed or tortured but we do like peaceful democratic processes like what happened in the Crimea
With such a mentality, Russia is turning itself into disintegration (of course, you will blame West for it afterwards). By prolonging this discussion, I've tried to teach you something, but there is nothing that can help you understand what is today's world alike. Go back to your ancient Soviet Union, put yourself into a fancy KGB or Red Army uniform and live happily. But do not miss to look at the mirror from time to time to check the real, living example of what you have written at the end.
"The number of people NATO has killed is not comparable to that by the Soviets/Russia "----Exactly! Even if to add USSR' invasion to Afghanistan, NATO/USA' "number" is FAR higher.
"The Ukraiinian parliament is all time the same"---a fresh pearl !!! What on earth "the same"? The Rada's members from Party of Regions and from Communist Party, who jointly have had the majority in Rada, they are now, after the Coup d'Etat, under the incessant threats from the ultras (Right Sector), and they either leave their parties, either DO NOT risk to visit and to "work" in Rada. And if they risk,then: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ9QRT0DDX4
"What regards Crimea - referendum was a bluff"---Bluff? What about telling it to Crimeans themselves?
"invasion or annexation"----Invasion? Can submit any fact? Enough of IDIOCY, may be?
The referendum in Crimea was no bluff.
It was properly conducted and the majority of the people voted to join the Russian Federation.
Russia has tried to get the West to discuss the Ukraine based on the agreements between the former president, the protestors and the governments you mention.
The West refuses to base discussions on these agreements, they say things have moved on and the old agreements don't apply.
The West are manipulative liars.
The Ukraiinian parliament is all time the same, so there are no issues of legal nature as to its legitimacy. The former president has fled, leaving his post empty instead of signing what was agreed between him and Maidan and confirmed by foreign affairs ministers of DE, FR and PL. What regards Crimea - referendum was a bluff as well as all what happened simultanously (Crimea's "self-defence", new Crimea government with mafia member as its prime minister, Medvedev' promises regarding investments etc.) However, as 60% of Crimea population are of Russian origin it may be like they really wanted to join Russia. But it is not a reason for invasion or annexation !!! If Russians buy flats or houses in Bulgaria should it mean that Russia has right to annex the Bulgarian sea coast? Surely not, this would be illegal. But Bulgaria has the luck of being NATO member, and the poor Ukraine not...
To Warfou, the process followed in the Crimea was peaceful, democratic and lawful.
I admit Crimea did breach the Ukranian Constitution, but the lawful government doesn't exist and the present government there is unconstitutional.
It is like a wife breaking her marraige vows to escape a brutal husband to move in with a past lover.
The Wests response to this peaceful democratic process is sanctions and military escalation in the region.
The West only likes democracy when it suits them, otherwise the use force.
The sanctions has just begun. Gradually, they will become more and more severe. The first effects are visible as even Russian private banks are anxious to enter Crimea because of repercussions they would face in Western markets. De iure Crimea remains Ukraine, people living there have to go to Ukraine to get the Schengen Visa. The EU is consolidating, it is planned that oil and gas will be bought by it as single entity. The countries around Russia are increasing military spendings, e.g. Poland plans to buy 60 F-35 fighters and another few hundred German Leopard tanks. Two NATO brigades are invited to move there. In Romania, 1000 US marines have just arrived. The Czech ex-premier minister Zeman asks for NATO troops to enter western Ukraine once Russia invades its east... In Russia, inflation has increased and the GDP growth stopped. Oil and gas prices are sinking. So are the effects of Putler's policy - as Kerry said, the Crimea will cost Russia dearly. This all leads to the conclusion that there soon may be a new Maydan, this time in Moscow.
"Pufler, take a bath yourself. You're just one of many idiots who blame others for your troubles. And Europe is no longer Europe, it's becoming american. "
Yane, why can't anyone have a civil discussion with you without you having to turn to insults and personal attacks? Get a grip Yane, I know life is not easy for you but you shouldn't bring out your personal frustrations on other forum participants.
Puffer is absolutely right in what he says. Russia (and paid propagandists like sa-sha) lecturing the West about proper international behaviour is like the thief lecturing the policeman.
I share Puffer's view. The number of people NATO has killed is not comparable to that by the Soviets/Russia (Russia claims to be a successor of the Soviet Union so no problem with unifying them). Again, Serbia is negotiating its EU membership and, yesterday there have been first free elections in Afganistan with astonishing frequency. Democracy starts to work. Further, it is like no one there wants to choose Russian option because of being hurt by the West. And please do not call Puffer "Pufler", this is already reserved as "Putler" whose recent actions on the Crimea remind on those by Hitler's from the 30's ("Osterreichsanschluss". "Befreiung der Sudetendeutschen", "Eingliederung des Memelgebiets", "Danziger Korridor" etc.)
....Here we go again....The communist propagandist again shooting of his (filthy) mouth saying pure nonsense.
Russia invaded Afghanistan too lest you forget in the 1980s with the results of 1.5 million DEAD CIVILIANS and 2 million displaced people. Making this arguably the worst human killing since the Holocaust. We should also thank Russia for creating the modern day Muslim fanatic terrorist after their savagery radicalized these people.
Let's also not forget about the Chechen wars were Russia killed over 100,000 people, leveling the regional capital Grosny and raping thousands of women in the process.
In the 1990s Yugoslav Wars the Serbians killed over 8,000 boys in the Srebernica massacre lest you forget. Thank goodness the West took action against those filthy butchers and prevented the mass murder of millions and another Holocaust in modern Europe.
This same barbaric country that killed millions of innocent people now has the TEMERITY to lecture the West about its behavior and military campaigns? Libya? Overthrowing a savage dictator like Gaddafi is a crime? Well guilty as charged. Iraq? Overthrowing a brutal sadistic dictator like Saddam is a crime? Well, guilty as charged. Afghanistan? Trying to rescue a country from the hold of terrorist fanatics that Russia created back in the 80s is a crime? Well, guilty as charged.
Don't come to this forum to lecture us Bulgarians about how evil the West is and how benevolent and generous mother Russia is. We all remember what mother Russia did to our country, I see it everyday as I drive to work: horrible polluting factories, communist panel buildings falling apart, despicable statues celebrating your conquering of my country...We made our choice Russia, we are Europeans. Now leave us ALONE!!!!!
USA/NATO interferences, within last ~30 years, led to nothing else but to chaos and to growth of deaths. And the results of ALL those interferences? Peace, stability, end of bloodshed, democracy.....what about their triumph in Afghan, Irak, Libya...? Then, how to call "civilized" a state which allows itself not only to kill civilians, but to use bombs with the depleted uranium?).
"America for sure makes its mistakes"-----it is not "mistakes", it is the targeted policy. Pax Americana.
"I haven't heard about any civilian killings [in Yougoslavia]"---More than 1,000 killed civilians, 80 of them were children......
Warfou, ask the Serbs and the Chinese, Serb civilians and Chinese Civilians died when the Americans bombed Belgrade in the 1990's.
They do not help out in situations such as Rawanda, it is not about protecting people it is about resources and power growth.