The Armenian News-NEWS.am presents the interview of the Ambassador of Poland to Armenia Zdzislaw Raczynski.
Do you think that Armenia and Poland use all the potential for the development of bilateral relations? Or could they have done better?
The phrase “could do better” sounds somewhat maximalist. If a certain level of relationship is set, it was the real and attainable one. We must face the truth, to take into account the geographical distance between countries. But I would say that, in political terms, relations between Poland and Armenia are richer, multi-faceted, compared to Armenia’s relations with any other EU country on this level. I define the level of our relations as a mature trusting partnership in which both parties are fully aware of the reality, the opportunities, and the constraints. At the same time, during the past 3 years, relations between Poland and Armenia deepened, the intensity of the dialogue increased. Overall, I think that an unprecedented progress of relationships has been registered in the 20-year-long history of our relationship.
The basis of any relationship is the economy. What is the trade turnover between Armenia and Poland, and prospects for development of relations?
Usually to illustrate the economic relations between the countries the media notes the turnover. Today it is a little unreasonable. In the case of Armenia, given the geographical distance and a certain economic isolation of your country, the goods produced in the territory of Poland, get here through third countries - Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and even Turkey.
For example, so far Armenian passports have been produced by French company. They just printed the covers, brought to Armenia and sold them. Now a Polish company is going to do it. In contrast to the previous company, it provides Armenia full range of equipment, which gives the opportunity to the Armenian side to develop the abilities, not just print the covers, but to accumulate a database. Currently, there is an idea on the establishment of a joint venture. I cannot reveal its character, but I note that it also will not just sell products, and but will produce them here. It means not only new jobs, people will also have an opportunity to learn new technologies.
How promising is the cooperation between Armenia and Poland in the defense sphere?
I must be honest - Armenia is in a conflict state, I mean the issues with Azerbaijan, of course. Poland will be the last country to do any action that may increase the tension. We all know that if the countries that are involved in a conflict purchase additional weapons, it contribute to the tension. Poland has not delivered and will not deliver military equipment for any conflicting country. However, in terms of cooperation in general, it is the training, the “leveling” of standards modeled by NATO cooperation in the area of peacekeeping, because Armenian contingent in Iraq participated in the Polish division. It is not necessary to sell tanks to be able to cooperate. There is a certain interest from the Armenian side to some developments in the field of defense, which is MANPADS “Thunder.” But we will not deliver them to the region. Armenian party relates to this with full knowledge. There are no differences in opinions.
How does Poland, as one of the initiators of the Eastern Partnership, review the progress of the program and specific actions of Armenia?
In early December the extraordinary visit of three foreign ministers of the three countries - Poland, Sweden and Bulgaria took place. I think the media have underestimated the importance of this visit and its possible implications for relationship between Armenia and the EU. After all, EU is not a Commission in Brussels. EU is 28 countries that have delegated some of their powers to Brussels and who decide what policy EU should conduct. Some time ago, Poland and Sweden have proposed Eastern Partnership as a program to promote the modernization and reform in Eastern Europe, including the South Caucasus, in order to promote the development in these countries, particularly, legal, political, and economic rules that push these countries closer to the EU. It will be optimal if the members of the Eastern Partnership aim for full integration into the EU sometime in the future. Our idea is permanent - not to forget about our eastern neighbors. In contrast to our southern neighbors, who are neighbors of Europe, Eastern countries are European neighbors of EU. There is a small but significant difference. This is a different quality, a different perspective, as well as other opportunities.
If in the early 1990’s, which in my country have been very difficult (though not as terrible as here, as there was an earthquake and a war here), someone would have tried to convince us that Poland will be a member of EU an ambulance would be called for him. But the dream has come true. Politics is the ability to dream marvelously, to think far ahead. Is this program perfect? Perfect solutions do not exist. But this is the most of what Europe today can offer. Sometimes they talk about the financial component. But it is not only a transfer of money - it is a transfer of ideas and solutions. If we convert to per capita the amount which Armenia currently receives from the EU, it is about the same as Poland received prior to the entry into the EU. The money was spent on making changes. We must have the will, determination, and vision to seek what we want. In general, I think, after 2.5 years of work we can be satisfied. The year left before the summit in Vilnius can be an important one. On December 17 an agreement on visa facilitation between Armenia and the EU was signed. The negotiations on the main document of the Association are in full run, the three rounds of talks on free trade have been held. Altogether it is a package of associated membership. Best that can be achieved in Armenia now is all of the above, except for the formal membership.
This question concerns one of the southern neighbors. How much does the policy pursued by Turkey concerning Armenia’s blockade correspond to European standards?
First, it is important to remember that Turkey is not an EU member. It is a member of NATO, and we have very good relations with both Ankara and Yerevan. We would like to somehow contribute to the normalization of relations, but here additional mediators will only interfere. Turkey politicized the issue, as it is also connected to the relations with Azerbaijan. I am sure that any border closure in Europe now is absurd. I myself am against hard visa regimes; borders should be a place where people meet, and not a place that separate people. On the other hand, I look at Turkey differently than many of my Armenian friends. Despite the difficult and dramatic past, I think that Turkey is a great chance for Armenia. You should look at Turkey’s 80 million market. At the same time, despite the closed border, contacts between the two countries exist, and the turnover is significant. This shows the absurdity of the situation. Why transport goods from [Armenian] Gyumri to [Turkey’s] Kars through Georgia, if directly it is only 80 km. I hope that the economic interest of both parties will solve the issue. But I want to emphasize again - any closed border is abnormal.
A small Polish community lives in Armenia, a fairly large Armenian community lives in Poland. Do the communities experience any problem?
The Polish community in Armenia is indeed small, only about 200-300 people. Some of them are ethnic Polish, whose descendants moved to Armenia, as well as polish women, married to the Armenians. There is a group of Armenians who are just very sympathetic to Poland. The number of Armenians in Poland is difficult to calculate, because not everyone wants to be counted, it is about 30-40 thousand. This is the latest migration.
Poland is quite a complicated country for a foreigner; just like Armenia, it is mono-ethnic and mono-religious. Polish people have special sympathy for Armenians, Georgians and French. Armenians in Poland are a legally recognized minority. Recently, more Armenians decided to set up permanent residence in Poland. We are glad, you are welcome.
By Mariam Levina