The second discussion within the framework of the project “Ost/Wschód: German-Polish Debates on the East” involved the speakers Anna Maria Dyner (Analyst on Belarus, Polish Institute of International Affairs) and Ingo Petz (German journalist, expert on Belarus).
The speakers highlighted the very close ties that exist between Belarus and Russia in many fields (politics, economy, military, energy, culture), but also pointed out that at the moment the relationship between the two countries is at the worse level in their history. They also drew attention to the importance of the presidential elections in August in Belarus for the development of relations with the EU, as protests and the reaction of the regime could severe relations between them.
Anna Maria Dyner on bilateral relation Poland-Belarus
Polish-Belarusian relations are quite good, there is cooperation in many fields:
- Politics (many parliamentary visits, technical contacts on the level i.e. of Ministers of Foreign Affairs)
- Defence (Vienna document and Open skies treaty)
- Culture (plenty of cultural initiative between countries, events organised by the Polish embassy in Minsk, cultural contacts between theatres and museums)
- Transborder relations (both countries are using the EU Programme Poland-Belarus-Ukraine 2020 to develop many projects in the transborder region)
- Economic (Poland is one of the main trade partners of Belarus and one of the biggest investors there, main oil companies are cooperating)
Unresolved issues and critical points:
- Situation of Polish minority (there are two Unions of Poles in Belarus, one recognized by Warsaw, one recognized just by Minsk. Both countries, especially Belarus, can´t solve this issue)
- Small border traffic issue from 2010
- Electrical energy issue (because of the position of Lithuania, Poland refused to use the electricity which will be produced in a nuclear power plant in Belarus)
- Human rights in Belarus
- Elections and electoral campaign (protests and crackdown would damage relations Belarus-EU and Belarus-Poland)
- Security issues: threat of new Russian military bases in Belarus
Ingo Petz on bilateral relation Germany-Belarus
Belarus doesn´t play a huge role in German foreign policies, the cooperation started in the beginning of the 90s (for two main reasons: German historical responsibility during World War II and the Chernobyl disaster). On the governmental side the relationship was never so close as the one between Belarus and Poland, but since 2015 (last presidential elections) German politicians and ministers came closer. Present cooperation fields:
- Support of civil society (supporting programme from German government which funds civil society projects, since 2002 around 160 projects were supported in the field of education, environment, youth exchange, memory, culture, history, etc. It is quite an important fact because it´s a grass roots thing)
- A task force was created with German and Belarusian representatives, experts and politicians with the aim to figure out how to improve Belarusian-German relations on certain levels. (It is a good idea, to bind the regime officials to certain agreements in a perspective of a long-term effective relationship).
- Support of the independent sovereignty of Belarus (in the EU foreign policy towards Belarus there is the idea to use cooperation on certain levels with Belarus for supporting its independent sovereignty. The hope is that if we have a stable, independent Belarus, this could help to ease out conflicts with Russia as well.
- It will be interesting to see how the German government is going to react to the protests and the reaction of the regime, but I guess the relationship developed in the past 5 years should not be harmed.
Cooperation Germany – Poland towards Belarus (proposals and recommendations)
Anna Maria Dyner: We have plenty of issues to do together:
- Cooperation in the third sector: both countries can join to help establish NGOs, not only the ones which are dealing with politics but also the ones that are dealing with everyday life issues, with economic issues
- It would be perfect if Germany will support Polish negotiations about the next perspectives of transborder projects, because they are working very well, and they are developing relations between Belarus and the EU
- Cooperation in defence and military field
- Cooperation within the EU, especially regarding the discussion about the new financial perspectives for the Eastern Partnership, the position of Germany will be crucial for the future of this European project
Ingo Petz: In the EU there is no long-term vision or strategy for these kinds of regimes like Belarus. Germany and Poland could cooperate on:
- Supporting civil societies as an asset: not only the civil society dealing with politics, but also on other levels, like on university level, school level, on educational and cultural programs (for example, Poland is supporting independent media in Belarus). This is one of the most important points to me, it brings people together and drives exchange.
- Trying to make the European policies in Belarus more heard for the ordinary people, especially for younger people, and not only on a very technical base (the EU doesn´t really succeed in communicating its policies to Belarusian people).
The entire debate can be seen online on the YouTube Channel of New Eastern Europe. The debates are organized within the framework of the project “Ost/Wschód: German-Polish Debates on the East”. The project is co-sponsored by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Warszawa as well as the Fundacja Współpracy Polsko-Niemieckiej.
More debates on Germany's and Poland's Eastern policies will be held in summer 2020. For further information please write to Adam Balcer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Tim Bohse (email@example.com).