Since the Ukrainian state emerged, relations with Poland have become very close. Poland and Canada were the first countries to recognise Ukraine's independence in December 1991. Relations were also good between the former heads of states Lech Walensa and Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and Leonid Kravtshuk and Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine.

Traditionally, lively contacts were developing between regions, university schools, educational and cultural organisations. This all proves that the quality of our relations has not been based exclusively on events of 2004, although the Ukrainians bid for democracy in that year met with wholehearted support from the Polish people.

Have these hopes come true? It is known that people had great expectations. It is unrealistic to expect that they all could come true within a year or two. But today Ukraine is different than is was a year ago. Probably a more objective assessment will be possible from the perspective of more years. Surely, freedom of speech is now a fact and the oligarchs do no longer have such direct power as before.

Present-day Ukraine is a democratic country. It pursues the road of democracy and market economy. This is to a large extent attributed to President Victor Yushchenko. He is a man who has his values and ideals.

General elections will shortly be held and if Ukrainian electors will be consistent, Ukraine's democratic progress will continue. I do not think, however, that the situation has changed radically. Almost half of the electorate still supports one camp and the second half the other. In certain sense, this reflects the defeat of the democratic forces.

For since that time they have had the task of increasing the ranks of their allies. But the result of the elections, whatever the outcome, will not be disastrous for Ukraine and it will not affect relations with Europe and in particular with Poland.

As member of the EU, Poland is the spokesman of Ukraine's rapprochement with Europe. In terms of so-called European standards, Ukraine's situation has changed last year. Ukraine has scored a big success. It has proved to the world that it is a democratic state. Those in power do not threaten the electoral process and freedom of speech. I do not think that the international community expected more than what had happened.

Admittedly, the issue of Ukraine's EU membership was not placed on last year's agenda yet. And it will probably not be placed this year either. Ukraine's most important task is to bring itself closer to European standards and to raise the competitiveness of its economy.

A new stimulus in Polish-Ukrainian relations is expected from the first visit to Ukraine by president Lech Kaczynski at the end of February. The new president seeks to activate foreign policy and attaches great importance to personal contacts. Hence establishing a personal contact with Victor
Yushchenko will become one of the priorities of the visit. The talks between the presidents will also deal with Ukraine's relations with the
European Union and the coordination of tasks in energy policy.

Poland as well as the European Union is interested in energy security. Both have been content that Ukraine and Russia reached an agreement. A situation such as that of Russia stopping gas supplies should not happen again. It was undreamt of till then that gas supply might simply be cut off.

Generally, such a policy is unacceptable. Deliveries of energy carriers should not serve as instruments of political pressure. Energy security must remain beyond politics. Now we have received a second lesson, another proof that energy carriers have become part of politics.

It has never been so good that it could not be better, And although trade turnover and investments are still rising we know that the growth dynamics in recent months might have been higher if the investment climate in Ukraine was better and if not for administrative obstacles and unfavourable decisions affecting Poland and which can hardly be understood.

Such clashes of interests, so it seems, are unavoidable. The elimination of reliefs in special economic zones was not aimed against Polish investors. The move was intended to hitthe grey zone, the off-share investors who manipulated the rules to avoid en masse paying taxes.

Professor Marek Dabrowski, a Polish economist serving as advisor to the authorities here told me that this was the only successful move in the economic policy of the former government of Julia Timoshenko.

Alas, the baby was emptied out with the bath, and harm was done to honest investors, including those from Poland. It is now our task to seek compensation for losses incurred. We have succeeded in that only in part.

We are also speaking of bigger and spectacular actions such as the joint application to UEFA on organising European football championships, plans of extending the oil pipeline from Brody in the Ukraine to Plock, linking the wide gauge railway line connecting Silesia with Ukraine with Federal Russia's railway system which - when combined with the construction of a reloading terminal in Poland - would bring us into the Euro-Asian railway transportation system. We are talking about all that and collaborating with Ukrainian partners.
By Polish Market, English-Language Economic Magazine Warsaw, Poland, Issue 2, (114), February, 2006

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