Poland’s tumultuous election – what’s in it for Lithuania?

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With the incumbent Andrzej Duda facing off the liberal mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, LRT.lt spoke with experts about what the results of Poland’s presidential election might mean for Lithuania.

Following a meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda in July last year, Duda said “Lithuania’s security is very important for us and we pay attention to it, not only like neighbours, but also like important partners”.

The same sentiment is also shared by Trzaskowski, according Julia Grzybowska, the head of the Warsaw Institute think tank.

“For both candidates, the Baltic states, as well as the broader Central and Eastern European region, are strategic in the struggle against harmful Russian interference as well as the struggle to quickly catch up with Western Europe in terms of economic development,” she said.

“The pro-Lithuanian sentiments of the Polish society have never been better,” added Grzybowska.

To keep the focus on defence cooperation, Vilnius has been reluctant to adopt a firm position in the ongoing disputes with Brussels over the rule of law in Poland.

When the EU mulled slamming Warsaw with sanctions, Lithuanian President Nausėda didn’t reply to reporters’ question on how the country would vote in the dispute.

Instead, he stressed shared values and regional cooperation, which should continue regardless of which candidate wins the run-off, according to Andžej Pukšto from Vytautas Magnus University.

“Lithuania and Poland have started many joint initiatives, especially in defence and security fields. Therefore, they would continue, and political cooperation would remain similar,” he told LRT.lt.

The two countries have recently signed agreements to facilitate joint air defence, as well as to jointly protect the so-called Suwalki Gap, a 100-kilometre-wide corridor connecting the Baltic states with Poland which is flanked by Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad.

Grzybowska said both candidates would favour continuing energy security initiatives, as well as infrastructure projects, and would also reaffirm security guarantees.

Both candidates stress the importance of regional initiatives, which also include Lithuania.

“Trzaskowski is set to deepen cooperation with the EU on matters of security. The commitment to NATO will remain strong, as will the regional alliances,” Grzybowska told LRT.lt.

Duda would attempt to strengthen the initiatives to “make the voice of the Central and Eastern European region be heard” in NATO, she added.

But if Poland aims to be the regional voice, Lithuania’s diplomatic role will continue to decline, according to Pukšto.

“In the last decade, Lithuania’s diplomacy has weakened significantly and is often limited to supporting Polish initiatives,” he said.

If Trzaskowski started raising questions about human rights and the rule of law, it’s questionable whether Lithuania would be able to muster enough diplomatic weight to take part in the discussions, he added.

Trzaskowski is from Civil Platform, the party which includes Poland’s former prime minister Donald Tusk. Under his foreign minister and fellow party member Radosław Sikorski, Polish–Lithuanian relations hit rock bottom, mostly due to Lithuania’s policies toward its Polish-speaking minority.

However, these disagreements belong to the past, and Trzaskowski is a new-generation politician, said Pukšto.

Trzaskowski understands that raising the contentious ethnic minority and language issues with Lithuania would be harmful, according to him.

“This anti-Lithuanian [mood] wouldn’t return. Tusk and Sikorski also made many mistakes back then”, as did Lithuania, he added.

 

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