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Interview with the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Jacek Kluczkowski
His Excellency Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Ukraine Jacek Kluczkowski is well known in the political and business circles of Ukraine. He has been interviewed by Oleksandr HOROBETS, senior editor of the Mizhnarodny Turyzm Publishing House, and Yevhen BUDKO, editor of Mizhnarodny Turyzm Magazine.
Mr Kluczkowski, first of all we would like to thank you as the representative of Poland and of its people for the stance you took during “the Orange Revolution” in this country last fall and winter. Poland’s support was extremely valuable for Ukraine…
You have been staying in this country for not too long, but your fluency in Ukrainian is remarkable. Many diplomats of other countries may envy you.
Thank you for the compliment. I began studying Ukrainian all by myself some time ago but the chance to improve it came only when I was posted to Ukraine as ambassador. Respect for the language of a nation is tantamount to respect for this nation.
Your Ukrainian experience is not limited only to your work as ambassador, is it?
No, it is not. In the early nineteen-nineties I worked in Kyiv as a correspondent of the Polish newspaper Kurier Polski. Starting from 1995, I was directly involved in the development of Polish-Ukrainian relations in the capacity of advisor to President Kwasniewski. I had to read a lot in Ukrainian and I took part in bilateral meetings and talks. About three years ago, I felt I was fluent enough to be able to talk freely. I think it’s important for an ambassador to know the language of the country he or she works in. Incidentally, quite a few members of the staff of our embassy, of our consulate and of employees of the Economic Department of the Polish Institute here in Kyiv are either fluent in Ukrainian or are doing their best to become fluent.
Could you tell us, please, of your interest in Ukraine, and what actually motivated you to become a diplomat?
Though my formal education did not involve Ukrainian studies, I was interested in Ukraine and its culture starting from the early stages of my career. In the capacity of advisor to the Polish president, I prepared materials for his speeches, I was directly involved in cultural relations with foreign countries and in what we call “historical politics” — that is issues that we inherited from the past. For President Kwasniewski relations with Ukraine and the “Ukrainian vector” in general, were among the most important issues. As a member of the Consultative Committee Ukraine-Poland, I was responsible for preparation of official documents to be signed during all kinds of talks and meetings. In 2001 I stopped being an official advisor to the President but remained his “link” with such members of the Ukrainian opposition as Yushchenko and Tymoshenko and others in their circle. At that time I was chief of staff of the Speaker of the Polish Seim (Parliament). Ukrainian issues came up all the time — an inter-parliamentary assembly, Poland-Ukraine, was being established, a joint statement of the Polish Seim and of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine concerning the tragic events of Ukrainian-Polish conflict in Volyn was being prepared. And once again I was directly involved. In May 2004, I was made head of the advisors to the prime minister of Poland, and of course, Ukraine was among my priorities. During the Orange Revolution, I was a representative of the Polish prime minister and later of the Polish President in Ukraine. I took part in the preparatory work for the international intermediary mission which was headed by Javier Solana. This mission did come to Ukraine at probably the most tense moment of the Orange Revolution. In other words, when I was appointed ambassador to Ukraine, I knew this country rather well.
How, in your assessment, will the Polish-Ukrainian relations be developing in the near future?
I think that in spite of the recent changes in the Ukrainian government and the Polish parliamentary elections, these relations will develop on a stable basis. We are neighbours and this alone makes our relations a priority factor. It does not mean there will be no problems to deal with. Among such problems that we have to face currently are the oil pipe line Odesa–Brody–Gdansk; air transport and communications; investments policies of Ukraine, and other issues. Ukraine has closed down free economic zones and this closure has adversely affected Polish investors. We want those who have been faithful to their obligations before Ukraine, retain their privileges. There are also problems connected with paying back the value-added tax to those Polish companies that continue to work within the framework of earlier agreements. But I don’t think there will always be problems of some kind, but the main thing is the willingness of both parties involved to solve them.
How big are the Ukrainian investments into the Polish economy?
We would not be able to talk of any considerable investments if not for Guta Czestochowa into which the Industrial Union of Donbas has made large investments, and the automobile production in Warsaw into which investments were made by the Ukrainian company AvtoZAZ-Daewoo. These two investment projects are so big that it makes the total of Ukraine’s investments into the Polish economy greater than that of Polish investments into Ukraine. Polish investments are mostly made into the medium- and small sized businesses, and among them there are some investments of considerable size.
Does tourism play any significant role in your diplomatic mission?
It does. I’m pleased to be able to state that a growing number of Ukrainians are coming to Poland as regular tourists rather than to seek jobs or on trading business. Polish tourist agencies look upon Ukrainians as potential tourists who may constitute a considerable proportion of all the tourists coming to Poland. I hope that not only the resort of Zakopane will be the destination of most of Ukrainian tourists who come to Poland. We have a rich cultural heritage of which we are proud and which has not been quite appreciated by Ukrainians yet.
Poland, being Ukraine’s neighbour, is a convenient place to go to. Poland is now a member of the European Union and as such it can share ideas of what Ukraine should do to also become a EU member. The Polish experience may be helpful for Ukraine to choose the course of further development. There is a great potential for developing culture, sport and other kinds of tourism. Even current rates of exchange of the national currencies into foreign currencies are conducive to the development of tourism. Polish tour operators had already realized this and they are widely represented at all the major tourist exhibitions held in Ukraine.
What about promoting tourism to Ukraine from Poland?
That’s one of the things we are working at. I’ve been to practically all the regions of Ukraine and I’ve seen that tourists could go anywhere and enjoy themselves and feel safe. Most of the Polish tourists go to Lviv, Kamyanets-Podilsky and other places, most of them in Western Ukraine, which share our common history. I hope Polish tourists will discover for themselves Central, Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and I also hope that the Ukrainian side will take steps to promote Polish tourism, to the Crimea, in particular. But in order to achieve palpable results, promotion of tourism should be made part of the purposeful state policies. And it would be very helpful, of course, if there were Polish investments into the Crimean tourist infrastructure. Last summer, the former prime-minister of the Crimea Mr Anatoly Matviyenko visited Poland and met potential Polish investors. Let’s hope that the start has been made.
Did the Orange Revolution change Ukraine’s image in Poland?
On the political level, there was a lot of positive exchange with the Ukrainian opposition right from the start, but at the grass-roots level the reaction varied. A certain stereotype had been established by the Ukrainian itinerant traders and illegal immigrants but within a couple of months the attitude to Ukraine, according to the polls, radically changed for the better… But it did not reflect on the number of Polish tourists visiting Ukraine — the growth in the past months has been insignificant. So we must continue to work to develop our political and person-to-person links.
Do you yourself do some travelling as a tourist?
In recent years I travelled mostly on business. But traveling even on business is better than no travelling at all. I like mountain hikes and I did a lot of hiking in the Tatra Mountains and Austrian Alps. Recently, I “discovered” Iran, and now I’m discovering Ukraine.
We wish you happy discoveries.
And I wish the Ukrainian people all the best. No matter what the changes there are in the government, hopes for the better have been firmly established by the Orange Revolution, the first anniversary of which will soon be marked. I’m sure Poland will continue to support Ukraine’s bid to become accepted into the united Europe.[Prev][Contents][Next]