What challenges and opportunities will the new year bring for Polish-Ukrainian relations? Results of the XV Ukraine-Poland Forum

On December 15-16, Lviv hosted the XV Ukraine-Poland Forum, traditionally organized by the International Renaissance Foundation and the Stefan Batory Foundation (Poland).

The Ukraine-Poland Forum is a sustainable platform for discussions and reflections on Ukrainian-Polish relations and the factors that influence them. The format of the Forum promotes dialogue between representatives of civil societies of the two countries who are interested in strengthening bilateral relations between the societies of Poland and Ukraine.

The previous Forum was held in July of this year and was dedicated to the changes brought to the dynamics of relations between Ukraine and Poland by Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. In September, the Forum participants responded with a joint statement on the peculiarities of the moment in Ukrainian-Polish relations, calling for de-escalation of political rhetoric on both sides caused by economic disputes.

This year’s Forum took place after the parliamentary elections and the change of government in Poland, and the historic decision of the European Council to open negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU. Accordingly, the program of this Forum was aimed at discussing opportunities, main topics and important dates that may affect Ukrainian-Polish relations in the context of Ukraine’s European integration next year.

The participants of the Forum were civic activists, analysts, academics, and representatives of the business and economic sectors of Ukraine and Poland, as well as the Ukrainian government.

In particular, they discussed:

  • Poland’s post-election policy: the state of the Polish economy, the potential policy of the new government towards the EU, Ukraine and the prospects for advocating for EU enlargement;
  • Ukraine’s strategic dynamics on the eve of 2024: trends in combat operations, development of the national economy in wartime, and key needs and expectations of support from Western partners;
  • The results of the European Council summit on December 14-15: expectations regarding the calendar, speed and complexity of Ukraine’s EU accession negotiations, the role of Poland, the impact of domestic political trends in the EU, and the connection to the EU reform debate;
  • Poland’s interests and Ukraine’s integration into the EU single market: the roots of problems in the agricultural and transport sectors, possibilities of their depoliticization and solution, and prospects for trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.

The forum also had a public part – a discussion “Scenarios of the Future: Expectations, Fears and Hopes of Ukraine and Poland in the Process of European Integration in 2024”, which aimed to publicly discuss how the dynamics of relations between

The discussion was moderated by Oleksandr Sushko, Executive Director of the International Renaissance Foundation, and the speakers were:

  • Edwin Bendik, President of the Stefan Batory Foundation.
  • Pavlo Klimkin, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2014-19).
  • Alyona Getmanchuk, Director of the New Europe Center, member of the Advisory Committee of the Presidents of Ukraine and Poland.
  • Jacek Piechota, President of the Polish-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, former Minister of Economy of Poland.
  • Jan Truszczyński, Conference of Ambassadors of the Republic of Poland, former head of the Polish delegation to the EU accession negotiations.

Summarizing the impressions of the two days of discussions at the Forum, the organizers noted a positive impression of a meaningful, mature and constructive dialogue between the participants, who show their readiness and need to continue it at the expert and political levels on various aspects of bilateral relations – both those where there is an obvious convergence of interests and those where problems arise

“The new government in Poland means new opportunities, including for the development of relations with Ukraine. It is also in Ukraine’s interest to restore Poland’s place in the EU and normalize its relations with Brussels. Despite all the economic disputes that have recently arisen, Poland has consistently continued to support Ukraine’s accession to the EU,” said Edwin Bendyk, President of the Stefan Batory Foundation.

“This is a normal situation when economic disputes arise between neighboring countries, one of which is a member of the EU and the other is joining. It is important to have mechanisms of dialogue – political, expert and stakeholder – to solve these problems. Therefore, our joint appeal to the Ukrainian and Polish governments is to use the new political context to restore, expand and strengthen bilateral dialogue at various levels between our two countries,” said Oleksandr Sushko, Executive Director of the International Renaissance Foundation.

The Forum participants on both sides also agreed that the current blockade of the Polish-Ukrainian border not only complicates Ukraine’s logistics during the war, but also harms Poland’s international image and the interests of both sides in developing bilateral trade. Therefore, the continuation of such forms of protest with the blockade of the border is unacceptable. All the controversial aspects of the implementation of the EU-Ukraine transportation liberalization agreement really need to be addressed systematically, but only through negotiations between the governments and all stakeholders. Without solving these problems, we will not be able to fully utilize the opportunities that are now opening up for bilateral relations.

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