Poland remains a faithful supporter of Ukraine’s accession to the EU and NATO but believes it should be a high-quality accession first. Polish Ambassador to Ukraine, Mr. Bartosz Cichocki, stated this in an interview with Kyiv Not Kiev.
According to Mr. Cichocki, Ukraine’s young, innovative, creative society would strengthen the EU.
“But you should not be naive,” warns the Ambassador, “we are equally supportive of the enlargement of the EU and NATO, as we are critically respecting the quality of membership. Because we are neighbors and trade partners.”
Thus, he promised that Poland would closely watch the quality of Ukraine’s integration.
Poland has been called “the advocate for the European integration of Ukraine” for a long time. A few days after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the President of Poland was among the first to speak out for granting Ukraine the status of a candidate for membership in the EU. Later, the Presidents of 8 EU member states signed an open letter with a call to immediately give Ukraine the prospect of membership in the EU and start accession negotiations.
- The reform of the Constitutional Court.
- The judicial reform.
- Anti-corruption, including appointing the head of the Specialized anti-corruption prosecutor’s office.
- The fight against money laundering.
- The implementation of the anti-oligarchic law.
- The harmonization of audio-visual legislation with European legislation.
- The reform of the legislation on national minorities.
During the “Lublin Triangle” meeting of the Presidents of Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania in Lviv in January 2023, Andrzej Duda stated that Ukraine managed to fulfill its obligations regarding the EU membership in harsh conditions and now fully meets the accession requirements.
The purpose of the recent Ukraine-EU summit held in Kyiv on 3 February 2023 was to evaluate Ukraine’s progress toward implementing these reforms. The EU acknowledged Ukraine’s significant efforts over the past few months and urged it to continue fulfilling the EU membership requirements. Ursula von der Leyen presented President Zelensky with a document analyzing Ukraine’s EU membership application. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine had met 72% of its Association Agreement obligations.
However, Brussels believes that Ukraine has only passed the first stages of European integration and still needs to complete much work. The European Union evaluated Ukraine’s alignment with 32 integration criteria for EU accession.
Thus, for four out of 32 chapters, Ukraine received grades equal to four, confirming its closeness to the EU. For five criteria – grades three, 15 criteria – two, and eight criteria received the lowest score. It is where Ukraine almost did not adopt the EU law. The average score is 2.16.
The Ukrainian authorities count on a positive evaluation of reforms to prepare for pre-accession negotiations by the end of 2023. The European Commission agreed to provide interim conclusions this spring.
“We also believe from our own experience that this difficult, painful, annoying process of adjusting to the EU or NATO standards helps reform your institutions and your market rules and build a more resilient, citizen-friendly country. We are not limitlessly advocating the enlargement, but we believe this would help you build better institutions, improve the state-society relationship and create an equal framework for competition for companies and market players,” said Ambassador Cichocki.
The European Union is not the only organization Poland is pushing to accept Ukraine. In Davos, President Duda said that with Lithuania, Poland would insist on NATO guarantees for Ukraine, taking the country one step forward from the Bucharest summit of 2009, which affirmed that the Alliance was open to accepting Ukraine and Georgia.
” about such issues as security guarantees need certain discretion. Of course, I’m not going to dig into details publicly. Still, definitely, there’s a group of countries in NATO that are supportive of making another step forward from Bucharest towards membership. And now, we need to convince other allies that this is the right thing to do,” says Mr. Bartosz Cichocki.
In his opinion, the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July will be significant from the standpoint of discussing Ukraine’s possible accession to the Alliance and the provision of essential materials to support the country’s economy. For instance, the support includes petrol, construction materials, energy infrastructure materials, equipment, humanitarian aid, and so forth.
Furthermore, the Ambassador emphasized the importance of macro-financial support. Still, it should be addressed not just to NATO because it does not have a mechanism for providing such assistance. Hence, one should also address it to individual member states of the Alliance as they are members of the EU, World Bank, IMF, etc.
According to Ambassador Cichocki, NATO should consolidate efforts to supply Ukraine with weapons to counter the new Russian offensive. And if before it was difficult to even talk about the number of current supplies, today it is a reality.
“Within just one year, we have Germany and France sending weapons to Ukraine. In the beginning, it was unthinkable: everyone would say about escalation. Ukraine got more NATO weaponry than any NATO member got at any time,” says the Ambassador.
Poland is also an active contributor in the preparation of new sanctions against Russia at the EU level. By the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the EU introduced the 10th package of sanctions against Russia. They are intended to be very painful for the aggressor country.
According to journalists, the package includes sanctions against Russian banks, including the largest private bank, Alfa bank, founded by Russian-Israeli billionaire Mikhail Fridman. Furthermore, they include a ban on Russian nationals serving on boards of critical infrastructure companies in the EU, and newly sanctioned 130 entities and people, such as Russia Today. Finally, the 10th package also includes companies and individuals in other countries with ties to Russia or the mercenary Wagner Group, among others.
“I would say this is a miracle. We are about to agree on the 10th package of sanctions on Russia. If somebody had told me a year ago that we would have any package of sanctions on Russia, frankly speaking, I would not have believed it. I would not have believed we would give up on the Nord Stream. Things are changing. Sometimes we are reiterated that this or that capital is not following what we believe is right, but this is a revolution,” says Ambassador Cichocki.”This may take a long time. Still, this group of believers in Europe is growing.”
Poland not only advocates for the interests of Ukraine in the international arena but also develops domestic policy. It initially experienced a crisis with the influx of Ukrainian refugees. Currently, according to the Ambassador, the policy is undergoing positive changes.
“Statistics show that our trade is flourishing. Due to the war circumstances, we gave up on most of the limits, tariffs, and quotas, and it helps to import and export more. One thing is humanitarian, military, or medical aid, but many things are paid to support your military, your hospitals, your market in the agricultural sector, or others. There is an obviously visible development of transborder infrastructure, so paradoxically, there are good things. I don’t know if I can say it, but let’s hope the positive side effects of this tragic and catastrophic aggression stay with us,” added the Ambassador.
The full Kyiv Not Kiev interview with Ambassador Cichocki is available on the project’s Facebook page.
Victoria Dubiv, Chief editor at Kyiv Not Kiev, Head of Fundraising & Communications at TRUMAN
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