In Krynica, about Carpathian Europe and Ukraine

What are the threats and opportunities for cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe under threat?

Are the nation states located in this part of our continent treated as subjects? Can they preserve their heritage? How should one conduct economic policy and look for investments there? - These questions were raised during a panel discussion "Europe of the Carpathians" at the XXV Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdrój.

Deputy Speaker of the Polish Sejm Marek Kuchciński encouraged politicians, parliamentarians, representatives of governments and regional authorities, non-governmental associations, scholars, experts, representatives of local authorities from Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia and Romania to discuss all forms, circumstances and dependencies in order to undertake coherent cooperation in all possible fields.

- It seems to us that prescriptions in development policy revolve around one word - cooperation - said Marek Kuchciński. - This is what we expect from each other. This is what the citizens of Central and Southeastern Europe expect from us. But it also seems that we should expect it in geopolitical terms, in pan-European terms, from the authorities of the European Union and more broadly.

- We don't all believe in each other in the same strength," noted Krzysztof Szczerski, Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland. - Is the phone call between our capitals the first thing we reach for when we have a problem? - Minister Szczerski asked. - Who do we call first? Which capital - Budapest, Warsaw, Prague, Bratislava, Bucharest - will we call first with regard to these problems? Will we call each other or someone else? Or will we make a call outside, I mean - to someone outside our region? And this is the thing that, in my opinion, requires deeper reflection at every level of government.

He explained that Polish President Andrzej Duda made his first foreign visit to our region. He went to Estonia, to Tallinn. He also chose a symbolic date - the European Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, the anniversary day of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This was the first "phone call" Andrzej Duda made. Krzysztof Szczerski added that in the near future the Polish President will meet with all presidents and with a large part of the authorities of the whole region. "Does our region, through mutual cooperation, move away from a situation in which it can be divided by external forces, or does it remain in such dependence on other countries, other capitals, other forces, including economic ones, which causes it to be constantly divided and ruled by external forces?" said Krzysztof Szczerski. He called for believing in each other's strength.

Deputy Speaker of the Polish Sejm Marek Kuchcinski already has great experience in the implementation of the "Europe of the Carpathians" projects. In an interview with Kurier he said:

- The fruit of what we do is getting to know each other, further encouragement, supporting representatives of various institutions, public authorities, local authorities, governments, international organizations of the European Union. Encouraging better and better cooperation.

And here we know one thing, that cooperation is the key word for the Carpathian countries. Together we have such great diversity, which no one, no large macro-region in other parts of Europe has. Our region has the greatest number of states, the greatest number of borders. The greatest diversity when it comes to nature. We also have, unfortunately, the greatest differences in living standards. Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Warsaw - these are the richest places. In contrast, Eastern Slovakia, Northern Romania, Eastern Poland, North-Eastern Hungary - these are the poorest areas in the European Union. The same can be said about the Carpathian regions of Ukraine. This is a challenge for us. The challenge is to provide people with such a standard of living in the future that they will not have to emigrate in search of work. The threat of emigration from here to other parts of Europe exists, the threat of migration as well, but if we concentrate on getting to know each other and eliminating stereotypes, then migration in our area will be less important. Of course, it would be best, for example, for students from Ukraine to go to Poland, Slovakia, or Hungary to study, and then return to their home countries to continue working for the benefit of their local communities. The same applies to Poland. But in Poland, if we are in the European Union, one of our values is that we have won freedom of movement, freedom to settle down, freedom to find work, and freedom to choose which university to study at. These are rights that accompany us in a Europe without borders. Let us wish that the entire Carpathians were free of these borders. We must also strive to break down stereotypes. During the Communist era, borders meant that we lived in closed ghettos. Today, it takes generations to break it down. We are in the process of breaking these stereotypes," said Marek Kuchciński.

I met MP Andrzej Sztorc in the company of the former Ambassador of Ukraine to Warsaw Prof. Markijan Malski.

- I am in the EU and Local Government Commission - said the Polish parliamentarian. - The Economic Forum in Krynica is, above all, an opportunity to feel all the new trends in the economy and energy sector. It is a place where we meet all the time. The reason for my presence today is, among others, meeting with ambassador Malski. All important meetings, which are extremely difficult to arrange during the year, can be done here. The most important are these informal meetings and talks. I've been here since morning and I've already managed to talk about Ukraine, about what is happening in Donetsk. We discuss it all the time in Poland. That's why it's so important to meet with people who live there, to hear the message naturally, live. This is where friendships, economic contacts and many other things are established. And in this respect Krynica fulfills its role - said Andrzej Sztorc.

- I am at the Forum in Krynica for the first time - said the vicar of the bishop of the Mukachev diocese, Fr Piotr Zharkovsky. - I represent the bishop of Mukachevo Antal Maynek, chairman of the Commission on Ecology and Migration of the Latin Episcopal Conference of Ukraine. During the deliberations, especially on the panel "Europe of the Carpathians" a number of topics were raised, which are also addressed by the new encyclical of Pope Francis "Laudato si" on ecology. The second important topic was the modern migration of people from the East to Europe.

- As part of the "Europe of the Carpathians" initiative, we have been participating in this Forum for many years," added the director of the Institute of Ecological and Religious Research of the National University of Uzhgorod, Associate Professor Alexander Bokotej. - Our delegation includes scientists and representatives of the Church. These are not only very interesting sessions, informal meetings are also important.

Through the Polish journalist Andrzej Klimczak, delegation from Transcarpathia got acquainted with the activities of the University Foundation from Stalowa Wola in Poland. Then, President of the Foundation Jolanta Róża Kozłowska, former Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Cologne, introduced guests from Zakarpattia with Secretary of State of the Ministry of Labour, Integration and Social Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia Thorsten Klute.

Among regular participants of the Economic Forum in Krynica were also: rector of the Vasyl Stefanyk Carpathian National University Prof. Ihor Cependa and director of the Eastern European Studies at the University of Warsaw Jan Malicki.

- Today's topic was devoted to a very interesting issue, because it was related to inequality in our societies - said Professor Ihor Cependa. - Not only in post-Soviet countries, but also in EU countries. If we look at these important aspects, first of all, we should note that the migration problems faced by the European Union started much earlier. Now we also have migration movement related to the economic emigration of Ukrainians. The second very important thing is that social inequality leads to social explosions. If you look at Ukraine, the events of 2004 and 2014 testified that Ukrainian society wants justice and requires the most important thing - to live by the rules, not to play by the rules. And this is the most important thing. The European Union, together with Ukrainian society, must work out such rules that will help to bring these EU values into the real life of Ukrainian society as soon as possible.

How does the issue of combining economic development with environmental protection relate to the theme of our project to rebuild the Popov Ivan Observatory? - said Jan Malitsky. - Despite the fact that the project of restoration of the observatory is mainly about bringing back to life a former historical monument, this connection is serious. At this moment, when we plan the reconstruction, and especially the future function of the rebuilt building, we must constantly think about finding the "golden mean" between the functioning of the rebuilt observatory and the issue of water consumption, littering, electricity, etc. It is necessary to find the "golden" mean in this case. Especially that I am a big opponent of changing the infrastructure on the slopes of Pop Ivan. If I have any influence on it - there will be no construction of asphalt or bicycle roads. There will be no high voltage lines to bring electricity. We will try to keep the status as it is now, and at the same time to restore the observatory. The plan is that in a few years, with the opening of the observatory, we will achieve what has already happened once in 1938. That is, to build a building in the mountains that will be a technical, infrastructural, and equipment jump a few decades ahead. Therefore, we are not thinking about old solutions, but only about new ones, both in the sense of using electricity and treating wastewater. In 2015 we are entering a new stage consisting in starting the first part of the reconstructed observatory this year. This year will see the launch of the Polish-Ukrainian Mountain Rescue Station. It means that from later autumn, if we manage to finish the renovation of the rooms, mountain rescuers will be on duty there all the time. They will have two tasks at the same time: first of all to provide help and rescue to those who need it in the mountains, and secondly, to protect the building," said Jan Malicki.

This year's jubilee XXV Economic Forum in Krynica gathered politicians, economists, representatives of science and business who tried to indicate the directions of development and goals for the Old Continent in the face of external threats and political and economic instability inside the European Union. President of Poland Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz also came to the Forum. The war in Ukraine and the very current problem of refugees and immigrants were on everyone's lips.

How, for a quarter of a century now, has it been possible to convince so many prominent figures, people with different views from all over Europe to participate in the Polish Davos? - Zygmunt Berdychowski, the main initiator of the idea, Chairman of the Programme Council of the Economic Forum and Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, answered this question posed by Kurier journalist:

I don't know how it happened. It's quite extraordinary for Central Europe, incredible. Why it was possible to build such an institution in 25 years and how it could have come into being in a world where there are gigantic changes every few years - I cannot answer this question. I myself wonder how it was possible. It is difficult to find something to explain this phenomenon. Above all, we would like the Forum to be even more interesting, even more attractive next year. We would like there to be even more guests, more topics. We would like to organize a big Europe-Ukraine Forum in Łódź in January 2016. In a word, a whole bunch of plans, ambitions and intentions.

"Galician Courier", Konstanty Czawaga 
The article appeared in No. 17 (237) September 15-28, 2015



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