Marek Kuchcinski in Muczno: Carpathians should be given development, but preserving extraordinary natural wealth

On Sunday, the Przemyśl Cultural Society organized the fifth conference in the series "Events and People of the 19th and 20th Centuries - Przemyśl, Przemyśl Land and Subcarpathia in Carpathian Europe."

The main theme of the conference was cooperation for the sustainable development of the Carpathian region in terms of the Carpathian Convention and the possibilities of developing tourism in the region through the creation of tourist border crossings.

- We met in Muczny, in the heart of the Bieszczady Mountains, to discuss the potential of the Carpathian Mountains. We look at them as one common land, which should be ensured development, but preserving this extraordinary natural wealth, beautiful landscapes, caring for clean water, air. The countries of the Carpathian belt face a challenge: how to reconcile the pursuit of the best-developed in Europe with the need arising not only from our regulations, but also the natural one - to live close to nature and respect the environment," said Marek Kuchcinski, the initiator of the conference. The Speaker referred to the green philosophy of Roger Scruton, who believed that conservatism is far more predisposed than liberalism or socialism to confront environmental problems. Our collective future is not certain, but we can choose a path that keeps our planet and our species safe. No large-scale project will succeed if it is not rooted in small-scale practical reasoning. So it's necessary for us to take control of our environment and care for it as if it were our home, including through activities in local associations, which has been a traditional goal of politics.

- For more than 20 years we have been formulating demands for the construction of new border crossings with Ukraine, and only now are we moving forward with the construction of Malhovice. Back then we were already talking about pedestrian and bicycle crossings, tourist crossings in Roztocze, the Bieszczady Mountains, and the vicinity of Kalwaria Paclawska to facilitate pilgrim traffic. We also talked about the restoration of the trail that stretches from Romania to the UK. New crossings have also been postulated for many years: Żurawin-Boberka in the Lutowiska municipality and Bystre-Lopuszanka in the Czarna municipality, as well as expanding and enabling a freight crossing in Krościenko," Marek Kuchciński said. For comparison, he juxtaposed the number of crossings on the Polish-German border: 45 and Polish-Ukrainian: 9. - For the flow of people and goods, this is far too few. More of them would make it easier, strengthen the western choice of Ukraine, and this also pays off for us. Data from 2019 shows that those entering within 100 kilometers left 7.6 billion zlotys in our country, mostly conducting retail trade, which translates into tens of thousands of jobs," the Speaker stressed.

Both Marek Kuchcinski and Deputy Climate and Environment Minister Malgorzata Golinska drew attention to the problems posed by Natura 2000 - In Poland, unlike, for example, the Alps, the program was introduced before many investments and new technologies, urbanization. There, in the Alps, first the tunnels, roads, ski lifts, all the tourist and ski infrastructure were built, and then Natura 2000 was introduced... and in Poland the opposite - when we gained independence and began to prepare for development, Natura 2000 was introduced to us, and we, having various investment plans, ran into a great wall of environmental restrictions  - Marek Kuchcinski argued.

Minister Golinska stressed that the program was often introduced on the basis of archival documentation that did not match the real state. Now the government has to prove that these areas were already devastated at the time. At the same time, she noted that the dialogue with the European Commission is on track - in January 2020 it was proposed to enlarge 7 Natura 2000 areas and create 14 new ones. Currently, we have 999 Natura 2000 areas, and they cover 20 percent of the country. 50 percent in forest areas and 25 percent in agricultural areas. There are 6 national parks, 13 landscape parks, there are protected landscape areas, and 70 percent of the Polish Carpathians are covered by various forms of nature protection.

According to the minister, it is necessary to preserve the wealth that is attracted to the Carpathians, and not to destroy the aesthetics of the landscape through billboards, advertisements, posters. Malgorzata Golinska also argued that the government is able to carry out investments with respect for nature, but we boast too little about our natural heritage, there is too little awareness of it abroad.

The moderator of the first panel, Podkarpackie Voivodeship Marshal Władysław Ortyl, noted that the Polish presidency of the Carpathian Convention is a good time to talk about the future of the second largest mountain chain in Europe. The Carpathian regions are very underdeveloped economically, which is why another development strategy, along the lines of the Alpine one, is sorely needed. A strategy that also includes the Carpathian regions of Ukraine would not only be an important developmental impulse for these areas, but also a form of cooperation that would integrate and strengthen the eastern, as well as the external border of the European Union and Ukraine itself. In turn, intensifying cooperation in the Carpathian macro-region would significantly contribute to the reconstruction of Ukraine and its faster integration into the Union.

Andriy Sheketa, first deputy chairman of the Transcarpathian Regional Council, argued that the Carpathians should be looked at as a whole, because sooner or later they will be in one European format, development should be ensured in all regions. He also noted that it is impossible to have tourism without tourists, who must freely reach areas of interest to them, a state border should not stand in their way. - There is already a lot done, but still not enough. As the Transcarpathian Regional Council, we emphasize the importance of the border crossing, in recent times the infrastructure of Transcarpathia has significantly improved, and new spas have also been built. For the Carpathian region to develop well, we need to win the war. We are working on this," he said.

Anna Brzechowska-Rębisz, director of the office of the Podkarpackie Regional Tourist Organization, pointed out the tourist attractiveness of combining different areas - Lower Silesia wins with the fact that tours can go from it to Prague - and the increasing demands of tourists, including "specialization" such as green tourism in Slovenia.

Dr. Dariusz Dylag, vice-president of the Res Carpathica Association, presented the silhouette of Mieczyslaw Orlowicz, the doyen of Polish tourism, and the tourist possibilities of the Wolosate-Lubnia passage.

The moderator of the second panel, Vice President of the Carpathian Euroregion Association Dawid Lasek, discussed the history and structure and tasks of the Carpathian Sustainable Tourism Platform, which is managed by the Carpathian Euroregion Poland for the duration of the Polish presidency of the Carpathian Convention. The signing of the Agreement in this regard with the Secretariat of the Convention took place remotely during the 2021 Europe of the Carpathians conference in Krasiczyn. Priorities include: building an international cooperation structure for sustainable tourism, construction of a Carpathian tourism observatory, the prototype of which is being developed in cooperation with statistical offices of Carpathian countries and Big Data partners, including VISA, and cultural tourism, a concrete example of which is the EthnoCarpathia Brand within the Carpathian Brand. Representatives of local governments from Ukraine, new members of the Association, also spoke during the panel. The mayors of Truskavets, Slavyansk and Boryslav confirmed their readiness to cooperate. The Plenipotentiary of the Chairman of the Lviv Regional Military Administration, Mr. Yuriy Kmit, presented the political and economic prospects for Ukraine's border areas in the context of joining the Euroregion. An important activity is the creation of strategies for the Transboundary Functional Areas in the Polish-Ukrainian borderland, i.e. "Kremenaros" and "Przemysl Gate".

The Euroregion is also cooperating with scholars from Norway. Based on the Norwegian experience, they are working on a program to educate people working for tourism. Prof. Knut Westeren of Nord University introduced segments of mountain tourism, consisting of ecotourism, authenticity, wild landscapes, and culture.

Danuta Waszczak spoke in the discussion, saying that she had "stomped" the entire Bieszczady Mountains as a hiker and, despite her advanced age, hopes to see them on the Ukrainian side, as well as places that once belonged to the Republic. - I would like to see the Eastern Carpathians and the Hutsul region," she mused.

The director of the Bieszczady National Park, Ryszard Prędki, thanked for the increase in subsidies, thanks to which educational activities, including for Ukrainian youths, support for refugees, and new facilities and modern exhibitions at the Natural History Museum have been opened for tourists.

Lesko district governor Andrzej Olesiuk stressed that if we are to protect the Carpathian Mountains, we must solve the problem of transportation and hour-long queues to parking lots. Marek Kuchcinski, responding, put forward ideas for reducing passenger cars in favor of, for example, special electric transportation.

Bieszczady starost Marek Andruch argued that everyone wants development, but also wants to protect the area. - We rely on tourism, but in order for these areas to function well, there must be more of them, tourist traffic should be diversified, going down the trails to the north and the Polish-Ukrainian border area, there is great potential there. I am in favor of making it possible to cross the border, with the preservation of priceless natural values," Andruch said. The starost also read an open letter from conference participants on the opening of the Lubnia-Volosate border crossing.

Dr. Jan Musial asked if it would be possible to hike through the border crossing in Volosat ending with a feast. - If the park director doesn't veto it, I think yes," Marek Kuchcinski replied.

The representative of the guides conveyed that, according to him, the foundation of tourism is infrastructure. He thanked Voivodship Marshal Wladyslaw Ortyl for its expansion. At the same time, he stressed the necessity of decluttering valleys, reclaiming overgrown scenic axes from roads and not disturbing the landscape with mindless buildings. - I dream of a train from Przemysl to Uzhgorod and further to Transcarpathia," he concluded.

Zenon Zegarski noted the need to provide bike paths and points where bicycles could be borrowed.

Deputy Marshal of the voivodeship Piotr Pilch stressed that we have had very good years for road investments in the Bieszczady, resulting, for example, in the section Ustrzyki Dolne - Lutowiska, the area around Solina Lake, and from the Polanczyk Ład are granted funds for the section Polańczyk - Wilkowyja. Work is also advanced on connecting the Green Velo from Przemyśl through Arłamow, Ustrzyki Dolne, Ustrzyki Górne to Cisna.

Another conference is coming soon. This time in Przemysl. You are cordially invited!



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