The war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine (February 24, 2022) further consolidated the representatives of all political parties and forces of the Polish state and Polish society in full support of Ukraine. In 2022 Poland proved to be Ukraine’s crucial hinterland not only in the military but also in the civilian sense. Since the very beginning of the Russian war, Poland has been among the countries providing Ukraine with military equipment, including Polish-manufactured and extremely effective Piorun MANPADs, various types of ammunition, rifles, mortars, and most recently the light one-shot anti-tank grenade launcher, Komar. Due to its geographical location, Poland serves also as a transport hub for deliveries of equipment to Ukraine. Poland also engages politically, trying to widen external military assistance to Ukraine at the common NATO level.
As a member of the EU and NATO, Poland has consistently supported Ukraine's Euro-integration and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, constantly emphasizing the need to maintain an "open door" policy for new member states, one of the largest contributors to the OSCE SMM in Ukraine. Ukraine and Poland are actively cooperating on energy security and diversification of energy sources, cybersecurity, military-technical and defense industries. The trend of increasing bilateral trade is positive. Interregional cooperation is actively developing, as well as cooperation in the field of education, science, culture, and youth exchanges. In July 2020, Ukraine together with the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Lithuania formed a regional format - the "Lublin Triangle".
In the international arena, the Republic of Poland advocates the need for the international community to increase pressure on Russia to immediately end the war against Ukraine and restore the territorial integrity of the state within internationally recognized borders. In this regard, official Warsaw is extremely active in using the existing bilateral and multilateral tools of influence in the international arena in support of Ukraine. The leadership of the Polish state during bilateral meetings, including within the EU and NATO, international organizations constantly emphasize the need to strengthen sanctions against Russia, as well as to provide Ukraine with military, financial and humanitarian assistance.
After Poland's December 2007 entry into the EU Schengen visa zone, Ukrainians lost access to easily obtained free Polish visas. This was especially difficult for Ukrainian residents living near the Polish border who often depended on shuttle trading or who had family living on the Polish side of the border. Although, Ukrainians now had to meet more stringent standards and pay 60 Euros for a Schengen zone visa, the Polish visa process was considered the most "humane" of the EU countries. Poland was committed to easing the EU visa process for Ukrainians and pushed for simplifying Schengen visa requirements for certain Ukrainians, such as businessmen and students.
After the Russian invasion in February 2022, any person hoping to enter Poland from Ukraine was allowed to enter. Small pets can enter without restrictions. Dogs and cats should have a microchip and vaccination, but officials can waive this requirement at the border. In Poland, the Government (not UNHCR) is responsible for processing international protection claims, recognizing someone as a refugee, and facilitating their integration.
As of 16 March 2022, an estimated 1.9 million Ukrainian refugees had crossed the border with Poland, the Polish Border Guard has reported. That requires a lot of effort from the state apparatus and from society. The future of these people depends very much on the outcome of the war in Ukraine. Some of them are joining their families in other EU countries and consider Poland only as a transfer station. Yet still, bearing in mind the large Ukrainian diaspora that lived in Poland before the war (according to some estimates it was even two million people), one should expect that the vast majority of refugees will stay.
Ukrainian officials regard Poland as a strong bilateral partner, Ukraine's primary advocate in the European Union, and as a key supporter of Ukraine's NATO aspirations. Poland and Ukraine maintain close contacts at all levels: Presidential, Prime Ministerial and via their Foreign Ministries. The close and productive bilateral relationship between Poland and Ukraine is a significant example of historical reconciliation. Poland has managed to help mentor Ukraine without prompting notable resentment.
Diplomatic relations between Poland and Ukraine were established on January 4, 1992. On August 24, 1991, Ukraine announced its declaration of independence. Poland was the first country to recognize the independence of its neighbor. On On May 18, 1992, the "Treaty on Good Neighborhood, Friendly Relations and Cooperation" was signed between the two countries. In October 1991, an agreement on trade and economic cooperation was concluded. In February 1993, an agreement on military cooperation was signed, and in August 1993 the government of the Republic of Poland announced that partnership with Ukraine was one of the priorities of Polish foreign policy. The declaration of March 1994 confirmed that Polish-Ukrainian relations had the character of a close partnership. In August 1994, the prime ministers of both countries signed a declaration on the principles and directions of economic cooperation.
In May 1997, the presidents of Poland and Ukraine signed the "Joint declaration of consent and reconciliation", in which the memory of the victims of Polish-Ukrainian conflicts was commemorated. In June 2005, there was a symbolic rapprochement and an act of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation, soon after that Presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Viktor Yushchenko opened the restored Lviv Eaglets Cemetery. In May 2006, during the ceremony on the anniversary of the Polish murder of Ukrainian civilians in Pawlokom, President Lech Kaczynski quoted the Lord's Prayer: "forgive us our sins as we forgive our debtors."
By 2009 President Yushchenko enjoyed a close relationship with Polish President Kaczynski. In addition to the eleven official bilateral meeting between Yushchenko and Kaczynski in the year, the presidents also hedld frequent unofficial phone calls without the involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) or presidential staff. The relationship between Yushchenko and Kaczynski extended beyond similar policy and world views and that their families are close friends. One unfortunate side effect of the Yushchenko-Kaczynski relationship was that the MFA was often left out of the loop because many high level discussions happen informally.
Although not as close as Yushchenko and Kaczynski, Prime Minister Tymoshenko and Polish PM Tusk were also in frequent contact and enjoy a good working relationship. Tusk saw Tymoshenko as an action-oriented leader who can get things done. The two governments reated a bilateral commission including more than 17 subcommissions focused on specific topics, such as extending the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline, trade, investment, electricity, and cemeteries. In December 2008 the Ukrainian and Polish MFAs held a ministry to ministry forum with ten directors from each side discussing a broad swath of bilateral topics. This meeting underscored the depth and institutional nature of Ukrainian-Polish cooperation.
On November 28, 2011, the President of the Republic of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski and the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, laid the foundation act for the construction of the Polish War Cemetery in Bykivnia, the fourth of the so-called Katyn cemeteries. The cemetery was officially opened and consecrated on September 21, 2012, with the participation of Bronislaw Komorowski and Viktor Yanukovych.
Ukrainian leaders regarded Poland as a strong advocate for Ukraine's integration into the European Union and NATO. Only Poland was willing to stand up to other EU countries on Ukraine's behalf, especially when it involves Russia. Kyiv saw Poland as its primary champion for EU membership and as second only to the US as an advocate for Ukrainian accession to NATO. The shared history of Poland and Ukraine of "war and subjugation" made their leaders see the world through similar optics.
Warsaw is committed to Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration not only because Kyiv is a close ally, but because it is good for Poland's economy and national security. The biggest external roadblocks to closer ties between Ukraine and the EU were the close relations Germany and France maintain with Russia. But Ukraine was its own worst enemy when it comes to Euro-Atlantic ntegration. Political infighting and "undemocratic" actions by its leaders frequently undermined Polish advocacy on Ukraine's behalf and gave ample ammunition to Kyiv's harshest critics.
Due to Poland's membership in the European Union, a significant part of economic relations between Poland and Ukraine (in particular regarding trade issues) is regulated by agreements concluded between the European Union and Ukraine. The main legal act regulating EU-Ukraine bilateral relations is the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which was signed on June 14, 1994 and entered into force on March 1, 1998. On April 29, 2004, Ukraine signed an additional protocol extending the provisions of the PCA to new countries joining the EU, including Poland. On June 27, 2014, an Association Agreement was signed between the European Union and its member states, on the one hand, and Ukraine, on the other hand, of which the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Agreement is an integral part.
The legal basis of bilateral economic relations are, among others: Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Poland and the Government of Ukraine on mutual support and protection of investments signed in 1993, Convention between the Government of the Republic of Poland and the Government of Ukraine on the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion in the field of taxes on income and property signed in 1993, Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Poland and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on economic cooperation signed in 2005, in accordance with the Order of the Minister of Development and Finance, the Department of Trade and Investment Promotion (WPHI) in Kiev was liquidated on 31 January 2018. The commercial court is the competent court to hear economic cases in Ukraine. If the parties to a commercial contract include an arbitration clause in the contract, they deem the arbitration court competent to resolve any disputes. The most famous local court of arbitration is the International Court of Arbitration at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ukraine in Kiev. In addition to Ukrainian legislation, the territory of Ukraine is governed by international regulations, e.g. the Washington Convention, ratified by Ukraine, concerning the settlement of investment disputes between the state and foreign investors, or the New York Convention, according to which Ukraine recognizes judgments of foreign arbitration courts.
In accordance with the order of the Minister of Development and Finance, the Department of Trade and Investment Promotion (WPHI) in Kiev was liquidated on January 31, 2018, the Polish Investment and Trade Agency SA and the Foreign Trade Office in Kiev took over the tasks that had been carried out so far by WPHI - in including: providing information about the market (analyzes, reports, guides), co-creating a network of contacts with local companies and business environment institutions, organizing training courses for Polish and foreign companies, verifying business partners, organizing economic missions, assisting in introducing products to the market, creating promotional and media campaigns.
The Foreign Trade Office - unlike the former WPHI - is not part of the structure of a diplomatic mission. The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Kiev continues its activities to support Polish political and economic interests in Ukraine, including by:
- protecting the rights and interests of Polish business entities and intervening against the Ukrainian authorities in the event of their violation,
- promoting Poland as a reliable partner in trade and investment contacts as well as Polish economic achievements,
- expansion of the Polish-Ukrainian treaty base and creation of a friendly legal environment.
Polish-Ukrainian cultural cooperation is developing very intensively at the level of voivodships and districts, partner cities, cultural institutions, artistic institutions, museums, and unions and associations. The Polish Institute in Kiev, established in 1998, plays a special role in shaping Polish-Ukrainian cultural cooperation. For over 20 years of its existence, it has organized several thousand projects whose main goal is to present and popularize Polish culture in Ukraine. These achievements include, among others classical, electronic, folk and jazz music concerts, theater, film, publishing and historical projects as well as exhibitions. The Polish Institute carried out over 100 projects annually, which includes several hundred events from various fields of culture and art. Cooperation between Poland and Ukraine in the field of culture is developing, confirming the natural relations between the countries.
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