Warsaw, March 5 (RFE/RL) - Will there be a road-and-rail corridor, designed
to give Belarus an outlet to the Baltic Sea, that crosses Polish territory?
Poland's government insists there are no such plans. And Warsaw maintains that
the only talks on the project have taken place in Moscow, Minsk and Kaliningrad.
But in Warsaw, plans for the corridor are common knowledge, and Russia says the
project has been under active discussion "over the last two years," including
the participation of Polish representatives.
The project most recently made headlines when it was discussed during a visit
to Moscow last month by Belarus' President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
After the Moscow announcement, Poland's new Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz
declared: "There will not be any corridor through Poland." But, Russian officials
say the project is likely to be discussed when Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov
visits Warsaw next week (March 14-15). And, officials in Warsaw tell RFE/RL that
the corridor project is expected to be discussed when Poland's President Aleksander
Kwasniewski visits Moscow next month.
In Poland, the project is commonly called the "Suwalki corridor," because of the Suwalki
region through which it is expected to pass.
Polish media have reported extensively on the project for months, mostly citing sources
in Moscow, Minsk and Kaliningrad.
Correspondents in Warsaw say the issue arose about a year ago, when Moscow was involved
in a dispute over proposed transit routes with Lithuania.
Warsaw seemed to take little notice of the dispute. But, sensing potential economic gain,
authorities in the Suwalki region opened discussions on their own. The Suwalki region has
one of Poland's highest unemployment rates.
Polish newspapers have reported that the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw was perhaps the least
informed about the proposed corridor. But, the reports say officials in the Transportation
Ministry and officials in the Suwalki region have been actively discussing the project for
months. One newspaper obtained a government document that includes detailed plans for the
corridor, linking Grodno in Belarus to Russia's Kaliningrad region. The plan notes the corridor's
proposed path through forests and fields, and across waterways, which are sanctuaries for fish
Some Polish media have suggested the only things Poland would "gain" from the project are air,
soil and water pollution.
Opponents of the project in Poland cite three reasons they say it should not be built. First,
they say there is the question of sovereignty involved in such a corridor. Second, there is
the question of Polish-Lithuanian relations. Lithuania had said it was
prepared to arrange transport of goods more efficiently and cheaply over existing transit routes
to its port at Klaipeda.
Lithuanian media have reported that the corridor has been actively discussed by Poland's
cabinet, but that Polish officials are quick to suggest that the only discussions are
taking place in Moscow and Minsk. During a two-day visit that opens today in Vilnius,
Poland's President Kwasniewski is expected to discuss the corridor with Lithuania's
President Algirdas Brazauskas.
And, the third reason reaches back into history. On the eve of the war, Hitler demanded
that Warsaw allow goods to be shipped across Poland to Prussia (Konigsberg) along a route
that would become know as the Danzig Corridor. The USSR gained the territory after the war,
and named it Kaliningrad.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Krylov yesterday told the Interfax News Agency that
Russia and Belarus are not thinking of a "corridor." "We only propose," he said, "to
contribute to the development of the transport network in Europe."