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Poland/Ukraine: The Beginning Of A Partnership

Warsaw, 19 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Poland and Ukraine view each other as "strategic partners," according to the Prime Ministers of the two countries, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Pavlo Lazarenko.

The two government leaders held wide-ranging discussions in Warsaw this week during Lazarenko's two-day visit to Warsaw.

Their references to partnership underscore the desire of these two former communist neighbors to strengthen their relations. The one, Poland, made a quick and decisive start to reforms in the new era and is now considered a "tiger" of the Central European economic firmament.

The other, Ukraine, has followed a more vague path and still suffers many economic and social ills stemming from an incomplete reform process, and is in addition unsure of its identity as an independent state.

What they have in common is their desire to find security and room to pursue their own destiny in the buffer zone between powerful neighbors east and west.

For Poland the road lies clearly through membership of the European Union and the NATO Alliance, and during this visit Cimoszewicz and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski both expressed satisfaction at Ukraine's support and full understanding for Poland's aspirations in this regard.

There were seven bilateral agreements signed between the two governments during the visit. One of the documents regulates the coming free trade agreement between Poland and Ukraine, to be signed in May, during President Krasniewski's scheduled trip to Kyiv.

Lazarenko said Poland will be the first country with which Ukraine signs a free trade agreement, even before Kyiv joins the World Trade Organization (WTO).

On the theme of trade, Poland declared its readiness to provide a credit in the amount of 20 million European Currency Units (ECUs) -- that's about $23 million -- to start production of Polish-designed "Bison" grain combines in the Ukraine city of Kovel, near the Polish border.

Polish-Ukraine trade exchanges reached the level of $1.4 billion last year and both sides want that level to expand further.

Lazarenko said that "Ukraine and Poland would like the trade to grow this year by another $500 million." He also said that "Kyiv is interested in attracting Polish investments in its steel production at the metallurgical plant at Krivyj Rog, in joint tractor production in Charkiv, as well as cooperation in the armaments industry."

During a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, President Kwasniewski and the Ukraine Premier exchanged information on a prepared joint reconciliation document. That declaration is due to be signed during Kwasniewski's visit In May to Kyiv.