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Polish FM Tells Moldova That European Integration 'Worth It In The End'

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski
CHISINAU -- At the start of his visit to Moldova, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski spoke with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service correspondent Valentina Ursu about his country's experiences in integrating with Europe, Poland's Eastern Partnership initiative, and Moldova's chances of entering the EU.

RFE/RL: Can you explain Poland's role in developing the EU's Eastern Partnership initiative?

Radek Sikorski: This is the first Polish initiative -- this time in partnership with Sweden -- that has received Europe-wide approval. We are conscious of how much effort and how much time it took us to come up to European standards and how much we appreciated those who were sympathetic to us during that process. And we would like to share what we think is an example of a successful transformation with others.

We believe that Poland is now a country of success, and we want to be a normal European country, which is to say, to have normal European, democratic, free-market, European neighbors -- immediate neighbors and slightly distant neighbors. And that's why would like Europe to create mechanisms for countries that want to aspire to closer links with Europe to be able to take advantage of them. It's a sort of an a la carte mechanism, but we believe that things like free trade, visa facilitation, legal assistance are noncontroversial things on which we can help each other.

'Special Sensitivity'

How does the Eastern Partnership initiative differ from other EU measures, such as the European Neighborhood Policy?

Sikorski: Well, the European Neighborhood Policy is a general concept for all neighbors of Europe. We regard Moldova not as a neighbor of Europe, but as a European neighbor, which is a big difference. The Treaty of Rome, as you know, says that any European country can apply to join the EU. And we think that Eastern partners -- that we in Poland, as a former communist country ourselves -- we have a special sensitivity about the types of challenges that you face and therefore we can be particularly helpful.

RFE/RL: Poland is a firm advocate for the European integration of Ukraine. Considering that Moldova has similar European ambitions, do you think Moldova's chances to receive an association agreement with EU are as strong as Ukraine's? Might Moldova be offered even more than Ukraine?

Sikorski: Well, I think that what countries that are thinking of European integration should be doing right now is to carry out the kinds of reforms and introduce the kinds of standards that will make them compatible with the EU. I don't think I'll say anything surprising if I say that there is a certain amount of enlargement fatigue in Europe. And the difficulties we have in adopting the Lisbon Treaty don't help either.

So this is a time not to push for membership, but a time to prepare oneself, so that when the fatigue is over in a few years time, one will be able to take advantage of the new mood.

RFE/RL: Considering the perception that Europe is separated into "New" and "Old" Europe, what is the role that Russia will play in future EU enlargement?

Sikorski: Well, there are at least five definitions of "New Europe" and "Old Europe" that I know, so I'm not sure which one you mean, but Russia is a very important neighbor -- a source of energy for all of Europe, a country with new confidence, and a country that we want to have good relations with. Poland has 17 billion euros of trade with Russia. We have a difficult history, but we want to look for the positives in the relationship.

'To Be Seen To Be Doing One's Best'

Imagine yourself as a member of Moldova's leadership. What would your top priorities be regarding integration with Europe -- a resolution of the Transdneister conflict; the democratization of society; improving relations between the authorities and the opposition; improving press freedoms?

Sikorski: I arrived an hour ago, and I'm a guest here, and it's not my business to give advice or criticize. But my advice in general would be to deal with the things that you have control over. To be seen to be doing one's best to fulfill European standards is where you want to be.

As regards good relations between government and opposition, don't worry about that. In a democracy, conflict is a natural thing.

RFE/RL: We know that you have encountered some difficulties in your career owing to your dual Polish/British citizenship. Is dual citizenship an advantage or a disadvantage?

Sikorski: Actually, I resigned my British citizenship last year when I was minister of defense, but yes, I had it for some years. Poland, like Moldova, is a country of migration. For the last 300 years, every generation of Poles gave -- several hundred thousand people emigrated from Poland. And some of us have come back. I was one of those, and this is a mixed blessing.

In some situations it is more convenient to have double citizenship, because you don't need any paperwork to live in another country. At a time when Poland was a communist country it was certainly easier to travel with a British passport. But on other issues it's an inconvenience. For example, when I worked for, first, the Polish Defense Ministry, then Polish Foreign Ministry, it's an issue in terms of access to classified information, for example. It's also an issue of trust with the voters. It's a mixed bag, but I felt defense minister is a special job and at the request of my president I gave up my British citizenship."

'Not A Foregone Conclusion'

You traveled recently to Washington. In the near future, will Poland reach an agreement regarding the U.S. plans to set up an antimissile shield in Central Europe?

Sikorski: What Poland is considering is the siting of 10 interceptor missiles of the antimissile system, and it's not a foregone conclusion. Negotiations are continuing, there's been progress in Washington recently, but we haven't concluded an agreement yet.

Do you see Moldova entering the European Union? If yes, then when and how?

Sikorski: Much depends on you. Ten to 15 years ago, people said that Poland would take many, many years, and here we are. Next year we'll be celebrating five years of being members of the EU and 10 years of being members of NATO. Time flies, and it's important to use it well to fulfill the criteria.

Moldovans can do it just like we could. It's sometimes a frustrating process, but it's worth it in the end.

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