Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 5

On January 5, Poland’s leading newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, printed excerpts from the speech given by the European Parliament’ President, Josep Borrell, to the previous day’s closed-door session of the Forum for New Economics in Madrid. Borrell, a Spanish Socialist who is critical of the United States, this time criticized the presidents of Poland and Lithuania for their role as political mediators in Ukraine’s presidential election. Defining the outcome in Ukraine as a “great success by the EU in avoiding a crisis,” Borrell contended that this became possible “despite” Poland and Lithuania. These two countries’ position on Ukraine, he claimed, differed from that of the EU, “because they acted under U.S. influence.”

Gazeta Wyborcza commented that the two presidents, Alexander Kwasniewski and Valdas Adamkus, were acting in unison with EU High Representative Javier Solana in a team effort and that they strengthened the hand of EU diplomacy. As regards Adamkus, it was actually Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma who requested the Lithuanian president’s participation in the mediators’ group.

In Vilnius, Parliament Chairman Arturas Paulauskas expressed astonishment at Borrell’s assertions on two counts. First, the conduct of Kwasniewski and Adamkus in Kyiv and the outcome they helped achieve were not as “America’s advocates,” but rather in full conformance with European Council’s high-level meeting’s decisions that had launched the mediating effort. Second, there could be no question of U.S.-inspired differences among the mediators, inasmuch as the success of democracy in Ukraine is a shared interest of the United States and the EU. Nevertheless, as Raimundas Lopata, Director of Vilnius University International Relations Institute, observed, Borrell’s tirade reflected irritation in some quarters of “old” EU countries toward the “new” countries’ conviction that their national interests can only be sustained together with America.

In Brussels, the Lithuanian member of the European Parliament, Eugenijus Gentvilas (of the Group of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), linked Borrell’s statement to other “attempts at kindling discord in Transatlantic relations. Such actions are unacceptable to us because the United States is the strategic ally of both Europe and Lithuania.” Poland’s and Lithuania’s successful role in Ukraine should not cause resentment, he said, but should rather help muster “active support for drawing Ukraine into the EU’s political orbit.”

Meanwhile, with interpellations and critical draft motions on this matter pending in the European Parliament, Borrell said that his remarks were misinterpreted (Gazeta Wyborcza, Ziniu Radijas, January 5; BNS, ELTA, January 5, 6, 7).

Indifference toward unresolved Soviet-bequeathed, Moscow-suppressed problems is sometimes still palpable in the European Parliament. On December 24, the deadline expired on the collection of members’ signatures on a draft declaration of remembrance of the 1939 entry of Soviet forces into Poland and the three Baltic states following the Nazi-Soviet pact. Only 88 European Parliament members, out of 732, endorsed the draft declaration during the three-month period reserved for signature collection. The document required the endorsement of 50% plus one member in order to be published as a declaration of the European Parliament (BNS, January 4).

Initiated by Bronislaw Geremek from Poland, Toomas Ilves from Estonia, Valdis Dombrovskis from Latvia, and Vytautas Landsbergis from Lithuania, the document was phrased for universal consensus. It called on “the institutions of the European Union and its member states to preserve a place for those tragic facts in Europe’s collective memory,” and declared on the European Parliament’s behalf that “a permanent European bond founded on reconciliation among nations and respect for freedom can only be based on the truth of what occurred in the history of Europe in the twentieth century” (europarl.eu.int/declaration).

Because it was never properly addressed in Europe or by Russia, this historic issue now figures high on the political agenda ahead of the VE-Day 60th anniversary summit to be held in May in Moscow. To the Baltic states, May 1945 symbolizes an almost half-century of Soviet-Russian captivity. For its part, Moscow wants the Baltic states to attend the summit in a manner that would implicitly exonerate Russia of historic responsibility, even as the Russian government continually asserts that the occupation had been legal and freely consented. Many in the EU are informally indicating a preference that the Baltic states attend the Moscow summit and not spoil the show.