Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 172

Prime ministers Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Gediminas Vagnorius, along with ministers of the two governments, established a Polish-Lithuanian Intergovernmental Cooperation Council at a meeting in Vilnius on September 14 and 15. The Council will hold plenary meetings at least twice annually and will work through four functional commissions: on foreign policy, economic relations, education and culture, and national minorities. The prime ministers agreed to develop a joint Polish-Lithuanian battalion that would become operational before the end of next year. Foreign Ministers Dariusz Rosati and Algirdas Saudargas signed agreements on establishing joint control of the mutual border and of customs services on that border. The two governments further agreed to link up their national power grids and to build a modern railroad from eastern Poland to Kaunas.

The sides agreed to cooperate closely in foreign policy and to coordinate their actions in international organizations. Poland, which is closer to joining NATO and the European Union than is Lithuania, pledged to support Lithuania’s aspirations for membership "irrespective of the stance of other countries"–as Rosati said in an apparent reference to Russia. Cimoszewicz similarly stated that joining NATO is Lithuania’s as well as Poland’s inalienable right. Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas and parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis focused on these issues at their meetings with the Polish delegation.

The Polish premier and foreign minister told representatives of Lithuania’s Polish minority that it will benefit from the two countries’ rapprochement. The minority representatives at the meeting voiced some grievances regarding schools, electoral district boundaries, and the right to native-language spelling of Polish names in Lithuanian records.

Earlier this year, Poland and Lithuania set up a Consultative Council at the presidential level and an interparliamentary assembly. Landsbergis, expressing a growing sentiment in his country, stated at the latest meeting that Lithuania’s ties with Poland are becoming more intensive than its ties with the other two Baltic states. Cimoszewicz for his part described the rapidly developing Polish-Lithuanian relationship as "unprecedented for either country." (BNS, September 13, 15)

A historical precedent for these latest developments does exist in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a common state and major power in the late middle ages and early modern era. Both nations are Roman Catholic and also share some major secular elements of a common cultural heritage. The inter-war legacy of nationalist conflict is being successfully overcome by both sides in the post-Communist period. Lithuania’s accelerated rapprochement with Poland also reflects the erosion of "Baltic solidarity" — a liberation-era concept now increasingly giving way to the pursuit of nation-state interests by each of the Baltic states. Lithuania counts increasingly on Poland to promote Lithuanian interests in the region and in international organizations.

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