Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 96

On May 13, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Arturas Paulauskas, and Volodymyr Lytvyn, chairmen of the Polish, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian parliaments, respectively, signed the founding declaration of an Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the three countries. The ceremony was held in Lutsk, Ukraine.

The forum’s ambit is that of the historic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which included most of present-day Ukraine, and was a constitutional monarchy with deeply rooted parliamentary traditions from the 15th through the 18th centuries. Symbolically, the newly founded Inter-Parliamentary Assembly may be viewed as a distant successor to the Commonwealth’s Diet, which ceased to exist when autocratic Russia annexed most of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s territory in the late 18th century. Beyond symbolism, however, in the real world of politics the recent revival of parliamentary democracy in Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine signifies the success of European constitutionalism in the historic contest against Russian autocracy in this region.

Lutsk is the administrative center of Ukraine’s region of Volhynia, which in the course of centuries passed from Lithuanian to Polish to Ukrainian control. The choice of this venue also symbolizes Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation in the post-nationalist era. The idea to create a Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian Inter-Parliamentary Assembly arose in December 2004 in Kyiv, when Presidents Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland and Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania successfully mediated a democratic solution to the standoff in Ukraine, preventing the Moscow-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych from stealing the presidential election.

The Inter-Parliamentary Assembly’s first plenary session, with the participation of ten deputies from each country, is planned to convene in Kyiv by the end of this month. The forum’s main stated goals include: advancing Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO and the European Union, helping transfer Poland’s and Lithuania’s successful reform experience to the legislatures of Ukraine and other reforming countries, and advocating an open-door policy by NATO and the EU toward aspirant countries.

On May 15 in Vilnius, Adamkus conferred with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on that common agenda for Eastern Europe. At their joint news conference, Adamkus encouraged “Ukraine at this time to take up the flag of democratization and be a leader carrying it in Eastern Europe.” With this, Adamkus seemed to suggest the direction for Ukraine to channel its stated ambitions to play the role of “regional leader.” In that context, Yushchenko singled out the problem of Transnistria, “a hot spot on Ukraine’s border,” underscoring Ukraine’s interest in leading international efforts to solve that problem.

On May 16 in Warsaw, Presidents Kwasniewski, Adamkus, Vladimir Voronin of Moldova, and Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Borys Tarasyuk representing Yushchenko (who had to change his schedule for medical reasons) held a working dinner at the outset of the Council of Europe summit. They focused on coordinating positions in international organizations, keeping the EU’s doors open for such countries as Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, and advancing the reform agenda in that region. Transnistria also figured prominently on the agenda, with Voronin calling for a solution based on “democratic norms and European standards.”

Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine are also close to fielding a tripartite peacekeeping battalion. It is an outgrowth of the existing bilateral Ukrainian-Polish and Lithuanian-Polish battalions (UkrPolbat, LitPolbat). On May 11 in Kyiv, Defense Ministers Anatoly Hrytsenko of Ukraine and Gediminas Kirkilas of Lithuania signed an agreement on joining with Poland to create the tripartite LitPolUkrbat. Its first mission is planned to begin later this year in Kosovo, with Poland and Ukraine contributing 200 to 300 troops each, and Lithuania 140 troops, to the NATO-led, UN-mandated Kosovo Force (KFOR). Outside NATO’s framework, it should be wholly realistic for LitPolUkrbat to consider participating in peacekeeping missions in Moldova and Georgia at these countries’ request.

(PAP, BNS, ELTA, Interfax-Ukraine, May 11-16; Ukrainian TV Channel One, May 15; Moldpres, May 16)