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English Section

Ex-PM Tusk agreed to limit Poland's maritime rights 'in favour of Russia': report

04.06.2020 15:00
Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in 2009 struck a deal with Vladimir Putin under which Poland limited its maritime rights "in favour of Russia," a journalist for state television has claimed, as cited by a website.
A construction site for a new Polish shipping canal not far from the Russian border.
A construction site for a new Polish shipping canal not far from the Russian border.Photo: PAP/Adam Warżawa

Poland’s Tusk approved an agreement “unfavorable to his own country” when he met with Russia’s Putin in the Polish Baltic city of Sopot in 2009, according to the niezalezna.pl website.

It cited TVP Info host Michał Rachoń as saying during a television programme that “on September 1, 2009, during Vladimir Putin's famous visit to Sopot, this agreement was signed, among many others.”

Rachoń added that, as result of the agreement, “Poland limited its own rights under international maritime law and surrendered those rights to Russia,” niezalezna.pl reported.

Plan hatched, plan ditched

Poland’s conservative leader Jarosław Kaczyński, in his previous capacity as prime minister, in 2006 announced plans to build a new shipping canal in the north of the country to allow vessels to enter Poland’s Elbląg seaport without passing through the Strait of Baltiysk in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, niezalezna.pl reported.

But these plans were abandoned when the economically liberal Civic Platform (PO) party took power a year later, the website said.

According to TVP Info’s Rachoń, the idea of digging a canal between the Vistula Lagoon and the Bay of Gdańsk in northern Poland “was seriously being considered in the 1980s, when scientists and engineers came up with a study of key projects for Poland,” niezalezna.pl reported.

The conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party revived this idea when it again came into power in 2015, the website said.

Kaczyński, who served as prime minister from July 2006 to November 2007, said in Elbląg in 2006 that the project was all set to go ahead “in terms of financing,” according to niezalezna.pl.

“The project will be financed from European funds,” Kaczyński said at the time, as quoted by the website. He added that “the decision … has already been made when it comes to its most important aspect: the financing.” 

Kaczyński also said that the project "can be carried out in the coming years,” according to niezalezna.pl.

A year later, the Civic Platform (PO) party took power in Poland, the website said, adding that “intensifying political blackmail from Russia over the Strait of Baltiysk led to negotiations between Poland’s authorities and the Kremlin.”

The talks “ended with a scandalous agreement signed in 2009 in Sopot that was detrimental to Poland,” niezalezna.pl said.

According to the website, the agreement limited Poland’s “right of innocent passage, which also applies to … the Strait of Baltiysk.”

Innocent passage is a concept in the law of the sea that allows for a vessel to pass through the territorial waters of another state.

“This right covers all types of ships irrespective of their flag,” the website said.

It added that in 2009 Poland "renounced this right, which is enshrined in international law of the sea.”

Presidential contender: ‘Let’s delay this project’

The website also reported that today the waterway project has come back to the public eye and become a subject of an ongoing presidential campaign.

Niezalezna.pl quoted opposition contender Rafał Trzaskowski as saying that the project should be pushed back “by two to three years” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while the funds set aside for the project should be spent to benefit those losing their jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

“I talk with people and know what's most important to them, and that's why I say: let's delay this project by two or three years until the Covid-19 epidemic is over, and let's give this money to  … all those who may find themselves losing their jobs; let's spend this money on bonuses for nurses, doctors … let's give it to hospitals,” Trzaskowski has said, according to niezalezna.pl.

Asked whether the project could benefit the economy, Trzaskowski replied that decision makers should focus on infrastructure projects that create many more jobs, including projects carried out by local governments, niezalezna.pl reported.

"The project to cut through the Vistula Spit, as a result of which hundreds, if not thousands, of trees are being cut down, is not the kind of project that drives the economy," Trzaskowski said, according to the website.

New canal will boost Poland’s sovereignty: president

Meanwhile, at the end of last month work began to build a manmade island in the Vistula Lagoon as part of the waterway project, niezalezna.pl reported.

Poland’s president said at the end of last month that the new shipping canal to the Baltic Sea near Russia’s Kaliningrad region would help strengthen his country’s sovereignty.

Speaking at the site of the planned new waterway in the north of the country, President Andrzej Duda said that the project “will help strengthen Poland’s sovereignty and enhance its independence and freedom.”

“We will no longer have to ask the Russians … but will have our own waterway,” he added.

Duda told reporters that Poland was determined to push ahead with large infrastructure projects such as the new canal as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will not discontinue, limit, scale back or abandon” such projects because they are a driver of growth in the time of the coronavirus crisis, Duda said.

Strategic passage near Russian border

The Polish government in October inked a huge deal with a consortium of private firms to dig the strategic canal between the Vistula Lagoon and the Bay of Gdańsk.

Under the deal, a Polish-Belgian consortium is expected to build the new waterway for PLN 992 million (EUR 230 million, USD 252 million) by 2022.

The new waterway between the Vistula Lagoon and the Bay of Gdańsk will be around 1.3 kilometres long and five metres deep, officials have said.

It will be built by digging through the Vistula Spit, a narrow strip of land that separates the bay from the lagoon on Polish territory.

The aim is to allow deep-draft vessels to enter Poland’s Elbląg seaport without passing through the Strait of Baltiysk in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave.

The plan to build the canal requires the construction of 22.8 kilometres of new water routes, an artificial island and civil engineering and road infrastructure.

Officials have estimated the total cost of the project at almost PLN 2 billion.

Poland’s ruling party head Jarosław Kaczyński said in October 2018 that the planned new canal near the Russian border would help enhance his country’s military as well as economic sovereignty. 

Kaczyński, who leads Poland’s governing Law and Justice party, said in September 2018 that the plan to build the canal showed that Russia, Poland’s former communist-era overlord, could no longer dictate to Warsaw what to do.

Work on track despite Russian ire: gov’t minister

A government minister warned at the end of last month that Russia would try to throw a spanner in the works as Poland presses ahead with efforts to dig the strategic canal.

The massive project is now in its first stage and “is not threatened despite the fact that Russia will be bending over backwards to block it,” Maritime Affairs and Inland Navigation Minister Marek Gróbarczyk told public broadcaster Polish Radio.

Poland’s president and prime minister last month urged stepped-up investment in Europe to stimulate economies and help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic.


Source: niezalezna.pl