The 28th Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdroj, better known to the Ukrainian reader as the “Polish Davos,” ended on September 6. The largest economic forum in Eastern Europe is first of all a great place to discuss important topics, especially on the sidelines. It is here that one can talk in an informal setting to politicians, experts, international affairs professionals who are involved with NATO and national governments and find out what Ukraine should expect. But there is more to it. The theme of the forum as well as subjects of its discussions and even presentations themselves are all indicators of sorts. And, unfortunately, in the opinion of president of the Strategy XXI Center for Global Studies Mykhailo Honchar, the gathering in Krynica-Zdroj displayed disappointing symptoms: an absence of fresh ideas, reluctance to speak on complex and urgent issues, and, which is unfortunate for Ukraine, a misunderstanding of the threat coming from the Kremlin. You can find more in an exclusive flash interview, which Honchar gave to The Day on the sidelines of the Krynica-Zdroj event.
The theme of this year’s International Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdroj is “Europe of Common Values or Europe of Common Interests?” What do you think, why has the organizing committee raised precisely this question? Do Poles claim some sort of a civilizational role for themselves in the EU?
“As usual in Krynica, the forum looks monumental. However, there is a crisis of the ‘genre.’ Interests dominate, although everyone talks about values. They just interpret the values in such a way that they confirm the interests.
“There are many discussions and a huge number of single-subject panels, which is also characteristic of the Forum in Krynica. What is striking is the reluctance to discuss serious issues. They pretend to be just oblivious of them.”
Why is it so?
“The logic is simple: there are too many divisive issues in the EU. Therefore, they decided to speak only about matters that unite them. For example, health care is one. No one in the EU opposes people enjoying good health, why not talk more about that?
“Meanwhile, they try to evade really high-profile issues, including social, international, and security ones, probably guided by the principle: if you do not speak about a problem, you can pretend that it does not exist.
“To a large extent, the Forum is evading the problematic issues of Nord Stream 2. It was not offered as a separate subject at all, while the Russian energy policy in the EU is considered only within two panels, and even there in a cursory manner.”
How do you explain this crisis of the genre? Why even choose such an ambitious theme for the Forum, then, if you do not have fresh ideas?
“The theme is actually ambitious. And Poland, indeed, as you say, claims a prominent role for itself in the EU. There is a lot of talk about Poland here, about its opportunities and perspectives.
“But again, one of the key panel discussions was devoted to the balance of values and interests, and it featured Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto. He blamed the European Commission for its inability to block Nord Stream 2, accusing it of double standards, political correctness, and hypocrisy. He claimed that the authorities in Brussels had grown distant from the people and neglected the traditional Christian values, on the basis of which Europe had arisen. He also stressed that countries such as Poland and Hungary demonstrated other approaches, ones based on the values that the old Europe had neglected. Of course, this is what the two nations’ governments want to exploit today. At the same time, Szijjarto gave his true motives away in full, since it was not some considerations of a fundamental nature that made him an opponent of the Russian project, but the fact that the European Commission blocked another of Vladimir Putin’s corrupt pipeline projects, called South Stream, in 2014; had it gone forward, Hungary would have received generous payments from the Kremlin trough.”
Do you see here at the Forum in Krynica an understanding of the fact which Lancelot Lawton warned the “old Europe” about in the British Parliament back in 1939 – that the fate of Europe will depend on the resolution of the Ukrainian problem?
“Ukrainian topics do get discussed, but they have faded from the public mind. In my opinion, the Europeans’ sense of danger is receding. They understand it, but just like in the case of, say, Russia’s actions against Georgia or the cessation of gas supplies to Ukraine and the EU in 2009, Western Europe can assume that this is an issue that has arisen to the east of it between countries that are not members of the EU, and they themselves have to resolve it.
“Speaking of experts and well-known politicians from the Baltic States or Poland, they all understand well what is going on, analyze it and take an appropriate position. But nobody will solve our problems for us, and nobody is going to help us either.
“The most that they will do is to offer moral political solidarity.
“One of the important topics which the Forum in Krynica is focused on is the idea of the Trimarium or Intermarium.
“A year ago, it was presented and made public at the Forum. This is a new fundamental initiative of Polish politicians, distinct from the Miedzymorze, which is an extension of Jozef Pilsudski-era Polish plans. It is distinct because it is not just about the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, but also the Adriatic which offers access to the Mediterranean.
“While Ukraine was denied participation last year, since this initiative concerned only EU member states and Ukraine is not a member of the EU, they are saying this year that the Trimarium parliamentary assembly is being formed, and Ukraine should also be invited to participate.
“The Polish senator Bogdan Borusewicz said clearly and frankly: this idea is meaningless without Ukraine and Ukraine should participate fully in this initiative.”
You recently sent a very serious message that all Russian projects, including Nord Stream 2, can be used to cover intelligence activities against NATO, they will not only transport gas, but also monitor the space above and below the water. Has there been a response from NATO?
“There has been no such response yet. We also presented here in Krynica our latest report, a study on the possibilities of Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic being used outside its core purpose, namely by Russia to gain superiority over NATO. We have received a positive response from American partners. By the way, we were pleased to act in unison with several experts from the American Center for European Political Analysis. They presented their already well-known report, which was prepared several months ago and deals with the negative consequences of Nord Stream 2 for European and Euro-Atlantic solidarity. They also noted the possibility of the new pipeline infrastructure being used militarily against NATO.
“We presented it all in a summarized manner, and I think that all this is being studied and interpreted in many government offices.
“But in the meantime, welding and laying of pipes is beginning on the quiet from the eastern flank. Just a few days ago, we received a message that work in the economic zone of Finland had begun.
“Nevertheless, I hope the situation will enter a scenario where Gazprom will have buried a certain amount of money at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, and then it will be hit by the American sanctions that are currently under consideration (the new wave of them). And this scenario will be the end of it for the Kremlin. The next couple of months will be indicative in this regard.”