Polish leadership intends to achieve the release of Belarusian political prisoners.
The former speaker of the Polish Seim, ex-acting president of Poland, and now the chairman of the parliamentary commission on foreign affairs Grzegorz Schetyna gave an exclusive interview to the charter97.org web-site.
- In the 80-ies of the previous century you were an activist of the anti-communist opposition and an activist of the “Independent Students Association”. What is is there in common between that situation and Lukashenka’s Belarus after 19 December 2010?
- The situations are different. Today Europe is largely composed of democratic, free states, whereas Belarus is an exception on the continent. At the times of the Solidarity movement Poland was not an exception. It, as long as other communist states, was no independent. And the Poles fought not only for the freedom of their country, but for the victory of democracy in all the countries of the Socialist bloc. The collapse of the Soviet Union seemed impossible at the time, but nevertheless it happened.
- But in Poland there was a great influence of the Catholic Church. Besides, the government in emigration was active.
- Yes, the Government in emigration was a symbol of the continuity of the authority of the 2nd Rzecz Pospolita. And, of course, its activities were very important for Poland. The Catholic Church was never a political institution, however it fought for human values, for human rights. And it gave strength to the opposition and all the reasonable people. And also there was John Paul II, the person, who called the Polish on not to be afraid.
- Does Belarus lack suck an actor, in your opinion?
- So far there is no such an actor which could become a symbol of a free and independent Belarus. Several opposition candidates ran for the office at the latest presidential elections, everyone ran on their own. However, it is difficult to imagine what or who could have simply unite all these people. It seemed to me, that Ales Bialiatski could become such a symbol. He is not a politician, but has always been a decent person and responsible for the country and the people, whom he helped.
- By the way, the Polish Parliament this year supported Bialiatski’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Were you disappointed by the Nobel Committee decision?
- I was, and I do not conceal that. Unexpectedly for me the European Union received the award. However, one must have patience. Lech Valensa also received a Nobel Prize not immediately after the introduction of martial law in Poland, but a year after. May be the same story will happen to Bialiatski. At least we will try for him to become a winner next year. Ales deserves this award.
- In your opinion, what method of struggle against Lukashenka is the most effective? What could the West do to finally win over the dictator?
- It is necessary to extend the visa sanctions. So the ones who support the regime would feel them. Many of the people, who can be called the regime’s underpinnings, still go skiing in Switzerland, spent vacation on an azure coast. It is necessary to support the civil society, invite the youth to participate in various European projects. It is necessary to invest first of all in the young generation and not only in the youth from cities, but from the countryside as well.
- The entrance to the European Union is forbidden to more than 200 Belarusian officials. But it does not prevent the regime from becoming tougher. Does not it seems to you that a more effective measure would be, for example, an embargo on oil products imports from Belarus to the EU and other economic sanctions?
- There is a need in sanctions against the Lukashenka regime. I do not think that economic sanctions will push Belarus closer to Russia. On the contrary, Lukashenka keeps isolating himself more and more from the outer world and this isolation could go on for decades. Like Fidel Castro’s regime. Such countries as Belarus, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba make it clear to everyone that they do not aim towards democracy, and they should be punished for that.
- The democrats, personified as Barack Obama, won the presidential elections again in the United States. Is it possible that the United States’ policy towards Belarus will become tougher?
- We met Barack Obama together with Bronislaw Komorowski and brought up the issue of Belarus in a conversation with him. I was surprised with how well Obama was aware of the Belarusian situation. He perfectly remembers the names of oppositionists and political prisoners. A president of the USA has always been a proponent of democracy around the world. And I am sure, when he thinks about Eastern Europe, he thinks about Belarus.
- In the summer 2010 when Bronislaw Komorowski was already elected a president but did not yet came into power you were the acting president for a month. What decisions did you make in that time? May be they concerned Belarus?
- One month was too little time for making serious decisions. But at the time when I was a Seim’s speaker I organized a Parliament session in Warsaw with participation of Belarusian opposition politicians chaired by the former Belarusian head of state Stanislau Shushkevich. However, it is not enough. The issue of Belarus should be discussed in Brussels, Strasbourg, Washington. And in Poland we are doing everything possible for Belarus to be on the agenda.
- What do you think of the fact that in the 21st century there are still political prisoners in Europe? What for is Lukashenka keeping them behind the bars?
- Because Lukashenka cannot tolerate the people who have a point of view different from his own. Of course it is awful: how can there be political prisoners in Europe in 21st century? But, unfortunately, there are. It is the last attribute of communism on the continent. But the European Union is not going to make peace with that and we will constantly emphasize that. The leadership of Poland intends to achieve the release of Belarusian political prisoners.
- You repeatedly called on the Hockey World Championship of 2014 to be transferred from Belarus to another country. So far there are too few chances for that. Can the situation change?
- I personally addressed the International Ice Hockey Federation asking to transfer the championship. But, unfortunately, they have their own opinion on that. It is a sports organization, not political. However, positive sides of having the World Championship in Belarus can be found: it can be used by foreign journalists and tell the world about the absence of democracy here, about political prisoners. It is a chance to voice the Belarus’ problems once again.
- Some time ago you were an owner of a basketball team Slensk from Wroclaw. What is sport for you? Can sport be helpful in politics?
- I played football and basketball myself. Sport forms and trains the character. Thanks to sport you realize that everything is achievable in life. What is the most important is to work a lot. Sport helps to learn to respect not only yourself and your colleagues but competitors as well. In my perception sport is cooperation of team members. It is the same in politics: everything must be done and decided together. It is much easier to win this way.
- You are one of the founders of the radio ESKA in Wroclaw. How can liking of politics, sports and media go along in one person?
- The liking of independent media came to me in the times of Communism, when we printed underground newspapers and books. And then the dictatorship collapsed and we decided that it was time to act: there was not enough money for a TV channel, but we opened a radio station. In the times of the Communist dictatorship we could only dream about that.
Grzegorz Schetyna - a Polish politician, entrepreneur and former activist of anti-communist opposition.