The collapse of the USSR was accompanied by the collapse of the Soviet bloc, which included Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Neighboring Poland included. It was a member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance - CMEA - which was a kind of European Union, something like "Socialist European Union." Today, Poland is in the "capitalist EU".
Poland is among the five most important trading partners of Belarus in Europe. There was a "glacial period" in the relations between our countries. But now it has come to an end. Warsaw has stepped up its foreign political efforts and we have witnessed high-level visits. Last week, the head of the upper chamber of the Polish Parliament arrived in Minsk. Yevgeny Gorin has the story.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
It is very nice to see you in Minsk. The truth is that we have lived far away and haven't seen each other much.
The friendly irony of the President is clear. Poland, the closest Western country to Belarus, interrupted all political contacts with Belarus for a few years. Belarus has not seen such important politicians as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Marshal of the Senate for years. And in 2016, since March, there have already been three visits of high-status guests.
The foundation of any relationship is trade and economic relations. You can absolutely rely on the fact that there can be no forbidden topics in our relations. We will be always open. And if Poland is interested in our economy, our trade relations, we are always open, ready to discuss any issue. We need to raise political relations to the economic level. It is worse when countries successfully cooperate in politics but fail to establish lasting economic ties.
A series of visits by Polish officials to Belarus is the initiative of the West. Since the cooling of relations in 2010, when Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski came to Belarus together with his German counterpart, our republic has not changed its position. Europe has departed from the sanctions policy. Poland supported the decision.
Stanisław Karczewski, Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland:
I came straight from Przemyśl, where yesterday we had a meeting of chairmen of Speakers of Parliaments of the Visegrad Group. In order to catch a plane for the meeting today, I had to leave early. Everyone wished me a good trip and asked to convey the best wishes to Belarus.
I thank you that you came to visit us. I am interested just like Mr Myasnikovich in the fact that you see Belarus and refresh your memories.
The Marshal could see Belarus from all sides. If the Polish delegation was seeking points in which the countries could strengthen relations, there were at least a few of them.
At the National Library - among books by Mickiewicz and music collections by Moniuszko - the countries signed another historical document. This was the agreement on cooperation between the Council of the Republic of Belarus and the Polish Senate. Being at one of the largest book depositories of Europe, with texts by Belarusian-Polish poets, writers and composers, the Marshal took a few minutes to list the names and positions of members of his delegation.
I represent our delegation in such detail to make it clear what expectations we associate with this visit. Our relations have been frozen, but now we have good opportunities.
The protocol exchange of gifts turned out to carry some surprises. The Council of the Republic of Belarus presented the Polish delegation with a set of commemorative coins. The Polish Senate picked our common symbol - bison - as a present. Then Marshal Karczewski received the Slutsk belt from the Belarus President.
Inter-parliamentary work can become a belt that will connect the new areas of cooperation. After a nearly 11-year hiatus, the Sejm of Poland formed a Belarusian-Polish parliamentary group. The Academies of Sciences signed a Belarusian-Polish agreement on cooperation in science and technology. But the main document was in cooperation in education. It took six years to prepare it. Now, the countries will be able to step up exchange of experience in teacher and student training.
Maria Kokhno, student of the philological faculty of the Belarusian State University:
We go to Poland for group internships almost every year.
Stanisław Karczewski then visited the Belarusian State University to meet with students studying the Polish language. Mr Karczewski said he was impressed by the current state of the country and by visits to historic sites such as Nesvizh Castle.
Before parliamentary career, Stanisław Karczewski was a deputy. Earlier he worked as a doctor and spent 17 years in a Polish district hospital. The Marshal brought gifts to the Center for Pediatric Oncology in Borovlyany, which he also visited during his stay in Belarus. Two guest houses for parents of sick children were built here with Polish participation.
Vasily Zharko, Minister of Health of the Republic of Belarus:
We have built good cooperation between various institutions. Take for example the Brest Regional Hospital, the Grodno Regional Hospital. This cooperation is mainly reflected in the exchange of experience and internships.
Historically and geographically Belarus is between East and West. On one side, there is the border with the EU. The Eurasian Economic Union is on the other. It seems Belarus is now entering a new phase of relations with Poland. The visit by Stanisław Karczewski to Belarus is one of the signs of movement towards good-neighborliness.