Appetite for Europe

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How to improove Polish-Russian relations?

The image of Poland and Poles in Russia is neutral or relatively positive. Negative opinions are expressed by a minority of Russians – that is one of the key findings of the Institute of Public Affairs study presented recently and described in the publication: People – History – Politics. Russian perceptions of Poland and Germany. Still, however, the results could be much better. What to do to improve them in the future?

This question that we were trying to answer at our conference in Warsaw. Let me share some of our conclusions with you (some of which are more widely described also in our publication, though, now available in full version only in Polish).

-    Get to know each other better
The research results show that there is much to little information on Poland available in Russia. “Poland is a mystery for us,” said our panelist from Moscow.
o    To help Russians to discover more on Poland in their own language it would be desirable to create a web-portal with information on Poland in Russian. It shouldn’t be just a PR-platform but also a place to discuss difficult questions.
o    An important factor that hinders mutual understanding is the visa regime. That is why the free visa regime coming into force at the end of July between the Polish border region and Kaliningrad is a step in the right direction towards improving contacts. There should be a general visa liberalization between Poland and Russia to further facilitate contacts.
o    Almost half of the respondents (45%) think that improving Russian-Polish relations depends on regular meetings of politicians and a joint discussion of the issues important for both countries. Simultaneously, in the opinion of the panelists, there is a need to deepen dialog among civil society. As we can see from the Polish-German example, reconciliation between two societies succeeds when they have more contacts on different levels. That is why money for NGOs projects, students exchange and common meetings of experts should be available.

-    Understand Polish-Russian relations better
o    Thinking about Russians we shouldn’t forget that there are Russians who have helped or are still supporting Poland and its efforts to discover the truth about Poland’s and Russian’s difficult history. Such people need to be noticed and honored.
o    To understand Polish-Russians relations one must analyse the current situation in Russia.  But the situation in Poland plays here a role as well. As Prof. Adam Daniel Rotfeld said: “The Polish Russian relations are created not just between these two countries but first of all IN Poland and IN Russia.”
o    The Polish-Russian reconciliation is not an easy task and it shouldn’t be speeded up by force. Time and patience are needed. “You musn’t speed up the process of growing the grass by pulling on it, but by watering,” commented Prof Rotfeld.
o    In the process of Polish-Russian reconciliation people play an important role. However, crucial are the institutions that ensure stability and sustainability. It is good that they are being created now.

Key conclusions in English are to be find here

Publication in Polish

Survey of the Institute of Public Affairs was carried out on 11-21 of November 2011 by Levada Center on a representative group of 1591 adult Russian citizens. Project realised in cooperation with the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation and with financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

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