Ambassador says Poland needs EU to release aid money

WARSAW, Poland – Ukraine’s ambassador to neighboring Poland said his country is grateful for the welcome the Poles have extended to millions of Ukrainian refugees, but hopes that the European Union will soon release billions of euros to Poland so that aid does not come “at a cost to the Polish people”.

Ambassador Andrei Dechytsya said that although there have been no real social tensions in the three months since Ukrainians began crossing into Poland in search of safety, he fears they will appear in the future given the large extent of Polish assistance.

Ambassador of Poland to Ukraine

Ukraine’s ambassador to Poland Andrei Deschesia in Warsaw on Friday. Michel Degauque/The Associated Press

The government provided free medical care, education, and other social services to Ukrainians, while more than 80 percent of them resided in private Polish homes. Dezhitsya noted that Russian disinformation efforts on the Internet have included spreading the message that Ukrainians are being treated better than Poles themselves, and that although these efforts have not found fertile ground yet, he is concerned that problems may arise.

“I’m worried because I don’t know where the limits of this hospitality, and the hospitality of the Polish people,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press on Friday. “It’s a warm and healthy welcome. But how long can they keep it? This is understandable to me, and also understandable to my fellow countrymen. They understand that there are some limits.”

Broader concerns are also at play. Poland is a major gateway for humanitarian aid and weapons from the West into Ukraine, and it works to help Ukraine transport grain and other foodstuffs to global markets by land and through Baltic sea ports.

The solution, as Deschesia sees it, is for the European Union to release billions of euros from the pandemic recovery package. It would also have the benefit of preventing a large wave of Ukrainians from getting frustrated in Poland and heading elsewhere in the European Union, he said.

While most of the bloc’s 27 members got their money in order to help countries recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 36 billion euros earmarked for Poland has been blocked in a dispute over changes to courts seen as eroding. democratic standards.

The main sticking point is the disciplinary chamber of the Supreme Court which was a way for Poland’s ruling conservative authorities to suspend judges who did not like their rulings. The EU Commission wants to abolish the chamber and reinstate the suspended judges – something Poland has failed to do. Next week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to discuss proposals to solve the chamber’s crisis.

Deszeccia said he wants both sides to seek a compromise, and that he is urging both the EU and Poland to do so.

“Poland has proven how effective it is in managing this wave of immigrants, how effective it is in managing its own budget funds, and how effective it is in providing assistance to immigrants,” he said. “It will help the Ukrainians and Poles living in Poland. We will get out of the possible tensions.”

Dychitzya estimates that there are now between 3 million and 4 million Ukrainians in Poland, of whom about 1.5 million were working, studying and living in Poland before Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, and the rest have since arrived. In a country of 38 million people, this means that Ukrainians now make up somewhere around 10 percent of the population.

How much will remain unclear, and will be determined by how long the war will last.

The Polish border guards agency has recorded about 3.5 million crossings from Ukraine into Poland since the war began, and more than 1.4 million in the other direction. Of those who arrived in Poland, some went to other countries, but a large proportion chose to stay in Poland, many of whom have friends or family and share cultural and linguistic ties with the Poles. Many also want to stay close to Ukraine, hoping to return.

The ambassador said that Ukrainians often ask him if it is okay to return now that Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kiev and some other parts of the country. He doesn’t have a good answer.

“It is very difficult to decide whether to go home or not, because the situation is not stable yet. So I may encourage you to go to Lviv, which is far from the front line. But in one day Lviv can be bombed as it was two or three days ago. The missile may reach your home or car.

Poland and Ukraine have had strained relations in the past due to residual tensions over ethnic bloodshed in the 20th century. This “changed dramatically”, the ambassador says, as the Russian threat united Poles and Ukrainians.

In one sign of Polish support, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda will step up their pressure for the EU to be granted EU candidate status at a June 23-24 summit.

Since the war began, the ambassador says he is often stopped by people on the street who thank him for the Ukrainian resistance to Russia. He says they tell him: “You are fighting for our freedom and for our freedom… We will support you as long as you need it.”

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