They say that two young, stubborn, and certain of being right Ministers of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis and Radoslaw Sikorski straight out hate each other, Audrius Baciulis writes in Veidas weekly magazine on 16 February..
Lithuanian politicians and diplomats forecast a strong worsening of the relations between Poland and Lithuania in the second quarter because Poland starts its presidency over the EU in July and is having parliamentary elections in autumn.
There’s little doubt that the influential Minister of Foreign Affairs Sikorski will make the best of the presidency to promote himself and his party, and the allegedly oppressed Polish minority in Lithuania will be used as a trump card during elections to the Sejm of the Republic of Poland. In addition to political gain, this may flatter Sikorski personally since the scandalous and charismatic Polish politician hates Lithuania openly.
“After Dalia Grybauskaitė’s visit to Warsaw the tension between the two countries decreased, and Sikorski is less heard from too,” told sources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who know well what’s going on between Lithuania and Poland to Veidas (a magazine). “But looks like its calm before the storm. We feel that in autumn, when Poland is busy with the Sejm elections, we should be prepared for surprises. Sikorski hasn’t showed everything yet. Even though now he’s busy with Belarus and Alexander Lukashenko, Sikorski won’t forget his detestation for Lithuania. Our new ambassador, for example, is still waiting for an audience with him.”
Last year, Loreta Zakarevičienė was appointed ambassador to Poland. According to protocol, she had to introduce herself to the President, the PM, and the main ministers. This time, a somewhat routine procedure didn’t quite go as expected. President Bronislaw Komorowski had Zakarevičienė waiting for almost three months. According to Polish journalists, he received her only after finding out that Lithuania understood such actions as Poland’s demarche.
“I know very well what was happening at the President’s Office, and let me guarantee – this wasn’t a purposeful delay,” told one well-known political commentator to Veidas. “As soon as I passed on the message about Zakarevičienė’s thoughts on the delay, the President received her almost immediately, whereas Radek (that’s how they call Sikorski in Poland) is acting deliberately, I’m sure of it.”
The fact that Sikorski’s Office offered Zakarevičienė to meet the Minister on 17 February – the day she will be accompanying President Komorowski to the 16 February Celebration of Lithuania’s Independence in Vilnius – is a straightforward mockery, both at the ambassador and at her country. Sikorski’s Office explained that the Minister supposedly had forgotten about Zakarevičienė’s trip to Vilnius. Well, Poland is a large country and the Minister of Foreign Affairs is clearly a very busy man, but it’s hard to believe that he doesn’t know where and why the President is going. Especially when the President is visiting a neighbouring country for which Sikorski has certain feelings.
“But don’t misinterpret that Sikorski has a grudge only against Lithuania and its diplomats,” told sources close to Warsaw’s diplomats to Veidas. “The ambassadors of some Balkan countries, for instance, have been waiting for an audience for two years. Apparently, he’s busy all the time. Actually, it is easier to say what Radek likes than what he doesn’t. He likes himself and his career only. Oh, sorry, money and privileges too. The rest he either despises, or hates, or ignores. And please don’t include our names in the article – we’ll still have to communicate with him, you know.”
Sikorski is vengeful
We heard the words “just don’t mention my name” from all the people whom we asked about Sikorski’s open hatred for Lithuania, both in Vilnius and in Warsaw. “Sikorski is vengeful, and if he picks a target, he’ll go till the end, regardless of the high-status position,” explained one politician who wanted to stay anonymous.
(Passage on Sikorski’s vindictive behaviour in the Polish politics since he returned from emigration in 1992 omitted)
The angry Minister
But why is he constantly picking on Lithuania? In 2008, we witnessed Sikorski’s inappropriate attitude for the first time when the Minister compared the conditions of the Lithuanian Polish minority with those of the minority in Belarus. Mind you, this was the year when Lukashenko was persecuting, punishing, and locking up the activists of the rogue Polish Union openly. And the members of the Lithuanian Polish Union were holding sessions in the Seimas, in the municipalities of Vilnius and Vilnius region!
“I don’t think that back then Sikorski said this with an intention to harm Lithuania,” told a political commentator from Warsaw to Veidas. “My guess is that he wanted to express his support to the Polish minorities in the Eastern countries, just like late Lech Kaczynski used to do, and Sikorski was competing with him.” But Sikorski felt insulted personally by Lithuania in the spring of 2009, when Vilnius supported Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s candidacy for NATO Secretary-General, and not his.
We have to admit that Lithuanian politicians acted very unprofessionally during the election. In January 2009, NATO was surprised by a public statement from Lithuania which said that if Sikorski ran for NATO Secretary-General, he would receive full support. This was told to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza not just by somebody, but by the Vice-chairman of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs Emanuelis Zingeris himself. His words were supported by the Chairman of the same committee Audronius Ažubalis who said, “If the representative of Lithuania’s strategic partner, Poland, became the Secretary-General of NATO that would be a very positive thing. The Poles have a good historical memory and understand their role and place in the region perfectly.”
This message from Vilnius caused quite a ruckus at the NATO headquarters in Brussels because everybody had already decided unofficially to appoint Rasmussen. Lithuania, too, knew this and didn’t object, and Sikorski’s open ambitions looked laughable at best. And then out of the blue Zingeris and Ažubalis made the statement. “Why? We have no clue. And you can’t ask the Minister now,” told Lithuanian diplomats to Veidas. A few months later Vilnius supported Rasmussen officially, and Sikorski felt betrayed.
“According to Sikorski, the second slap in the face from Lithuania happened last April when late Kaczynski was visiting Vilnius and the Seimas rejected the law on the spelling of Polish surnames,” journalists in Warsaw explained to Veidas. “Even though Sikorski didn’t like Kaczynski very much, in this case he saw the rejection of the said law as a public insult to the President, and to Poland.”
The third reason – disagreement and strife between the Ministers Sikorski and Ažubalis. “Picture this: two young, ambitious, and stubborn politicians, both nationalists, both absolutely sure of being right, and unwilling to give in, clash their swords,” told some witnesses of the confrontations between the two Ministers to Veidas. “They’re either fighting or ignoring each other.”
Unfortunately, all these personal conflicts will definitely aggravate the relations between the two countries, Baciulis concluded.