Gazeta Wyborcza: There is a chance to return to the small border traffic with Russia?
Wcislo Jerzy (Jerzy Wcisła): In my opinion, no. As long as power is “law and Justice” (PiS), dreaming about it is useless.
– How can you be sure?
— Agreement on small border traffic was suspended not for rational reasons, but because the Chairman of “Law and Justice” Jaroslaw Kaczynski (Jarosław Kaczyński) and his entourage seek to destroy the former good relations with Russia in all possible spheres. To get them to change their views nobody.
– What arguments they use?
— The fact of the matter is that they have no arguments. WFP suspended for purely ideological reasons. There’s no economic reason, nor any threats from the Russian side, which could create WFP. I have four times asked interior Minister Mariusz Blasco (Mariusz Błaszczak) the question of why the contract was suspended, and each time received a different answer.
– How he explained that?
In General, the causes of which actually had no relationship to the agreement on small border movement. He spoke about the aggressive Russian policy against Georgia and Ukraine, or that Russia threatens the Baltic States. In the last statement sounded a word about some calculations that allegedly showed that from an economic point of view Poland was profitable to suspend WFP.
— The interior Minister said that in the end the poles had ceased to massively go to Russia for gasoline, cigarettes and vodka, now they are buying all this at home.
– Do you agree with this opinion?
— It is impossible to agree. First, the calculations used by the government differ from the data of the Main statistical office, which show that during the Treaty the Russians left Poland more money than poles in the Kaliningrad region. Secondly, neither the Department nor the Minister Blashak not take into account the fact that it is not included in the statistics. I mean that guests from the Kaliningrad region were left in Poland, the money, spending it, for example, cosmetics, gastronomy, health, hotel services. The poles traveled to the Russian dentists or beauticians, and the Russians often came to us for this. In Gdansk or Elblag, where I live, it is visible to the naked eye.
– A five-year permit for multiple crossing of the border in the framework of the WFP was not free, the poles, it costs about 200 zlotys (about 3000 rubles — approx. lane), but the visa costs several times more. Residents of the Pomorskie and warmińsko-Mazurskie voivodeships to go for petrol, alcohol and cigarettes became unprofitable.
— More than 90% of poles who crossed the Russian border, used permits for small border traffic, the Russians this phenomenon was not so widespread. We can say that they enjoyed the usual visas and permits in a proportion of 50 to 50. The poles, as we now see, will go to visa, although it is much more expensive.
Let me remind you about another very important aspect. In the civilized world, WFP is administered not only to those living in the border regions people would be able to earn. This, of course, there is nothing wrong, but this is only a side effect. Most important, in my opinion, is freedom of movement in conditions when adjacent to each other States, for political reasons, maintain restrictions in crossing the border, as Poland and Russia, Poland and Ukraine or Belarus. WFP aims to assist small border communities to communicate and different ways to integrate.
In the last few years of the contract this integration has had time to develop. Ensued numerous interpersonal contacts. Members different organizations and associations such as the musicians and sailing enthusiasts could meet each other, was conducted by the international Cycling tours and the like.
Now they can meet regularly only in Facebook or to write letters to each other.
— So. Therefore, the harm inflicted ill-conceived decision of the Polish government, not always amounts of money. Here is an example. 20 years ago, when I moved in Elblag, I really was afraid of the Russians. When they walked on the street, I crossed to the opposite side. Now, largely thanks to WFP, the Russians have no fear. Many of us appeared in the Kaliningrad region acquaintances and friends.
– Several months different enterprises together and collected signatures under the petition for the renewal of the small border movement. The government and the Prime Minister Beata Szydlo (Beata Szydło), it does not work?
— Created a civic Committee for the return of WFP supported him, in particular, the party “Civic platform”. A few months managed to raise over six thousand signatures, they were handed over to the Prime Minister, more specifically, in the Secretariat, because she didn’t have time for a personal meeting.
– What is the result?
— We have a few months waiting for an answer.
– No reaction?
— It looks like nothing happened.
– The struggle for small border traffic came to an end?
It appears so, Yes. Therefore, we are now in the “Civic platform” thinking about how to sue a class-action lawsuit against the state. The losses caused by the suspension of WFP, should be compensated. After all, at least 100,000 people have paid for a permit for multiple crossing of the Russian border in the framework of the WFP, but some do not even have time to use it. Collecting signatures for a petition, I met a lot of people. They are very annoyed: due to the unexpected decision of the government, they suffered losses.
– From a formal point of view, it is the Russians do not pass the poles across its border in the framework of the WFP. If the trial takes place, the government certainly uses in his defense this argument.
— Yes, but it was obvious and predictable reaction of the Russians that Poland closed the border for their citizens, suspending the agreement of WFP. I asked for a preliminary expert opinion to the lawyer, and doubts he had: this is the result of Polish actions. Close the border, we provoked the Russians in a symmetrical response. What they will do the same, it was clear. The Polish government deliberately deprived its citizens of the possibility to exercise the right for which they paid.
– How many people are affected, how much will be exposed to a class action lawsuit?
Now it’s difficult to answer this question. According to various estimates, the people who received permission to WFP, paid for them at least PLN 30 million (about 7 million euros — approx. TRANS.). I think they have the right to demand the return of money they invested.
– What about those people who invested in the border shops, or service providers, decided to capitalize on small border traffic?
— Lawyers have already analyzed this topic.
The agreement on small border movement has worked since July 2012. He was allowed to repeatedly cross the border to residents of the entire Kaliningrad region and the Polish side — the inhabitants of the part of Pomeranian and 10 districts of Warmia and Mazury. In early July 2016 the Polish Ministry of interior decided to suspend the contract. The official reason was “security concerns during the NATO summit and the visit of Pope Francis”. In response to this decision, the Treaty on small border movement also suspended Russia. In early August, the Ministry of internal Affairs of Poland said that the WFP agreement with the Kaliningrad oblast suspended indefinitely.