In spite of the turmoil caused by historical disputes, Poland’s eastern policy is sticking to the energy sector. PGNiG is expanding its operations in Ukraine, oil companies break the deadlock in Lithuania. Poland, the Baltic States, Ukraine and Moldova together criticize the project that helps Russia’s dominance in the gas market – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief of BiznesAlert.pl.
Eastern policy in the European Union
For the sake of analytical integrity, it is worth stipulating that Lithuania is no longer a typical addressee of Polish Eastern policy, as a NATO and European Union state. From the time of Piłsudski who formulated the assumptions of the Russian Empire after nationalistic seams, besides the purpose of our Eastern policy, Lithuania has become a key partner in these organizations. In the energy sector, however, it is similar with Ukraine and Moldova, which belong to the Energy Community, and therefore integrate in this sector with the entire Energy Union and Poland. Polish Eastern policy in the European Union is more a common policy of the region towards independence from Russia than unilateral forcing concessions on its neighbors.
The heads of the parliaments of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia (Estonia is lacking), Moldavia and Ukraine protested in an open letter against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. Their criticism is constructive because they offered an alternative. In their opinion, “energy security is a key component of a united and prosperous Europe in which the principles of competitiveness and the free market are the foundations of success”. “It is therefore necessary to invest in infrastructure, in particular in gas connections and additional gas pipelines that will strengthen the diversification of natural gas supplies,” emphasized the heads of parliaments of five Central and Eastern European countries.
In spite of historical disputes between Poland and Lithuania as well as Poland and Ukraine, we managed to sign a declaration that denounces Nord Stream 2 and express “deep concern about Russia’s consistent efforts to use energy interests for political purposes, which undermines European and Euro-Atlantic unity.” This is a concrete example of an effective eastern policy, which is based on dialogue and cooperation instead of the escalation of mutual expectations.
The intervention supply of PGNiG in the face of a new gas supply crisis from Russia to Ukraine is not only a reflex but a consequence of the strategic choice of the Polish gas policy arm. It puts on a plan to develop its presence on the Ukrainian market, which if successful, will contribute to the growth of the company’s revenues, Poland’s influence and the weakening of Russia over the Dnieper. Already, PGNiG exports to Ukraine almost a billion cubic meters a year annually.
In this context, it is also worth mentioning the turn in Lithuania, where there was a breakthrough thanks to the flexibility of Vilnius. The breakthrough in Lithuania was due to linking the fate of PKN Orlen in Lithuania with other topics such as the construction of the Poland-Lithuania gas pipeline and synchronization. I suggested it in 2015. Writing in a nutshell, because we describe these issues in detail every day at BiznesAlert.pl, Poland will help the Baltic states to synchronize electricity networks with the European Union, which will make them independent of Russia. In return, the Poles received the permission of the Lithuanian Railways to rebuild the key tracks for the supply of products from the Mazeikai Refinery to Latvia (key for Orlen) and an invitation to increase the mining activity for Grupa Lotos.
The possibilities in Belarus are limited on the one hand by the character of the regime of Alexander Lukashenka, and on the other by the subordination of the gas sector and electricity to the interests of Russia. It turns out that the lack of European integration in the energy sector may be an obstacle to the implementation of Polish eastern policy. If so, European integration supports this policy of Poland in the energy sector.
Thanks to these examples, one can see how effective the policy of dialogue and cooperation is, rather within the framework of the common eastern policy towards independence from Russia, than the Polish Eastern policy aimed at enforcing something from partners, such as Lithuania or Ukraine. For this purpose, Poland uses data tools through European integration, ie programs combining energy and gas markets, and standards set by EU regulations, such as the third energy package. In this way, EU energy policy serves the interests of Poland, and Warsaw and its partners must ensure an even pace of integration to avoid a Europe of many speeds. The most emphatic example is the consistent criticism of Nord Stream 2 by Warsaw and Brussels. I included such postulates in the concept of energy prometeism from 2011, which I presented at the last conference Eastern Poland at Wroclaw.
Eastern policy has a sanctuary in the energy sector, despite the growing influence of radicals on the foreign policy of the ruling party. It is in danger of being subordinated to the radical demands of a multi-vector policy promoted by nationalist circles present in Kukiz ’15 periodically cooperating party, but also in the most radical circles of the party of power. The successes of the Polish eastern policy in the power industry show that the old, good approach branded with the name of Jerzy Giedroyc still works and brings tangible results. It will be the more effective the better business will be for us and our partners.
It is to be expected that if external forces oppose the effective Poland’s eastern policy will want to torpedo it, they will hit the policies of PGNiG, PKN Orlen or Grupa Lotos in Ukraine and Lithuania. This will happen by hitting teams and projects. It is worth to read Russian media consistently. They can tell us who to cancel or what initiative radicals in Poland will want to cancel.