Maciej Falkovski: Poland is not ignorant to what is happening in the neighboring Belarus

Maciej FalkowskiBelarus has been and remains one of the priorities for the Polish Fund of International Solidarity.

Maciej Falkovski feels special sentiment towards Belarus: while a student, almost twenty years ago, he traveled across our country on a bicycle. He hopes to repeat the journey again one day.
On 11-22 September the annual conference on Human Dimension (HDIM) for OSCE member states will be held in Warsaw.
On the first day of the forum there will be a side-event “Human Rights in Belarus – from the cases of patriots to the cases of trade unions”, organized by the Belarusian House in Warsaw.
President of the Polish Foundation of International Solidarity Maciej Falkovski is the guest from the Belarusian Truth.
– Conference on the Human Dimension (HDIM) for the OSCE member states will take place in Warsaw, like in previous years. Why has Poland traditionally been the venue for the forum?
The answer to this is seemingly simple, because ODIHR is located in Warsaw – the office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. However, this answer is not complete, the choice of the location of the office in Poland was not accidental. In the struggle for freedom, democracy and respect for human rights Poland has always played a special role in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.

Together with the people of I Rzeczpospolita the Poles protested against the tsarist regime before World War II, Poland was the place where prameteizm was born– the idea to support ​​the peoples of the Soviet Union in their struggle for freedom. In the 80s it was in Poland where the process that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain, the dismantling of the communist system and the dissolution of the USSR began. I can not imagine Poland could abandon those ideas in the future. Their manifestation of this appears in the support of states and peoples on their eastern borders, in the struggle for an independent, democratic state, fully integrated into the European community.

- Although nowadays the topic of human rights is less discussed on the highest levels of decision-making bodies, the conference on the Human Dimension has not lost its importance and is held annually. So what is its value?
A few years ago, at least to us who lives in Poland, it seemed that it was the end of history, that there will be no wars in Europe anymore, that we live in a safe and stable world. However, the events of the recent years, such as the war in Syria, the migration crisis, the annexation of the Crimea and the war in the Donbass or even the Korean crisis nowadays have shown us that the situation is unfortunately different. The world lives in anticipation of a geopolitical shock. In such situations, people, societies and the states think more about how to ensure their own safety rather than about the values ​​such as freedom, democracy and human rights. This is our political reality. That is why the importance of such events as the OSCE conference becomes more and more significant. It reminds us that while worrying about security, we must not forget the values ​​recognized and relied upon in our tradition, culture, society.

- “The Belarusian issue” will also be discussed separately on the forum. The Belarusian House in Warsaw will organize the event “Human Rights in Belarus – from the cases of patriots to the cases of trade unions.” Polish Foundation of International Solidarity is not only supporting the initiative, but you will personally be a moderator. How can you explain such attention to Belarus?

The reason is simple – Belarus is our neighbor, and Belarusians are one of the few who are the closest to us culturally. Therefore, we cannot not care about what is happening in this country. International Solidarity Fund was established to give assistance in the development, including on the levels of democratization, to the states that Poland finds significant. Therefore, the support of such initiatives means the implementation of our statutory objectives.
– Will not the discussion of human rights in Belarus become an empty talk? What practical benefit do public discussions of human rights bring to our country?

I can understand the frustration of people who with little result for many years have been fighting for human rights in Belarus. However, imagine a situation when in cases of human rights violations, no one would talk about it. Firstly, constant dripping wears away a stone, and secondly, the Belarusians themselves, and it seems that their numbers keep increasing, want to talk about it. Our task is to help them in this, because they have hope in our country.

- Can the official Minsk, which aspires to the role of the peacekeeping donor in the region, fully carry out its mandated mission if it violates human rights in Belarus?
This is a question that should be answered by politicians or analysts. Since I am not a politician and I have stopped to be an analyst when I quit my job in the Center of Eastern Studies in favour of managing the Fund, I will allow myself to leave the answer to those who deal with Belarus on the political and analytical levels.

– The geopolitical situation in the OSCE region has not been stable in the recent years. So, how do the goals and objectives of the Polish Foundation of International Solidarity change?
As I have been dealing with post-Soviet space for good fifteen years, I am convinced that the situation in this area has never been particularly stable, although I admit that the recent developments in the region have sped up, but it, however, derives from the dynamic geopolitical changes on a worldwide scale. This does not have much impact on the goals and objectives of the Fund which I run. As I mentioned above, our goal is to provide assistance in the development of primarily Eastern Partnership countries, in particular in the sphere of their democratization, internal reforms, and human rights.

- What place in the activities of the Fund takes Belarus? Do you plan to correct, “the Belarusian politics”?
Belarus holds one of the key places in our activities. It has been so from the very beginning of the existence of the Fund and it will continue to be so in the future. Changes are something natural and it is not very good when we don’t have them for too long, because then we could face stagnation. I would like however, to assure that no personal and organizational changes as well as changes regarding the outside assistance arrangements will not affect the priority of Belarus in the hierarchy of the countries on whose behalf the International Solidarity Fund will operate.

- You took over the Polish Foundation for International Solidarity in March 2017. Do you regret that you “gave up” diplomatic service to work in the third sector?
If I did regret it then I would probably not have accepted the post of President of the Fund. In addition, the diplomatic service was rather a phase in my life, although I must admit that it was a very important one. After graduation, I started working at the Center for Eastern Studies as an analyst, then I had a three-year break (I was working at the Polish Embassy in Armenia) and then I went back to the Center. So, it can be said that I left the analyst work for more practical work. Despite the changes of positions and jobs, one thing in my life remains constant – I am interested in the states, which lay to the east of Poland, and I think that this will not change. And if we are talking about Belarus, my sentiment to this country was born almost twenty years ago, when I was a student, and when I traveled across the country on a bicycle. I always warmly recall the journey and I hope that I can repeat it one day.
Yuri Dubina, belprauda.org 

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