Kaczyński: Vistula Spit canal a ‘demonstration of sovereignty’

The view of the Vistula Lagoon from Skowronki, Poland. Photo: PAP/Adam Warżawa

Poland will begin digging the Baltic Sea canal through the Vistula Spit in the northeast of the country during the ongoing local government election campaign, the leader of the ruling party Jarosław Kaczyński said on Monday.

PM confirms plans to dig canal across Vistula Spit

The Polish Prime Minister confirmed during a meeting with voters in Elbląg, northern Poland, that the government is planning to dig a canal across...

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Click here to read an analysis from Poland in English.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, with an eye to regional elections in October, says the canal will improve the economy of the nearby Warmia-Masuria province which is ruled by the opposition party.

The 1,300m-long, 5m-deep canal will cut through a spit to create the first connection on Polish territory between the Vistula Lagoon and the Baltic Sea. The Polish government says the canal is also important for reasons of security as the region – and the lagoon itself – share an international border with Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea.

Mr Kaczyński declared that the canal project was imperative to the independence of the country, saying that when the decision was made to dig the canal, "[Russia] also declared that they would make it possible to sail into the Vistula Lagoon. Only later did it turn out that it would be possible with the relevant permission, as it usually is with them. Simply put, this canal ... is a certain demonstration of Poland's sovereignty," he said.

Russia has expressed its opposition to the construction of the canal citing ecological concerns, to which Mr Kaczyński reacted by bringing up the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines from Russia to Europe, calling them “an ecological danger in the Baltic Sea at a huge scale.”

“The times when the Russians can dictate to us what we can and cannot do on our territory are over,” Mr Kaczyński said, adding that “Poland must ultimately shed any remnants of a dependent state.”

Poland will hold local elections on October 21 with the second round on November 4.

The vote could give the PiS, which rules nationally and enjoys strong public support but is in a minority in most regional administrations, a stronger foothold in local governments.

Since coming to power in 2015, PiS has introduced cash stipends for families, increased the minimum wage and lowered the retirement age in the country of 38 million.

source: PAP, REUTERS

Comment:

This is an investment that has been a long time coming. It was delayed because the previous government had hoped that improving relations with Russia would allow it to access the open sea through Russian territory.

Polish-Russian relations however have deteriorated and it is understandable that Poland does not want to rely on the whims of the current or future Russian authorities to be able to move goods from Elbląg via the sea.

The investment also brings into focus the Russian presence in Kaliningrad, a strategic presence that creates so many challenges for Poland and the Baltic states. Josef Stalin was a far-sighted leader from the Russian standpoint when he took the decision to create a Russian exclave in the former East Prussian territory that became an Oblast of the Russian Republic of the USSR.

This investment demonstrates that Poland is not hopeful of improving relations with Russia or its Kaliningrad region. The pressure for doing so that was coming from the Obama administration and the EU is no longer there. The project is yet another piece of evidence of relations with Russia getting ever cooler.


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