Solution of Orlen problems improved Lithuanian-Polish relations – president

  • 2020-02-14
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuania's concessions provided to the Polish business group Orlen, operating an oil refiner in Lithuania's Mazeikiai, have helped to improve bilateral relations but were not the key element in their thaw, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda says.

He pointed out to the fact that strategic companies and major investors "receive certain concessions from the state one way or the other", irrespective of whether they set up their business in Mazeikiai or free economic zones.

"Their (Orlen – BNS) successful activity is a really very important precondition for the success of Lithuania' economy, and, let's not deny that, a precondition for good relations with Poland. (…) I would assume it contributed but definitely was not the defining factor for a thaw in our relations," the president told the DELFI Demesio Centre (DELFI in Focus) program on Thursday night.

The president also underlined that he has sought from the very beginning of his term "to declare in all possible ways that Poland is our strategic partner".

He also pointed out to the fact that Lithuania and Poland have a lot of common interest and barely have any "hot spots", except for certain nuances, for example, the original spelling of names in documents.

According to Nauseda, Polish leaders are raising this issue but "in a very polite way and really without any pressure". The president also criticized the ruling parties in Lithuania, including the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, which used to raise the name-spelling issue.

"In this case I would definitely forward this question as to why it's being frozen by that party which used to raise this issue for so long. Perhaps we should ask it and ask the ruling coalition," he said.

Nauseda says he has an impression that even Poland itself wants Lithuania to simply make a decision "even if it's not the best for them".

He added that not resolving the name-spelling issue would be the worst opinion, adding, however, that it should be done already after the Seimas election in October.

The Lithuanian president reminded of his position in favor of allowing the original spelling of names on the passport's second page, even though Polish leaders might not like it.

"I cannot say they were very happy about that but they do no make a drama out of this issue," the president said.

Nauseda also said he has good personal ties with Polish President Andrzej Duda who has even invited the Lithuanian president to come skiing.

"I'd say we have great friendly relations with Polish President Duda, and he's even invited me to come skiing to his resident in Southern Poland. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to use this lovely invitation," Nauseda said.

The Lithuanian news website reported earlier that the Mazeikiai-based oil refiner, owned by the Polish state-owned group Orlen, received concessions for freight transportation using infrastructure of Lithuania's state-owned railway company Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) and also tax concessions for electricity following Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis' meetings with Polish politicians.

Skvernelis later called such claims a consciously spread lie. According to the prime minister, an amicable resolution of the dispute between Lithuanian Railways and Orlen allowed avoiding potential losses worth hundreds of millions of euros if the tariff case was lost, and the company received additional orders, and also interstate relations improved.

In his words, Orlen Lietuva was not subject to any special exceptions regarding the so-called tax on services meeting public interest in the energy sector.