Skver­nelis in­vites Pol­ish su­per­mar­kets to Lithua­nia, seeks to over­come Pol­ish dif­fer­ences

Baltic News Network - - News -

It seems that Lithua­nia’s Prime Min­is­ter Saulius Skver­nelis, who paid this week a visit in Poland, wanted to catch up with – and cheer up – his Pol­ish coun­ter­part, Beata Szydlo, and Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski, the leader of the rul­ing party Law and Jus­tice, on all hot mu­tual is­sues.

Chalk­ing some of them up to «wrong stereo­types», the Lithua­nian premier ex­pressed con­fi­dence that both neigh­bours can im­prove the re­la­tions and work in lock­step.

Latvia’s PM, Maris Kučin­skis, also at­tended the meet­ing, mean­while Es­to­nia’s PM Ju­ris Ratas did not make it to the Pol­ish cap­i­tal due to a cri­sis stem­ming from a glitch in the coun­try’s e-ID cards.

For now, how­ever, the ten­sions be­tween Lithua­nia and Poland seem to be a lit­tle eased. Sum­ming up his meet­ing with Kaczyn­ski, Skver­nelis em­pha­sized that the Poland’s rul­ing coali­tion leader sees Lithua­nia as «a strate­gi­cally friendly coun­try.»

«Some stereo­types prob­a­bly keep us from emo­tional reload­ing to­day. He (Kaczyn­ski) was pro­vided first-hand in­for­ma­tion about the sit­u­a­tion of the Pol­ish eth­nic mi­nor­ity. Now there is a huge op­por­tu­nity to solve the prob­lems,» Skver­nelis un­der­scored af­ter the meet­ing.

He brought Kaszyn­ski’s at­ten­tion to the fact that Lithua­nia has the big­gest net­work of Pol­ish-lan­guage schools in Lithua­nia out­side Poland.

«Lithua­nia is the only coun­try pro­vid­ing Pol­ish-lan­guage ed­u­ca­tion from pre-school to univer­sity, with fi­nanc­ing of eth­nic mi­nor­ity schools about 20 per­cent higher than that of Lithua­nian schools,» the Lithua­nian PM noted.

He also pre­sented the Lithua­nian gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to broad­cast Pol­ish tele­vi­sion in south­east­ern dis­tricts with large Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion and the Vil­nius ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sions on the sta­tus of Pol­ish schools.

In Skver­nelis’ words, the spell­ing of Pol­ish first and last names in Lithua­nian iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments re­mains a sen­si­tive is­sue in Poland. A few projects are cur­rently dis­cussed at the Lithua­nian par­lia­ment on per­mis­sion to use the let­ters w, q and x in pass­ports, as the let­ters do not ex­ist in the Lithua­nian al­pha­bet. The Prime Min­is­ter sup­ports the de­ci­sion, how­ever, it is un­clear whether the bill will se­cure suf­fi­cient sup­port at the par­lia­ment. Skver­nelis said he briefed Kaczyn­ski on the con­cerns of Poland’s Lithua­nian com­mu­nity about the sit­u­a­tion in Lithua­nian-lan­guage ed­u­ca­tion there, as the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in Se­jny and Punsk are short of Lithua­nian-lan­guage text­books, Lithua­nian schools are be­ing closed and Lithua­nian-lan­guage ex­am­i­na­tions are held be­low stan­dards.

The three prime min­is­ters agreed on the detri­men­tal im­pact of the en­hanced flows of Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda, as well as a stream of Rus­sian fake news about the Baltic states.

Among the key is­sues dis­cussed by the heads of the Baltic govern­ments was the loom­ing syn­chro­ni­sa­tion of the states’ elec­tric grids with the Western Euro­pean net­work. Un­til now, they are in­ter­twined with the Moscow-con­trolled cir­cuit sys­tem, BRELL. How­ever, the heads of the Baltic govern­ments de­parted not hav­ing found a com­mon ground on the hot-but­ton is­sue.

Al­though Skver­nelis said he has se­cured «firm Pol­ish sup­port» to syn­chro­nise the grid via the ex­ist­ing power link, LitPol, Latvia and Es­to­nia, how­ever, frown at the pro­posal. The Lat­vian PM re­it­er­ated his coun­try’s stance that the syn­chro­ni­sa­tion has to be car­ried out through a sec­ond power link be­tween Lithua­nia and Poland to be built un­til 2025. Mean­while, Es­to­nia has said it favours align­ing of the Baltic net­works with Euro­pean through a Baltic Sea cable to Swe­den.

Ac­cord­ing to Skver­nelis, Lithua­nia and Poland are to «shortly sign the po­lit­i­cal agree­ment» on the syn­chro­ni­sa­tion project. «Poland’s po­lit­i­cal ap­proval to the syn­chro­ni­sa­tion of the Baltic elec­tric­ity sys­tem with con­ti­nen­tal Europe via Poland is very im­por­tant. We can­not post­pone the project – it is a joint is­sue of na­tional and en­ergy se­cu­rity of the Baltic States. The Lat­vian and Es­to­nian calls to pro­ceed with the syn­chro­ni­sa­tion only when a sec­ond elec­tric­ity link is in place is un­ac­cept­able and could pro­cras­ti­nate the process and leave the Baltic states de­pen­dent on the Moscow-con­trolled elec­tric­ity ring,» Skver­nelis said at a joint press con­fer­ence with his Pol­ish coun­ter­part.

Counter ar­gu­ing, Latvia’s Prime Min­is­ter Maris Kučin­skis re­it­er­ated that Latvia sup­ports the syn­chro­ni­sa­tion by two lines, as an anal­y­sis by a re­search cen­tre sug­gests it would be the best so­lu­tion cost­wise.

Skver­nelis does not rule out that Lithua­nia could syn­chro­nise via Poland alone, if Latvia and Es­to­nia do not sup­port the so­lu­tion. The Lat­vian Prime Min­is­ter stressed the need for the Baltic states to co­op­er­ate among them­selves and for ex­tend­ing this co­op­er­a­tion to in­clude also Poland. «We have to think about joint ac­tion to se­cure fi­nanc­ing for large re­gional in­fra­struc­ture projects, in par­tic­u­lar Rail Baltica,» he said. To those Lithua­ni­ans who dis­like pol­i­tics and care about more mun­dane things – how to make ends meet with the Lithua­nian prices be­ing so ex­or­bi­tant – Skver­nelis may have a cheer­ful mes­sage: a Pol­ish gro­cery re­tailer is wel­come in the Lithua­nian gro­cery mar­ket. The PM has called on Pol­ish food re­tail­ers to «ex­plore» pos­si­bil­i­ties of do­ing busi­ness in Lithua­nia.

Some Lithua­nian ex­perts be­lieve Lithua­nia has chances of at­tract­ing a Pol­ish retail chain into its retail mar­ket, but the process would re­quire ef­fort from author­i­ties and would prob­a­bly take at least two years.

«I think it’s real­is­tic to at­tract one of the Pol­ish retail trade com­pa­nies. I don’t see why our re­gion should be taboo for Pol­ish re­tail­ers, but some ef­fort is re­quired to con­vince them that the Lithua­nian mar­ket can be at­trac­tive to them,» SEB Lithua­nia’s chief an­a­lyst Tadas Povi­lauskas said. «When the state wants to in­crease com­pe­ti­tion, this is a good sign for any in­vestor. This may en­cour­age Pol­ish com­pa­nies to en­ter the Lithua­nian mar­ket,» he added. Lau­ry­nas Vil­i­mas, head of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Lithua­nian Trade Com­pa­nies, thinks that the ar­rival of a new retail chain would ben­e­fit Lithua­nia, but would pose new chal­lenges for ex­ist­ing mar­ket play­ers.

«This is ad­van­ta­geous for cus­tomers, but it would make it more dif­fi­cult for mar­ket par­tic­i­pants to work and com­pete. Grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion will force them to look for new ways of at­tract­ing and keep­ing buy­ers,» he pointed out.

Mean­while, Swed­bank Lithua­nia’s chief econ­o­mist Ner­i­jus Mači­ulis is scep­ti­cal about the pos­si­bil­ity of a Pol­ish retail chain gain­ing a foothold in Lithua­nia.

«I’m some­what more scep­ti­cal about the pos­si­bil­ity of a new retail player emerg­ing in Lithua­nia and try­ing to find some niches here. A more likely sce­nario would be for a Pol­ish chain to try and pur­chase an ex­ist­ing retail chain in Lithua­nia and then re­in­force it,» he said.


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