Polish voters fret over Ukraine crisis ahead of EU election

Polish voters fret over Ukraine crisis ahead of EU election
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On the May 25, Poland will vote in the European elections, and Ukraine will choose a new president.

Poles are concerned about the security situation in Ukraine, and Poland has seen increased support for right-wing parties. Meanwhile Ukrainians hope their country will be able to hold the elections and avoid the worst.

Fears about the situation in Ukraine have become a key issue in the EU election campaign in Poland. Experts say it could boost the ruling centre-right government’s showing. Unemployment, healthcare reform, and the spending of EU funds have been pushed into the background by criticism of Russia.

Przemysl is a Polish city next to the border with Ukraine. Due to its proximity, local people are especially worried about the situation in Ukraine. Mayor of Przemysl, Robert Choma, says that locals hope that the European elections will help resolve the issue:

“At the European elections in Poland a cornerstone issue will be the following: what intentions do you have about Ukraine, what is your position concerning sanctions against Russia. We do not want this border to become again a border with the Soviet Union. God forbid!” Choma said.

In Perzemissl, people are split on how to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

One local said: “the European Union must not have internal arguments, it must deal with the Ukrainian issue having a common position!”

Another argued: “we must help Ukraine more. I am older than 80 years old and I found things that the Soviet Union was doing and what (Russia) is continuing to do as unacceptable!”

While another resident said: “if Ukrainians would not help themselves, nobody would help them – neither the EU nor Russia nor anybody else. Ukrainians have driven themselves to the current situation; to the civil war”.

Many people have small business that deal in both countries. For example buying cigarettes and vodka in Ukraine and selling them at a profit in Poland.

Across the border, residents of the Ukrainian villages don’t have big factories where they can work. Many of them are involved in the cross-border trade.

Ukrainian pensioner Orest-Myron Dudko lives seven meters away from the border. He classes himself as the most Western Ukrainian and has his own ideas about European integration: “I’ll be the first (in Ukraine) to join the EU” he said “as Poles say I just need to throw the house (over the border) and I will be on the Polish side. But how can you do it? Poles really ask us to come to the European Union as soon as possible.”

Many Ukrainians are fed up with the current political crisis in Ukraine and also the economic instability.They hope to see some improvements after the presidential elections in May.

Ihor Stetsyna, head of Mostyska District Council, explained how hopes are high: “people have big hopes for the current presidential elections” he said, adding: “I think that 80 percent of people will come to vote. In our area we also have a lot of Poles who also support us today, they always support Ukraine. I think our people will unite facing the threat we have – all will come and vote for president. “

Chervonograd, another Ukrainian town not far from the Polish border was once part of Poland.The area is rich in coal and mining still forms a big part of the local economy. The three major coal mines are important employers in the town. Half of local residents are connected to the coal mines as they or their family members work there.

“Our team has a negative mood concerning the events in the East (of Ukraine). It is very important for us to see factories working, to get our salaries, to have some confidence in the future at least,” mine worker Olexandr said.

Another mine worker, Myroslava, added: “I do not want to see a lot of troubles (in Ukraine). I want everybody to like each other, not to be at feud, I want Ukrainians to remain Ukrainians that value their homeland.”

People in this region see themselves as Europeans and strongly support Ukraine’s European integration. They also hope that their closest neighbour Poland will assist Ukraine on its long road towards the EU.

Anatoliy Romanyuk is from Lviv National University in Ukraine. Euronews spoke to him about the upcoming elections and began by asking how he thought the situation in Ukraine could change the mood of voters in Poland.

Anatoliy Romanyuk:
“Poles are traditionally following with great attention events that take place in Ukraine. We have seen that during the Orange Revolution or the events on Maidan. Today we continue to observe it. We are constantly feeling the interest of many Poles, our friends and colleagues are calling us. asking us what is happening in Ukraine . We see it through reports that appear in the Polish press, we see it in the position taken by Polish politicians that indicates that it is indeed true interest and a desire to help Ukraine to get out of the current crisis and to solve those problems facing Ukraine.”

“What is Poland doing to help its neighbour Ukraine ?

Anatoliy Romanyuk:
“We can not even enumerate everything. It was direct help for people who have suffered at the Maidan, a significant number of people who were seriously wounded there went to Poland which gave them medical care. And some of these people even till now are staying in Poland for medical treatment. Furthermore, there is significant diplomatic assistance, considerable work carried out by the Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski. And if you follow his messages on Facebook, you can see that he often refers to the situation in Ukraine and gives his comments that show that he is well aware of the situation and he is looking for a way out of it.

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