Poles are to be issued new passports to mark the 100th anniversary of the country's independence in 2018. But the new designs for the passports proposed by the Ministry of the Interior in an online vote have already sparked protests because they feature images of sites of historical significance for Poland which are located in modernday Ukraine and Lithuania. Journalists are concerned about the potential fallout.
By no means trivial
Diena finds the diplomatic upset very worrying:
“The objections are prompted by the fact that in recent times Poland has taken many official and unofficial steps that could be interpreted as an attempt by Warsaw to restore the Polish border that stretched from one sea to the other and make Poland a country that shapes the policies of Eastern Europe and part of the Balkan region. In this context the jubilee passport project doesn't seem quite as naïve as officials claim it is. Warsaw should first reach a consensus with its neighbours on this affair before tackling this historically sensitive issue. Particularly given that the greatest beneficiary of these differences of opinion is Russia.”
A bit more humour wouldn't go amiss
Lithuania's Foreign Minister has expressed outrage at the choice of images, demanding an explanation from a representative of the Polish embassy. Commentator Rimvydas Valatka argues in Delfi that humour would have been a more effective response:
“It is always advisable to respond to a neighbour's stupidity with humour. ... But since we Lithuanians and our Polish brothers are as alike as two drops of water, the Lithuanians have reacted to the Polish vote on the image of the Gate of Dawn with a complete lack of humour. ... Nonsense devised by radicals has prompted radicals from the other side to enter into the fray – inspired by the same command: 'Mount the steeds, draw swords!' It's the same as always. Polish radicals barb Lithuanian radicals or the other way round. And the situation creates the ideal circumstances for the Kremlin to launch the Zapad 2017 exercise.”
How would we react if Berlin did the same?
The choice of images for Polish passports testifies to a lack of sensitivity according to Newsweek Polska:
“The idea of Mariusz Błaszczak's ministry for new passports sabotages relations with our neighbours and is a major step towards Poland's isolation. ... What happens if others take the same path as the PiS? If the Germans add an image of Centennial Hall [built by the Germans in Wroclaw] to their cherry-red passports? ... The Gate of Dawn [in Vilnius] and the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów in Lychakiv Cemetery [in Ukraine] are important places in the Polish national memory, it's true. But they are now located in the territory of our neighbours. ... To print these images on a document which many Poles use to travel to Ukraine is a provocation. ”
Warsaw's national pride jeopardising security
The Polish government is putting relations with its neighbours and thus national security at risk, warns Rzeczpospolita:
“Relations between Warsaw and Kiev are deterioriating month for month. Poles have seriously annoyed the Ukrainians and Lithuanians with the new passport designs featuring pictures of Lychakiv Cemetery and the Gate of Dawn. ... And the permanent abuse of politics of memory when it comes to Germany is souring relations with our biggest trade partner. ... And since relations with Russia are effectively non-existent, we should be worried about the situation. ... Is it worth putting our geopolitical security in such danger?”