Polish, Ukrainian presidents seek tighter economic cooperation

Duda said that Poland with 38 million consumers and Ukraine with 42 are huge European markets. Leszek Szymański/PAP

Polish President Andrzej Duda and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, in the Ukrainian Black Sea coastal city of Odessa on Tuesday stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation in transport, infrastructure and energy.

On Tuesday morning, the two presidents opened a forum on joint transport and energy projects. Then Duda and Zelensky oversaw the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Polish Baltic Sea coastal Port of Gdańsk and the Port of Odessa.

Addressing the forum, Duda underscored the importance of infrastructure for streamlining Polish-Ukrainian cooperation, such as roads, bridges, border crossings, railway lines and ports. His words were later echoed by Zelensky.

Recalling the Polish-Ukrainian trade value of EUR 7.7 bln reached in 2019, Duda said that this year's coronavirus pandemic dented both Polish and Ukrainian mutual exports.

Duda said that Poland with 38 million consumers and Ukraine with 42 are huge European markets. He told Zelensky that Poland will support Ukraine's ambitions to become a key transport hub in Eastern Europe. He said Polish and Ukrainian land and sea terminals have the potential to attract customers from Western Europe, Scandinavia and Turkey and can also handle trade with East Asia.

Turning to his country, Duda said Poland wanted to make the Port of Gdansk the leader on the Baltic Sea.

Zelensky, putting the value of Polish direct investments in Ukraine at USD 800 mln, called upon Polish businesses to intensify their Ukrainian investments and take part in the country's privatisation process.

"Successful Polish business in Ukraine and Ukrainian in Poland is a signal for everyone who has chosen to wait and see and has doubts or those who are waiting for better times," Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian president said a favourable investment climate and protection of investors' rights are his and his administration's priorities, as he vowed to fight corruption and reduce the government's role in the economy.

Zelensky said Ukraine is willing to strengthen Europe's energy security in collaboration with Poland, but added that without Warsaw's support Kiev would have problems with full integration of its energy sector with Europe.

Zelensky also said he and Duda had discussed the problems that Ukrainian hauliers face when applying for Polish transit permits and urged Warsaw not to see Ukrainians as rivals but as friends and partners.