Dispute over history may block Ukraine’s EU accession, says Polish official

Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pawel Jablonski, during the ceremony of laying flowers in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland, July 11, 2023. (EPA-EFE/Tomasz Gzell POLAND OUT)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
2 Min Read

Ukraine will not join the EU if there is no resolution with Poland regarding a dispute over the exhumation of Polish victims of a wartime massacre by Ukrainians, said Deputy Polish Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński.

Between 1943 and 1944, around 100,000 Poles were slaughtered by the ultra-nationalist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in the Volhynia and Eastern Galicia regions of pre-war eastern Poland (today part of western Ukraine).

The killings still cast a shadow over Ukrainian-Polish relations despite the close bonds between the two countries forged by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Although there were many killings across several villages, the slaughter is collectively referred to as the Volhynia Massacre.

Pawel Jablonski said that a “significant dispute” over Polish demands to exhume victims of the massacre must be settled if Poland is to be an advocate for Ukrainian membership in the bloc.

Speaking to commercial radio station Radio Zet on Tuesday, Jabłonski defended the government’s record on exhumations.

Exhumations in the first location, which have been the subject of talks with Ukraine, have already started (…) This is not actually Volhynia, it is another part, but they are also victims of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army,” Jabłonski said.

In response to the observation that this involved only a search operation with no consent yet for exhumations, the deputy minister replied: “We will work further on this so that it occurs as quickly as possible.”

“In our opinion, without a solution to this issue – and many Ukrainians already realize this – Ukraine cannot dream of joining the European Union,” Jabłoński added.

He warned that without a solution to the issue, “long-term reconciliation with Ukraine” cannot be achieved.

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