The Safe and Friendly Polish-Ukrainian Border

The Safe and Friendly Polish-Ukrainian Border

Since 2019 we have run our new border-related project: Improving governance and accountability for socio-economic impact and human rights at the Polish-Ukrainian border. Our aim is to provide for a complex evaluation of the Polish-Ukrainian border at three levels: national (strategic border management, Polish-Ukrainian cooperation, Ukraine-EU cooperation), regional (the role of the border in the life of borderlands) and local (the border crossing process). Particular focus will be devoted to the perception of the border by local communities inhibiting the borderlands.

Since the 1990s’, the Polish-Ukrainian borderland has been an area of intense cross-border contacts of different nature: trade, tourism, family and migration. After 2014, due to the deteriorating socio-economic situation of Ukraine, the Russian annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of the war in Donbas, the traffic on the border substantially increased. Since then, the visa-free regime and the Association Agreement/DCFTA have come into force, simplifying and intensifying contacts between the EU and Ukraine.

Development of the border infrastructure does not keep up with the rapidly growing traffic. This led to a situation in which the Polish-Ukrainian border became one of the most burdensome and uncomfortable external borders of the European Union. This affects the EU and Poland’s image among travellers, but it also has specific consequences for local communities on both sides of the border. Nevertheless, the question of the Polish-Ukrainian border is very often perceived as a purely technical problem, with no social and economic implications.

Our inhouse experience at the Batory Foundation shows, that the voice of the civil society is listened to in border authorities and bring tangible results and at the same time absence of an evidence-based advocacy effects in worsening of the situation as lack of external pressure and motivation discourages border officials from pushing for the change. We want to show that the border can be not just safe, but also friendly and comfortable.

The aim of this study is to identify the main bottlenecks of current situation at the Polish-Ukrainian border and their impact on communities living in border areas. We want to document both positive and negative effects of proximity to the border (cross-border trade, labour migration but also poor management, corruption, insufficient infrastructure) for groups particularly vulnerable to discrimination. Furthermore, we will propose specific solutions aimed at improving the performance of the border, with a particular focus on the local perspective.

We implement this project with our Ukrainian partners: the International Renaissance Foundation and the civic initiative “Europe without Barriers”.

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