22nd Oct 2016

Sikorski attacks Cameron in latest Polish leak

Poland believes the British government has “fucked up” its EU policy and that the UK will leave the Union.

The information, and the blunt language, came out on Monday (23 June) in Polish news magazine Wprost, which is publishing parts of private conversations held by Polish ministers in restaurants and recorded by an unknown group.

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The chat, between Polish FM Radek Sikorski and the then finance minister Jacek Rostowski, is said to have taken place in spring this year.

It refers to British PM David Cameron’s promise to re-negotiate the terms of the UK’s membership in the EU and to hold an in/out referendum by 2017.

Rostowski and Sikorski say the only way Poland would agree to let the UK change its EU terms - an EU consensus decision - is if Britain or Germany gave it “a mountain of gold”.

“The Brits won’t give it to us, and the Germans, in order to keep the Brits on board, won’t give it to us either in all likelihood. So the [Polish] answer [to the UK] will be: fuck off’,” Rostowski says.

He adds: “I think it’ll be the case that [Cameron] will lose the elections. Great Britain will leave [the EU]. Once they do, they’ll keep open borders. [But] not for [gypsy] beggars.”

Sikorski appears equally conviced the UK will leave.

He also puts forward some toxic criticism of Cameron’s EU policy: “It’s [the in/out referendum] either a very badly thought through move, or, not for the first time, a kind of incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the [EU] fiscal pact. He fucked it up. Simple as that. He is not interested, he doesn’t get it, he believes in the stupid propaganda, he stupidly tries to play the system ... his whole strategy of feeding [British eurosceptics] scraps in order to satisfy them is just as I predicted, turning against him. He should have said: ‘fuck off’. Tried to convince people and isolate [the sceptics]. But he ceded the field to those who are now embarrassing him.”

In a separate conversation between Polish PM Donald Tusk’s then spokesman, Pawel Gras, and a leading Polish businessman, Jacek Krawiec, the Polish government also lambasts Cameron.

Referring to Cameron’s negative comments on Polish welfare migrants, Gras says: “Thoughtless, probably suggested by some spin doctor, probably came from some focus group, he didn't think through the consequences, the whole thing was stupid, Donald called him at once to discuss it, he had such a go at him, I mean, fuck, it’s a shame we didn't record it, he had a such a proper fucking go at him.”

Other taped conversations show Sikorski saying US security guarantees for Poland are "worthless" and discussing details of secret Polish-US operations to capture Islamic militants in Afghanistan.

They also show Tusk’s ruling Civic Platform party doing a deal with the Polish central bank to help boost economic conditions in the run-up to national elections.

The Polish government has not denied the authenticity of the leaks. But its main reaction has been to launch a probe into who did the eavesdropping.

For its part, the Polish opposition party, PiS, on Monday said it would call for a vote of no confidence in Tusk to trigger snap elections.

Domestic politics aside, the leaks come at a sensitive time in Polish-EU relations and EU-Russia relations.

Poland is a leading proponent of a tough EU reaction to Russia's attack on Ukraine and of further EU expansion in the east.

Sikorski himself is a much talked about candidate for the post of EU foreign relations chief, but it might be hard for the UK to back him after the revelations.

The UK and Germany are also in a heated dispute over who should be the next European Commission chief. The row, over Germany’s backing of a federalist candidate, has seen Cameron make threats over the in/out referendum.

Sikorski told media in Luxembourg on Monday that his government has been "attacked by an organised criminal group" and that it is working to find out “who ordered” the bugging operation.

He later tweeted that: "In [the] UK, illegal taping of politicians and celebrities led to prosecutions for eavesdroppers and journalists. And closing of News of the World [a tabloid which hacked people's phones]."

An EU diplomat told EUobserver the leaks serve Russian interests by sowing division in the European Union and by making Poland less likely to get an EU top job.

He added, however: “It is equally a scandal the [Polish] government hasn’t addressed any of the issues, such as the independence of the central bank, revealed by all of this. It’s only reaction has been to talk about plots and about the hunt to find out who did it.”

Translation of Wprost content by the British think tank, Open Europe

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