Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Polish PM joins Merkel in welcoming migrants

  • Kopacz said Poland might also need EU solidarity if more refugees come from Ukraine (Photo: premier.gov.pl)

Polish PM Ewa Kopacz has said she'll take in more refugees under the EU relocation scheme, despite fierce opposition ahead of elections.

She told MPs at a parliament debate on Wednesday (16 September): "Poland has a chance to set an example in Europe".

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Echoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's pro-migrant speech in the Bundestag on 30 August, she said: "Can't a country of 40 million people [Poland] afford a gesture of solidarity?".

"We live today in a better part of the world, to which people want to come, and not flee from. I appeal to those who describe themselves as guardians of human life: Show solidarity with those who are losing their lives in the Mediterranean".

She added that EU solidarity is a two-way street.

"Today, our partners in Europe expect solidarity from us. To turn our back on people who need help in this great European family means that, morally and psychologically, we are taking leave of this community", she said.

"We Poles, who could, at any moment, find ourselves in a difficult situation due to the dynamic events in ... east Ukraine, would expect solidairty and help for Poland".

She didn't say how many people Poland would take out of the European Commission plan to redistribute 160,000 refugees.

She also noted Poland has secure borders and will deport economic migrants.

But her speech marks a U-turn in policy, after her EU affairs minister, Rafal Trzaskowski, just two days ago in Brussels, said that Merkel, by welcoming an "uncontrolled wave [of people]", caused the "drastic" problems in Austria and Hungary.

It marks Poland's split from other Visegrad states - the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia - who had banded together against the Commission.

It also marks a sharp difference from Poland’s main opposition party, the right-wing Law and Justice, ahead of elections on 25 October.

Sharia and IS

For his part, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader, told MPs that if Poland takes in too many people “we will no longer be masters in our own country”.

"It might be like Sweden, where there are 54 districts, where sharia [Islamic law] has become obligatory", he claimed.

He said Middle East migrants are potential terrorists, also claiming that Greece intercepted a cache of weapons among its refugees and that “everything points to the fact they came from Islamic State”.

He accused the PM of violating the Polish constitution.

“Does the goverment have the right, acting under external [EU] pressure, without the accord of the nation, to take decisions, which, in all probability, will have a negative effect on our daily lives … and, ultimately, on our security?”, he noted.

True face

Kopacz hit back, saying Law and Justice has “shown its true face five weeks before the elections - the face of a xenophobic, anti-European party, which always seeks discord”.

“It’s a first step toward taking Poland out of the EU and Polish people should know this”.

The Swedish embassy in Poland also took Kaczynski to task.

“Sweden operates under Swedish law”, it said on Twitter.

Law and Justice ahead

According to the latest poll, by Ipsos for Polish public TV on 13 September, Law and Justice is ahead on 35 points compared to 24 for Kopacz’s centre-right Civic Platform.

Law and Justice's candidate, Andrzej Duda, in May already unseated the Civic Platform’s Bronislaw Komorowski in a presidential vote.

Speaking on 8 September, Duda also attacked the Commission migrant scheme on grounds of Polish sovereignty.

“I won’t agree to a dictate of the strong”, he said.

“I won’t back a Europe where the economic advantage of the size of a population will be a reason to force solutions on other countries regardless of their national interests”.

Germany takes political lead on migration crisis

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel has said the EU must act to address the migration crisis, or Europe's "close association with the universal rights of citizens will be destroyed".

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