Poland defends EU refugee decision
The Polish government has defended its agreement to EU migrant relocations, amid tricky domestic politics.
Piotr Stachanczyk, its state secretary for immigration, told press in Brussels on Tuesday (22 September), that Poland had a bigger say in talks on the scheme because it abandoned the No camp, which contained the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia.
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“We couldn’t have blocked the [EU] Council decision even if we were four. We could have said No and had no say in the negotiations, or we could have done what we did”, he noted.
He said one of Warsaw's red lines was to remove a European Commission “key” - on how to redistribute migrants based on population size and wealth - from the EU legal text.
“Member states have agreed to the figures, but excluded from the decision any system of counting, which could, in future, be used as a precedent for further quotas. There’s no such mechanism. There’s just the naked figures that we agreed”, he explained.
He said if Ukrainian refugees arrive en masse in Poland, then it'll “almost automatically” stop taking people from Greece and Italy.
He noted the EU system lets Warsaw express a preference for Christian instead of Muslim refugees.
He also described Tuesday’s deal as a trade-off on national security.
He said the system will only be implemented if Greece and Italy seal borders and register migrants.
He said the “real danger” isn't relocating 120,000 refugees, but having two “holes” in EU borders - Greece and Italy - where “3,000 to 5,000 people a day enter the EU and disappear somewhere”.
He also said only refugees who've been vetted “not just by our security services, but jointly by the services of all member states” will be allowed in.
The official downplayed the numbers.
He said Poland will initially take 4,600 to 4,800 people, based on 66,000 relocations from Greece and Italy.
But he noted it'll take a separate Council decision, “perhaps one year from now”, to relocate a second batch of 54,000 people.
With Polish elections round the corner on 25 October, he added there’ll be no new arrivals in Poland “any time soon”, because the system will be slow to get up and running.
For her part, Beata Szydlo, from the right-wing opposition Law and Justice party, told Polish TV on Wednesday that Poland “cheated” its allies - the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia.
She said it’s false to claim the EU decision isn't a precedent.
“The parameters, which were imposed yesterday on nation states, are a precedent which can, in years to come, result … in us taking in additional groups [of refugees]”.
She also said the 4,600-or-so figure is fake because family members will be allowed to join initial arrivals.
“The [EU] decision … is a scandal. It was adopted against national security and without the agreement of the Polish people”.
Szydlo is running for PM against the incumbent, Ewa Kopacz, from the centre-right Civic Platform party.
The latest poll, by Millward Brown for Polish TVN and TVN24 on Monday, says Szydlo is ahead on 33 percent, with Kopacz on 22.
The far-right Korwin party is on 7 percent, up two points from the last survey, with pundits saying it might link up with Law and Justice in a coalition.
Korwin's website, on Wednesday, displayed an image of masked men with guns and the slogan “No to an Islamic district in our city!”.