Sunday

23rd Jan 2022

France 'shocked' by Poland's 'sick man' attack on Macron

  • Pierre Levy was France's former ambassador to the Czech Republic (Photo: elPadawan)

France's ambassador to Poland has said he was "shocked" by the Polish foreign minister's comments that France had become the "sick man of Europe".

"I won't hide that I was surprised, even shocked, by those remarks," Pierre Levy, the French diplomat, told Polsat News, a Polish TV broadcaster, in an interview out on Wednesday (26 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz said France was "dragging down" the EU (Photo: mfa.gov.pl)

France was trying to build closer ties with Poland, he said, but the Polish minister's comments made him "wonder whether Polish authorities really wanted to mend our relations".

He spoke amid long-standing EU concern that the nationalist-populist bent of Poland's ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), including its attack on judicial independence and media freedom, as well as its eurosceptic rhetoric, violated EU norms and values.

"We want Poland to play a full role in Europe. We want to stand together. I can't imagine a Europe worthy of the name, in which Poland didn't play its role together with us," Levy said, alluding to an EU sanctions procedure that could see Warsaw deprived of its EU voting rights.

But he warned that populism threatened European interests, in an apparent dig at PiS' behaviour.

"Polish people should know that the forces against [French president Emmanuel] Macron on the right, on the fringe right, the left and the fringe left, are forces whose political vision go against the fundamental interests of Poland - in the case of the EU, of Nato, of Russia," Levy said.

"Instability in Europe is in the interests of powers lying to the east and also those in the west," he added, pointing to Russia, but also to the US under its populist new leader, Donald Trump.

Levy spoke after the Polish foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, lambasted France over its 'yellow vest' riots and over a recent terrorist attack at a Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg.

"Something's not right" in France, Czaputowicz told press shortly before Christmas.

"The protests in recent weeks, president Emmanuel Macron's retreat from reform of the country - it's sad because France is the sick man of Europe, dragging Europe down," the Polish minister said.

His comment on "reform" came after Macron had promised more spending on welfare in reaction to the yellow vest movement, which could see France break EU fiscal rules.

His comments on the Strasbourg attack, which was carried out by a Muslim, alluded to Poland's refusal to take in Muslim refugees from Greece and Italy under EU quotas in what Poland has said posed a security threat.

Levy said the yellow vest movement came out of financial inequality and a feeling that the elite did not listen to people's concerns.

He said these "divisions" were visible not just in France, but elsewhere in Europe, and beyond, in the age of globalisation.

He defended Macron's economic swing to the left, but he said some of the yellow vest leaders' demands, such as rule via referendums, were "weird".

"I believe in representative democracy," Levy said.

The ambassador added that the Strasbourg attack bore the hallmarks of previous Islamist assaults in the country, but that the police investigation had not been completed.

France was under attack, he added, not because it had a large Muslim minority, but because it was "engaged in the fight against terrorism" in places such as Iraq, Mali, and Syria.

"That's why we're a target," he said.

Islamism aside, the diplomat said most of the people behind past attacks had been shaped by the same forces of economic inequality that gave rise to the yellow vest riots.

"The attacks were acts of perpetrators, of people who, for various reasons, found themselves on the margins [of society], and who adopted the badge of Islamic radicals, even though, in reality, they weren't radicals at all," Levy said.

Opinion

EU foot-dragging puts rule of law at risk in Hungary, Poland

The European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has yet to be heard on the forced eviction of the Central European University from Budapest to Vienna. Just months before crucial European parliament elections, EU leaders should not shy away from this debate.

Salvini invokes God and Russia on Poland trip

Orthodox values, opposition to EU institutions, and friendship with Russia should form the backbone of a new Italian-Polish league, Italy's Matteo Salvini has said.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us