Wednesday

12th May 2021

Polish leader confronts Denmark over border controls

  • Tusk (2nd from l): 'There is no better advert, when it comes to Poland and to our [EU] presidency ... than these strawberries' (Photo: premier.gov.pl)

Polish leader Donald Tusk has criticised Denmark's new border checks in his maiden speech to the European Parliament under the Polish EU presidency.

"I am against any barriers to internal free movement under the pretext of dealing with migration problems. What Denmark is doing is a concern for anybody who thinks that free movement is going to be restricted even further," he told MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday (5 July).

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

"History shows, that whenever Europeans believed that the answer to their problems was a rise in nationalism, statism, protectionism - it always ended in catastrophe," he added at a later point in his speech.

Under the EU treaty, the European Commission is tasked with protecting EU laws while the rotating presidency is supposed to act as a neutral broker in negotiations between member states.

Tusk in Warsaw last Friday also came close to accusing French, German and Italian leaders of hypocrisy in their handling of Tunisian migrants and the Greek bailout, as "politicians who say they support the EU ... but at the same time take steps that weaken the union."

Denmark on Tuesday deployed 50 extra customs officers on its German and Swedish borders. Copenhagen says the move is to fight drug trafficking. But most commentators see it as a sop to the increasingly powerful, right-wing Danish People's Party.

For his part, Germany's Jorg-Uwe Hahn, a minister in the Hesse regional authority, said holidaymakers should boycott Denmark. "I can only suggest that people turn right around and holiday in Austria or Poland instead," he told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper.

Tusk's pro-EU message was applauded by MEPs from across the political spectrum. "I've always said that you should be in our political group," the Liberal group leader, Guy Verhoftstadt said (Tusk's Civic Platform party sits with the centre-right EPP group).

At a press conference following his speech in plenary, Tusk used a plate of Polish strawberries as a symbol of Poland's "fresh" approach to the union's pessimistic mood.

"There is no better advert, when it comes to Poland and to our [EU] presidency - that is about Poland's freshness and energy - than these strawberries," he said, according to Polish press agency Pap.

The plenary debate was also marked by an ugly exchange between the Polish right-wing opposition Law and Justice party and its left-wing SLD counterpart.

Law and Justice deputy Zbigniew Ziobro accused Tusk of curbing free speech by sacking pro-opposition journalists in state-owned media. SLD member Marek Siwiec recalled that Ziobro, in his previous role as interior minister, organised televised raids by armed Swat teams in an anti-corruption campaign which saw one woman commit suicide.

Cameras showed Tusk holding his face in his hands during the mud-slinging.

"These two or three interventions by Law and Justice eurodeputies are a problem for them, not for me, or for Poland," he later told press.

The original title, which spoke of Danish 'nationalism' was altered at 5.45pm Brussels time on 7 July after the Polish foreign ministry clarified that Tusk's mention of 'nationalism' did not refer directly to Denmark

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

EU condemns Slovenian PM's harassment of journalist

Slovenia's populist prime minister Janez Janša attempted to discredit a Brussels reporter after she published a critical article about the state of media freedoms in the country. The European Commission condemned the PM's language - but refrained from naming him.

News in Brief

  1. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  2. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  3. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  4. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  5. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  6. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  7. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia
  8. Renewables in 2020 grew at 'fastest rate in two decades'

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. UN workers at risk in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  2. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  3. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  4. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans
  5. EU needs good diplomats in Indo-Pacific, not people in uniforms
  6. Expelling diplomats won't fix central Europe's Russia problem
  7. Russia penetrated Merkel's 'inner circle', Khodorkovsky says
  8. First recovery euros could be paid out in July

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us