21st Jan 2021

Tributes pour in after Polish plane tragedy

  • People in Warsaw gathered at the weekend to light candles and lay flowers outside the presidential residence (Photo: Piotr Pawlowski)

World leaders and the EU's top officials have voiced sympathy for Poland following a crash which killed its president and 95 members of his delegation on the way to Russia.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikroski said in an interview with Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza that US President Barack Obama, Russian leaders, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the foreign ministers of Germany, France, the UK, Spain and Lithuania have personally telephoned Warsaw to offer condolences.

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

"I listened to the conversation, which I think is without precedent, when our premier talked at the same time with the premier and the president of Russia, who handed the receiver back and forth to each other," Mr Sikroski said.

President Medevedev in an emotional TV statement said that: "In the name of the Russian people I send the Polish people my deep and sincere sympathy and promise to help the bereaved and relatives of the victims."

From the US, President Obama said in a written statement: "It is a testament to the strength of the Polish people that those who were lost were travelling to commemorate a devastating massacre of World War II as the leaders of a strong, vibrant and free Poland.

"That strength will ensure that Poland emerges from the depths of this unthinkable tragedy, and that the legacy of the leaders who died today will be a light that continues to guide Poland - and the world - in the direction of human progress."

German leader Angela Merkel said: "This is a political and human tragedy for Poland our neighbour ...We in Germany will miss him [Mr Kaczynski] too."

Similar tributes came in from the UK's Gordon Brown, France's Nicolas Sarkozy, their Czech and Lithuanian counterparts and the Nato secretary general.

Speaking on behalf of the EU, Mr Barroso said: "I have worked very closely with President Kaczynski, in a spirit of loyalty, and I respected in him a very determined Polish patriot who at the same time was very committed to our European Union and to the values of freedom and solidarity."

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has postponed a scheduled trip to Warsaw on 12 April. All meetings of EU diplomats in Brussels on Monday will start with a moment of silence and flags on the EU Council building will carry black ribbons.

Pope Benedict XVI offered a special blessing for the Polish nation. Israeli premier Benjamin Netantyahu praised Mr Kaczynski for opening a "new chapter" in Polish-Jewish relations.

The cause of the crash remains unknown, but eyewitness accounts indicate it was due to pilot error as the plane tried to land in fog at an airstrip in a forest near Smolensk in western Russia.

Mr Kaczynski was en route to solemnities for the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, in which Soviet secret police murdered 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals. His trip was to mark a rapprochement in Polish-Russian relations.

"I think that this [Saturday's] catastrophe will again influence Polish history," former Czech president Vaclav Havel said.


EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer

The European Commission has announced targets to accelerate the roll-out of vaccination, and the intention of "a common approach" on possible vaccine certificates. Both topics will be discussed by EU leaders on Thursday.

EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex

MEPs are drumming up support for an inquiry into the EU's controversial border and coast guard agency, Frontex. So far, the Greens, the left-wing GUE, and Renew Europe are on board - amid expectations the centre-left S&D will also join.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit prompted finance exodus from UK to France
  2. Italian PM Conte wins confidence vote in Senate
  3. Borrell washes hands of EU's Venezuela policy
  4. Russia backs Greece in eastern Mediterranean dispute
  5. 'Ski-holiday' Switzerland reaches new infection high
  6. Germany extends lockdown, others expected to follow
  7. Barnier to be Brexit special adviser to von der Leyen
  8. EU commisioner to visit Bosnia's Lipa migrant camp

Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees

The Greek government last week requested that the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex help return 1,450 failed asylum seekers to Turkey. Turkey has refused, citing the pandemic.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. MEPs call to halt Russia pipeline over Navalny arrest
  2. EU targets vaccinating 70% of adults by summer
  3. Portugal pushes to start delayed 'future EU' conference
  4. EU Parliament pressing for inquiry into Frontex
  5. Untapped potential of the single market could boost European recovery
  6. Biden's 'Age of Aquarius'? Mars and Venus will clash over China
  7. The new dimension of 'ever-closer union'
  8. What do new CDU chief's pro-Russia views mean for Europe?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us