Friday

10th Apr 2020

Polish reputation at stake over banned neo-Nazi march

  • Poles to celebrate 100 years of independence on Sunday (Photo: Wistula)

The streets of Warsaw risk becoming a battleground for neo-fascists and for Poland's EU reputation on Sunday (11 November) after local authorities banned a far-right march.

"History, both Polish history and specifically the history of Warsaw," were part of the reason why she blocked the event, the city's mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, told press on Wednesday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • Rowdy behaviour and fascist chants and banners marred previous events (Photo: Wistula)

"Warsaw has suffered enough at the hands of aggressive nationalism," she said, referring to its destruction by Nazi forces in 1944.

"The celebration of the 100th anniversary of regaining independence by the Polish state shouldn't look like this," she added.

The Independence March, organised by Poland's National Radical Camp (ONR), an NGO, has taken place in Warsaw every November for the past seven years.

It attracted 60,000 people last year, including neo-Nazis from Italy, the UK, and further afield, some of whom chanted racist and anti-semitic slogans, carried banners with neo-Nazi symbols, set off smoke bombs, and damaged cars, shrubs, and pavements.

The spectacle made Poland look bad after police did nothing to stop the agitators and after the Polish government defended what happened on grounds that only a tiny minority had misbehaved.

It came amid a wider clash between Poland's nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), and EU institutions on rule of law and on migration.

It was also referenced in a European Parliament resolution last month which called, by a large majority, for the EU to ban neo-fascist groups.

Gronkiewicz-Waltz, from the opposition Civic Platform party, said on Tuesday that she had twice asked the Polish justice minister to ban ONR, that he had refused to do so, and that he had backed its plans for this year's rally.

But the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, and the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, got behind her decision.

They announced after a snap meeting on Wednesday that they would instead lead an official march, involving military vehicles, veterans, and boy scouts, on the same route as the ONR rally.

Red and white

"We invite all Polish women and men to take part," Duda's spokesman said.

"It's going to be a national march, red and white, linked to the 100th anniversary of independence. Everybody dressed in red-and-white colours can take part. It won't be a march led by some organisation, so there shouldn't be any emblems that aren't linked to independence," he added, referring to the colours of the Polish flag.

The Duda-Morawiecki decision followed an opinion poll by IBRiS for Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita which said the vast majority of Poles would not want to join an ONR-led rally.

It also came amid PiS efforts to tone down its EU clash, by falling in line with an EU court injunction to halt its purge of Supreme Court judges and by staunch denials that it was opposed to Poland's EU membership.

But the controversy still risks harming PiS' reputation if neo-fascists unfurl their banners in a crowd being led by Duda.

It also risks making Poland look unstable if the ONR goes ahead anyway, prompting violent clashes with police.

The group still has 24 hours to appeal Gronkiewicz-Waltz's decision in court.

But its sympathisers and organisers vowed to hold their rally no matter what the judge said.

Scene set for clash

"It [the ban] is like a knife in the back of the country ... a humiliation for patriots," Tadeusz Rydzyk, a right-wing Polish cleric and a PiS ally, said on his popular radio station, Radio Maryja, encouraging people to disobey the Warsaw mayor.

The ban resembled Poland's former communist regime, he said, adding that Poles must now beware not just "external interference by various global actors [the EU], but internal [foes]" as well.

"The Independence March will go on the streets of Warsaw, even if it happens in the form of a spontaneous gathering," Witold Tumanowicz, the ONR deputy head, also told press.

"Liberal bullying won't take away Polish people's right to celebrate," Robert Winnicki, the ONR head, tweeted on Thursday.

"See you at 2PM on Dmowski roundabout ... it'll be the biggest march ever," he added, referring to a spot on the planned Duda march one hour before the official event gets under way.

Xenophobia on the rise in Germany, study finds

Germans, in particular those living in the east, are demonstrating higher levels of xeonphobia and backlash against religious minorities than when compared to five years ago, according to a new study.

News in Brief

  1. Migrants trapped on boat in Tripoli due to shelling
  2. EU anti-crisis budget 'could be up to €1.5 trillion'
  3. Western Balkan states appeal for EU help with masks
  4. Spain's lockdown could be extended until 10 May
  5. IMF: Pandemic crisis will be worse than great depression
  6. German economy minister expects progress on EU deal
  7. Italian PM: EU is at risk if no deal on recovery plan
  8. Belgian region to block EU Green Deal

Five new post-Brexit MEPs to watch

Five MEPs to keep an eye on from the 27 new members who are joining the European Parliament this week, following the UK's departure from the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. How the EU's virus-alert agency failed
  2. Flemish nationalists torpedo Belgium Green Deal pledge
  3. Eurozone agreed €500bn cushion against virus blow
  4. Why Europe must act now, and on a big scale
  5. EU court blocks Poland's bid to 'frighten' judges
  6. Coronavirus sees approval-rating soar for EU leaders
  7. EU science chief who 'quit' had been told to resign
  8. EU delays 'exit strategies' plan, as WHO urges caution

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us