16th Apr 2024

Poland: EU solidarity on migrants, tough love on rule of law

  • Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki is touring EU capitals this week (Photo: premier.gov.pl)
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The Belarus migrant crisis could be the prelude to broader aggression by Russia, Poland's prime minister has warned.

But EU solidarity does not mean a free pass for Poland to continue its own attack on rule of law.

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"I think that the things that unfold before our eyes, these dramatic events, may only be a prelude to something much worse," polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in Vilnius on Sunday (21 November).

Russian troops had massed on Ukraine's eastern border and in Russia's Kaliningrad exclave in the Baltic region, creating "an instrument which could be used directly for a direct attack", he warned.

The collapse of Afghanistan could also be "used as the next stage of the migration crisis" by Russia, he said.

"Any discussions with Belarus shall be coordinated with frontline countries - Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland - to prevent from partial solutions that won't lead to substantial improvement," Lithuanian prime Ingrida Šimonytė minister also said.

She spoke after German chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko twice last week, ruffling feathers in eastern Europe.

EU Commission and EU foreign service officials were also in contact with Minsk for "technical discussions" on the crisis, Šimonytė noted.

The number of irregular crossing attempts to Poland fell over the weekend, but groups of 100 to 200 people at a time were still trying to break through in isolated incidents, the Polish border guard said.

"The foreigners were aggressive - they threw stones, firecrackers, and used teargas," it said on Saturday.

"No, this political crisis is not coming to an end. Belarus is still interested in escalating and continuing operations against Poland," Stanisław Żaryn, a spokesman for Poland's security services, also said.

"We remain vigilant and stand ready to further help our allies," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg noted, with at least 100 British military engineers and 100 Estonian troops going to the Polish border.

For his part, Lukashenko admitted his armed forces had helped migrants to come in an interview with the BBC.

"They're not coming to my country, they're going to yours," he said.

"We'll massacre all the scum that the West has been financing," he also said, referring to his crackdown on pro-democracy protesters inside Belarus.

And a senior Ukraine defence official, Kyrylo Budanov, backed Morawiecki's dire warning.

"Russia is ... preparing an attack [on Ukraine] at the end of January or start of February next year," he told the Military Times magazine on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Morawiecki also visited Riga and Tallinn at the weekend, amid plans to tour other EU capitals, including Berlin, this week.

EU letters

But the EU solidarity on migrants did not mean that institutions had relaxed pressure on Poland over the ruling Law and Justice's party dismantling of independent courts in the past few years.

The EU Commission, on Friday, sent letters to Warsaw and Budapest saying tens of billions of euros in EU funding in the next budget cycle could be frozen unless they toed the line.

The situation in Poland "put at risk the application of Union primary law and secondary legislation relevant to the protection of the financial interests of the European Union," the EU letter to Warsaw said, according to Reuters, while giving Poland two months to address concerns.

"The identified deficiencies and weaknesses may ... present a serious risk that the sound financial management of the Union budget or the protection of the Union financial interests will continue to be affected in the future," the letter to Hungary also said.

Both countries have already had funds frozen in a separate process related to the EU's post-pandemic recovery fund.

Some Polish regions have also lost EU money after signing anti-LGBTI declarations.

"Welcome back to emerging markets," US investment bank JP Morgan wrote in a report to investors last week, referring to increasing instability in central and eastern Europe.

Government bond yields have slumped in Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine, while currency volatility and inflation have increased, financial analysts noted.

"It is difficult to distil the geopolitical tensions from the macroeconomic backdrop ... we are probably going to see some rocky times in the region," Lyubka Dushanova, from the US-based consulting firm State Street Global Advisors, told Reuters.

EU top court slams Poland and Hungary again

In a joint letter, five European Parliament groups - from centre-right to far-left - called on EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to defend EU law and take all necessary measures.

Too early to 'de-escalate' Belarus crisis, says EU official

EU senior officials say Belarus needs to do much more than move migrants and asylum seekers into a shelter. They want UN aid agencies to have unhindered access to people stranded in Belarus. Poland is still refusing any humanitarian aid.


Have the Polish people finally had enough?

Sitting justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro down on the same bench as Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga or Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir might seem like a longshot, if not overkill - but shows just how desperate the Polish people have become.

MEPs urge EU not to relax policing rule-of-law amid war

European lawmakers debated the lack of progress in the EU sanctions probe against Poland and Hungary, and warned Russia's invasion of Ukraine should not be a reason to turn away from rule-breaking within the bloc.

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