INTERVIEWS

Poland and Hungary ‘are being attacked,’ Polish ambassador tells Kathimerini

poland-and-hungary-are-being-attacked-polish-ambassador-tells-kathimerini

The European Union’s proposed rule-of-law mechanism, which prompted Poland and Hungary to veto the bloc’s budget, resembles a coordinated attack on the two countries, according to Warsaw.

Poland’s Ambassador in Athens Artur Lompart responded to written questions by Kathimerini on the issue, as well as on the country’s near-total ban on abortion (which triggered huge rallies in the country), LGBTQI rights and the country’s reluctance to receive refugees.

In the same interview, Lompart ruled out the prospect of a Polish exit from the EU.
 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Warsaw recently. The common mission of the two countries is to block the EU budget if the European Union attaches rule-of-law conditions to the disbursement of EU cash. Is this a game of chicken, a bluff? Who do you think will blink first?

To answer your question we must look back to the meeting of the European Council in July this year. The European Council – all EU countries – did not support the European Commission’s proposal of the regulation on the rule-of-law conditionality. Its legal basis raised serious doubts, including from the Legal Service of the Council. The proposed mechanism included a broad criterion of “sufficiently direct risk” which is susceptible to free and arbitrary interpretation and can mean absolutely everything. It is so vague and broad that in reality it will allow for a very wide interpretation to be used against any country of the European Union, not only against Poland. It can be used against Greece in the future.

We could see that numerous statements of politicians in Brussels and other European capitals clearly showed that the goal of the proposed mechanism is not to protect the rule of law, but to attack Poland and Hungary. High-ranking politicians do not hide these intentions. One example is a statement made by Vice President of the European Parliament Katarina Barley, who explicitly spoke of the intention to “starve” Hungary and apply the same treatment to Poland. She did not face any consequences for this statement, which means that many politicians in Brussels share her position.

Poland was against mandating the German Presidency to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the new draft of the regulation. This draft was neither in line with the Treaties, nor with the July conclusions of the European Council. Poland rejected the outcome of those negotiations presented by the Presidency on November 6 as well.

We do not just complain but also try to find solutions. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sent the EU leaders a letter regarding the budget and the conditionality mechanism. We are open to dialogue but new regulations, especially those linking EU funds with the so-called rule-of-law mechanism cannot contravene the Treaties. We believe that the legislation must be very precise, so as not to allow any politically motivated abuses. We advocate equality of all countries before the law and compliance with EU treaties and we welcome the proposed legislation on budget implementation and effective measures to prevent financial fraud and irregularities. However, we cannot agree to mechanisms that are conditioned by political wishes of another member-state or an EU institution – the European Commission or the European Parliament. The current version of the proposal for the regulation is not in line with the European Council conclusions of July 2020.

I hope that within the next couple of days a better compromise will be found that will ensure legal certainty of all of the elements of the budgetary package. From the very beginning, we stressed that it will apply a package approach. There is one element of the package – the general conditionality regime – that has not received unanimous support from all of the member-states, including Poland. Poland is committed to have the agreement on the budgetary package in due time to start the implementation of all of the MFF [Multiannual Financial Framework] instruments without delays. As you can see, it is not a card game but hard negotiations to preserve our EU as the union of independent, sovereign and equal member-states, as it is.

Poland systematically refuses to take in refugees in the name of its homogenous Christian population. How can European solidarity work if every country finds a pretext not to share the burden of the refugee crisis?

Poland does not refuse to welcome asylum seekers or migrants. Poland accepted almost 3 million foreigners within the last few years, many of them were accepted as asylum seekers, mainly from Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Iraq or Syria. Every year thousands of residence permits are issued for people from countries outside the EU. Mostly for people from Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam or India, to mention some of the countries of their origin. Like Greece, we are an EU frontline country and – like Greece – we protect our common European external border against illegal crossings. Coming back to your question – a quick transfer of some migrants could be recognized as a simple and easy solution to solve the migration crisis. But it is not – we see it as a pull factor. Additionally, even if they do not want to stay in Greece, migrants don’t want to be relocated to Poland. They want to be transferred to Germany, France, Benelux or Scandinavian countries, where their families and relatives live, or where smugglers who helped them cross the border promised them a wealthy life in a paradise. Thus, by obligatory relocation we create an additional factor for secondary movement. At the same time, the relocation of people with undetermined status encourages new tides of others who do not meet the requirements of international law. That is why we support the effectiveness of returns and the battle against the roots of migration – poverty, inequality or the effects of war and conflicts – is so crucial for us. We have to fight against human smugglers exploiting the poor and desperate people dreaming of stability and peace. Without eliminating the criminal groups responsible for smuggling, protection of the EU against illegal and uncontrolled migration will not succeed.

The far right and Russian jabs

Aren’t you afraid that by entertaining extreme positions in immigration, women’s and LGBT rights, as well as Europe, you will end up strengthening the far-right in your country?

Poland, just like Greece, has a right to pursue a policy that is in accord with the wishes of the people. And those wishes are expressed by the results of parliamentary elections. We want a European Union in which every country is a sovereign entity and is treated like an equal partner.I do not think that implementing a policy according to your defined national interests is extremism.

In the face of the standoff with the European Union, it seems that Hungary is willing to close a deal with Russia to obtain a Russian coronavirus vaccine. Are you planning similar moves?

Poland joined the common EU procurement for purchasing the vaccine and is working closely with the EU institutions and member-states to finish the process as soon as possible. Our current discussion with the EU institutions on internal issues has not changed it.

‘We faced turbulent acts of hatred’

There are ongoing demonstrations against the new abortion law, almost banning abortions. Why did your government take such a backward decision, becoming a pariah in the EU in terms of women’s rights?

Let me start from the beginning: Abortion has not been banned in Poland, neither have contraception and sexual education, as some media have reported. The fact is that a group of MPs decided in 2019 – in accordance with the Constitution – to bring provisions legalizing eugenic practices with regard to unborn children to the Constitutional Tribunal – the body responsible for adjudicating the conformity of legal provisions to the Constitution. The MPs’ decision was caused by the fact that most of the abortions in Poland involved children who were suspected of having Down syndrome. The tribunal decided after almost one year that the article of the existing law is inconsistent with Article 38 of the Constitution, which states, “The Republic of Poland shall ensure the legal protection of the life of every human being.” The Constitutional Tribunal decided that unborn children suspected of having disabilities should not be discriminated against as the state is obliged to protect human life and dignity. These are the facts. I regret that instead of a discussion on arguments that are a norm in every democratic country, we faced turbulent acts of hatred against religion, politicians and police. These acts endanger human health, increasing the number of Covid cases in Poland.

What about LGBT rights? There are proclaimed LGBT-free zones in your country. Do you agree with that? Is it a state policy? A Swiss researcher implied recently that the country tried to obscure Chopin’s homoerotic relationships. He even said biographies and retellings of some letters swap male pronouns to female ones and downplay, whether intentionally or not, any evidence of the composer’s relationships with men.

There are no LGBT zones in Poland. The so-called LGBT-free zones are a typical fake created by Mr Bart Staszewski, a Pole born in Sweden. His actions have been widely reported by some members of the European Parliament and media, leading to it becoming a public fact, which is very easy in our times of disinformation and fake news. This year, when Mr Staszewski was sued by some Polish local communities, he announced that it was just an “artistic performance.”

The fact is that Poland was the only country in Europe where homosexuals were never persecuted. And still they are not as Polish people are tolerant and open-minded, although they do not accept violent and aggressive actions against family and freedom of speech or religion.

And, referring to Chopin, I have lived too long and I have seen so many researchers who, in pursuit of fame, presented so-called newly discovered theories or sources. I think that the story should be discussed by historians and I am waiting for brilliant and sincere debates on it.

Is there a chance of a Polexit? If so, wouldn’t your country be vulnerable to Russian influence?

The idea of a so-called Polexit is a typical disinformation, a narrative spoken by those who want to scare Polish citizens for their own political purposes. If there is any form of a discussion, then it is because that is normal in every democratic society, where freedom of discussion is sacrosanct. The truth is that over 80% of Poles show a positive attitude toward the European Union. Probably like the Greeks. There were not and there are not any plans to leave the EU by Poland. Several Polish politicians, including the president, our prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Professor Zbigniew Rau, stated it clearly and loudly. Poland is a part of Europe, so how can it leave?