Poland’s president has effectively absented the country’s leadership from next week’s European Union summit on migration by calling the first new parliament sitting and formal post-electoral handover of power for the same day.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, backed by the pro-European Civic Platform (PO), urged President Andrzej Duda to attend the summit despite the ceremony and not allow “an empty chair…to be the only symbol of Polish diplomacy”. Earlier this week, EU Council chief and former Polish Prime MinisterDonald Tusk called an informal meeting of EU heads of state for November 12 to discuss the refugee issue.
Three days later, President Duda, backed by the Eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party, set the first sitting of Poland’s new parliament for the same day, precluding both the outgoing and incoming Prime Ministers, as well himself from attending the EU summit. At the first sitting, the old Prime Minister traditionally steps down and the new one is sworn in in the presence of the Polish president.
“It is only an informal meeting,” PiS spokeswoman Elzbieta Witek told reporters of the EU talks. “Donald Tusk knew the possible dates for the first sitting and yet he called the summit on one of them.” Poland, which held elections in October won by the PiS, has been at odds with EU plans to help relocate refugees from countries such as Syria, Iraq andAfghanistan on the basis of set country quotas.
The election of the conservative PiS means Poland may join ranks with Hungary and Slovakia in opposing relocation of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, deepening divisions in the EU, where Germany’s Angela Merkel in particular has advocated a more open approach.
Witold Waszczykowski, tipped to be foreign minister in a PiS government, told the TVN24channel Poland might delegate an ambassador to the first session “who could gather opinions, as no decisions are to be made there.” Outgoing Prime Minister Kopacz told a news conference it was important to attend the summit and present Poland’s position. “It’s crucial to firmly say that under (European) solidarity Poland will not accept more refugees than it can and only those who are not a threat to our security. That’s why it’s important to voice this stance by a Polish representative,” she said.