Poland’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, has declared that his government would refuse to accept any relocated asylum seekers under the EU’s proposed new migration pact. He added that he is opposed in general to the introduction of such a system.
“The position of the Polish government [is that] we will not accept any forced mechanism [to relocate asylum seekers] and I want to assure you that Poland will not accept illegal migrants under any such mechanism,” said Tusk on Wednesday.
“We will not accept a single migrant,” he added. “Poland will never be part of such a mechanism.”
— Kancelaria Premiera (@PremierRP) January 3, 2024
The EU’s migration pact has become a highly charged political issue in Poland. The former conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government was strongly opposed to the plan, which includes a proposed mechanism for member states to either receive relocated asylum seekers from frontline countries or instead make “solidarity payments”.
PiS has accused Tusk’s new more liberal and pro-EU administration, which took power last month, of being willing to accept the pact. It notes that on 20 December, a week after Tusk’s government was sworn in, the pact was provisionally approved by EU member states.
However, the plans will still undergo further discussion before then requiring final approval by the European Council, the body representing the EU’s national governments.
Poland’s president and PM have condemned the EU’s migration pact, which was approved by member states yesterday.
„Why should we agree to this diktat from Brussels and Berlin?” asked @MorawieckiM, who pledged to defend „Polish borders and sovereignty” https://t.co/Cb2JKtaFis
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) October 5, 2023
Tusk himself served as president of the European Council from 2014 to 2019, during which time the EU launched a previous system designed to redistribute asylum seekers from frontline countries to other member states.
That system, however, was abandoned in 2017, in part because Poland – then under PiS rule – and Hungary refused to take any of their quota of asylum seekers.
Both countries, as well as the Czech Republic, were later found by the European Court of Justice to have violated EU law by failing to comply with the system.
— greenshame (@greenshame) January 24, 2021
Speaking yesterday, Tusk claimed that “when it comes to forced relocation, for years when I was the head of the European Council I was definitely against the so-called ‘forced solidarity’”.
“It was, among other reasons, because I was head of the European Council that this mechanism was never implemented,” he added.
In fact, the system was implemented and almost 27,695 were relocated under it before it was abandoned in late 2017. The previous year, Tusk told the European Parliament that “relocation is and will be one of the key elements of the European solution to the crisis” and called on member states to show “solidarity”.
However, at the same time he said that “we would make a mistake if [relocation] became the main tool of our policy, because it would be a simple incentive for further, even greater migration flows”. In 2017, he then admitted that relocation systems “have no future” and called for them to be abandoned.
Tusk’s call for EU to abandon compulsory refugee relocation has reportedly provoked anger among European leaders, including in Germany, France, Netherlands. @EU_Commission says it’s 'unacceptable’, 'anti-European’. More in English: https://t.co/jQjlQUeP0g https://t.co/QtwgucdeUE
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 13, 2017
During the campaign for last year’s parliamentary elections, Tusk accused PiS of hypocrisy regarding migration. He noted that, despite the PiS government’s anti-migrant rhetoric, it oversaw the largest wave of migration to Poland in the country’s history.
Tusk also attacked the PiS government over a scandal regarding alleged corruption in the visa system that allowed some migrants to pay money to more easily obtain the right to move to Poland.
Speaking yesterday, Tusk said that “hundreds of thousands of migrants were let in, including through a corrupt mechanism…The end of the era of PiS and Kaczyński’s rule also means much greater security when it comes to the uncontrolled inflow of migrants”.
Opposition leader @donaldtusk has called for Poland to „regain control of its borders” amid an influx of Muslim migrants
His remarks were criticised by the government but also opposition figures, who accused him of a „bidding war” on anti-migrant rhetoric https://t.co/67wZMcqJPQ
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 3, 2023
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Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.