Auteur: Andrew Rettman
Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo i has said the Brussels attacks mean that Poland cannot take part in the EU’s migrant relocation scheme.
"Twenty eight EU countries agreed to solve the issue through relocation. But I will say it very clearly. I do not see it possible to allow migrants in Poland at the moment," Szydlo told the Superstacja TV broadcaster on Wednesday (23 March).
She criticised German chancellor Angela Merkel i for having “invited migrants to Europe.”
“This carefree attitude led to the problems that we have today,” she said.
“We cannot agree that thousands of migrants, who come to improve their lives, flow to Europe. There are also terrorists among them.”
Earlier on Wednesday, she told a meeting of NGO leaders at her Warsaw office that the Brussels attacks indicated that the EU had lost control of the migration crisis.
“Europe is incapable of dealing with this enormous crisis,” she said.
“When on Friday [18 March] the [EU] summit was coming to an end, European leaders went back to their capitals feeling that they had a good compromise, that they found a solution to the crisis becaue they managed to conclude a deal with Turkey,” she said.
“Suddenly, a few days go by, and the terrorists made a joke out of the deal and showed Europe that further declarations, further documents, further hours-long talks don’t mean very much.”
Poland’s previous government, last year, had agreed to relocate up to 6,500 refugees from Greece and Italy in a mandatory quota system created by the European Commission.
But Szydlo’s EU affairs minister, after the Paris attacks in November, already said that the terrorist threat had put a “question mark” over the project.
Last week’s EU-Turkey deal is to see Turkey take back irregular migrants from Greece in return for EU states volunteering to resettle Syrian refugees from its territory on a one-for-one basis.
An EU source told EUobserver that Warsaw is not expected to take formal steps in the EU Council against the relocation plan.
“They’re hoping that it falls apart by itself and that they can take part in the resettlement project instead, allowing everybody to save face,” the source said.
“The fact is that even though central European states have spoken out against the quotas, it’s the large, older member states who are doing almost nothing to implement them. That’s where the real problem lies.”
Leaders in central Europe have been making the link between refugees and terrorists since last summer.
They have highlighted the fact that some of the Paris attackers entered the EU on fake papers via Turkey and Greece.
Turkey has said it also found nine would-be suicide bombers among a group of 7,000 Syrian asylum seekers who crossed the border in February.
But the EU commissioner in charge of migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, on Wednesday in Brussels warned against “confusion” of the two issues.
“We are at the peak of two crises - security and migration - and while they overlap in timing they should not be confused. Those people who arrived on our shores are fleeing precisely the same terror that struck here in the heart of Europe,” he said.
“To antagonise those seeking protection would be giving in to the hatred and division that terrorist seek to sow,” he added.
Fear and love
Speaking to EUobserver in Prague before the Brussels attacks, Simon Panek, the head of People in Need, a Czech NGO, said average people in central Europe “fear” migrants because few of them have ever met an Arab.
He said populist media and politicians reinforced the bad feeling.
People in Need works on the front lines of the Syrian war. Operating out of Turkey, it spent €20 million, almost half its budget, last year on feeding 200,000 people deep inside Syria.
Panek said some NGOs have taken Syrian refugees to meet people in provinical Czech towns.
“When local people meet Syrian families and they hear their stories they’re open-minded and helpful,” he said.
“Fear is a very strong emotion,” he added. “You can destroy love in one day. But it’s much harder to deconstruct fear with rational debate.”