Poland’s Foreign Ministry expressed its concern over NGO head Lyudmyla Kozlovska, Ukrainian citizen, receiving a Belgian visa despite having been banned by the Polish authorities from entering the Schengen zone in mid-August.
Click here to read an analysis from Poland in English.
“Poland is concerned regarding the decision of the Belgian authorities to issue an entry visa to Lyudmyla Kozlovska, who has been referred to the Schengen Information System. This decision threatens the security of the Schengen zone”, says the Foreign Ministry official statement, released on Tuesday evening.
The Schengen Information System (SIS) supports external border control and law enforcement cooperation in the Schengen zone. In August this year, the Polish authorities blacklisted Ms Kozlovska in the system which effectively banned her from the Schengen zone.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska is head of the human rights NGO “Open Dialogue Foundation” that has become strongly engaged in opposition to the present Law and Justice government in Poland. It had previously engage actively in supporting the ‘Maidan revolution’ in Ukraine
The Polish authorities accused Ms Kozlovska’s foundation of ‘questionable funding’. The government has not provided any additional details on its claims that the foundation was being funded by business interests with ties to the Kremlin.
Ms Kozlovska has responded that the foundation’s financing was transparent and public and the issue is her political activity in opposition to the Polish government.
Ms Kozlovska’s visit to Brussels comes after an invitation from the Liberals (ALDE) and the Green Party of the European Parliament. The Liberal’s leaders, Guy Verhofstadt and Sophie in ’t Veld, have asked the Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans to address the controversy around Ms Kozlovska’s deportation.
“Given that Ms Kozlovska has repeatedly criticised the Polish government, the ban raises doubts about the inappropriate use of the SIS for political reasons: to deport an undesired member of civil society.”
Belgium is not the first country that allowed Lyudmyla Kozlovska to enter its territory since the Polish ban. Two weeks ago, Ms Kozlovska received a German visa. She appeared in Bundestag in a hearing entitled “Human rights under threat – dismantling the rule of law in Poland and Hungary”. “There was no reason for us to refuse a national visa allowing entry into the federal republic,” the German ministry stated.
According to the news portal Onet, Ms Kozlovska’s Belgian visa has a longer validity period than the German one. This suggests that authorities in Brussels disregarded Poland’s concerns.
The Foreign Ministry statement nevertheless upheld the previous stance: “Polish authorities continue to consider Ukrainian citizen Lyudmyla Kozlovska an undesired person in the European Union. The Polish government’s position has been presented to the Belgian ambassador who has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry today.”
source: Polskie Radio 24, Newsweek, Poland in English
Leaving aside the controversies about the activities and funding of the Open Dialog Foundation, the key issue here is trust between member states. For the IS system to work, indeed for the Schengen agreement to work, there needs to be trust between member states.
The Polish government, one assumes, has given clear reasons for why it does not want to see Ms Kozlovska in the Schengen area. It is now up to the Belgian authorities to reveal why they have disregarded Poland’s position.
The problem here maybe national security concerns which member states are reluctant to reveal in public. One thing is certain, member states disagreeing publicly about the workings of the IS system is not a sign of smooth European integration.
Meanwhile Ms Kozlovska basks in yet more publicity. Until all is revealed she can easily play the martyr and claim she is a victim of political discrimination. The Belgian authorities decision indicates that they are inclined to believe her and not the authorities of a fellow member state.