Brussels fiddles while Belarus burns

According to unattributable comments made by EU officials in Brussels, there was irritation at PM Morawiecki’s call for a special summit to discuss the situation in Belarus.

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Commercial radio RMF FM correspondent Katarzyna Szymańska-Borginon informed that “Polish authorities have irritated Brussels officials by trying to be defenders of the rule of law”. The remarks came in the aftermath of PM Morawiecki’s call for a special EU summit to be convened to discuss the situation in Belarus.

According to RMF FM, Poland’s initiative was met with ironic comments about how people who fail to respect the rule of law want to become the prime defenders of democracy in Belarus. According to one of the unattributable sources officials in Brussels “boiled over with rage.” Another source observed that Poland was not credible protesting about police violence in Brussels when Polish police took brutal action against LGBT people.

Donald Tusk, the leader of the EPP, had called for a special summit too. But once he learned that PM Morawiecki had done so he just remarked that he hoped that the Polish PM’s call would prove “effective”.

PM Morawiecki’s call was backed by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda who argued that backing from the international community for the aspirations of Belarusian society was needed. However, the President of the European Council Charles Michel has said that the situation in Belarus would be discussed only at the regular scheduled EU summit in September. German foreign minister Heiko Maas has called for sanctions against the Belarusian regime.

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Poles remember very well how they were lectured by French President Jacques Chirac over their support for the US on Iraq that they “should have taken the opportunity to keep quiet. That took place even before Poland joined the EU.

Now a member of the EU is being told in unattributable briefings to stay quiet. Instead of focusing on what to do about the situation in Belarus officials spend their time trying to score political points and settle old scores with a member state.

Conflating the dispute between the EC and Poland over judicial reform and the crisis in Belarus is disingenuous. Poland has just had a free election the result of which is not in dispute. To compare the actions of the Polish police against LGBT protesters with those of Belarusian forces is absurd. The Polish police don’t even come close to the standards of “firmness” witnessed in France during police actions against the yellow vests protests.

In any case, Brussels officials should have the courage to make their views known without using the tactic of unattributable briefings. Otherwise, they can only expect to be accused of duplicitous sniping.

The behaviour of Brussels officials can only strengthen the feeling in Warsaw that Poland cannot rely on the EU for its security and that it has taken the right choice in putting its eggs in the US basket. If the EU were to take over NATO Article 5 commitments it looks that honouring them would depend on the mood of EU officials, whether or not they were “irritated” by a given member state.

It is Poland which together with Lithuania who alone face the prospect of possible Russian intervention in Belarus and a flood of refugees. And it is Poland alone which has funded independent TV Belsat and given sanctuary to scores of Belarusian oppositionists. If this does not give Poland and Lithuania the right to call for a special EU summit then what does?

Poland has a clear line on Belarus which the EU needs to consider and consider fast. It is that non-targeted sanctions on Belarus will be counterproductive and will drive the country into Russian hands. The right approach, argue Polish diplomats, is to engage with Belarus linking any assistance and cooperation to Belarus engaging in dialogue with the democratic opposition. Surely it is this and not the EU officials angst that the candidate they wanted to win the Polish presidential election lost which should guide the debate.


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