November 6, 2015 / 12:38 PM / 5 years ago

Polish leaders clash over attendance at EU migration summit

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s president rejected suggestions on Friday that he had effectively ensured the country would not be represented at next week’s European Union summit on migration by setting the first sitting of the country’s new parliament for the same day.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Gazeta

President Andrzej Duda has designated Nov. 12 as the date for parliament to reconvene and for outgoing Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz to formally hand over power to the Law and Justice party (PiS), which won last month’s parliamentary election in Poland.

However, the head of the European Council, former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, who like Kopacz hails from the centrist, pro-EU Civic Platform party, has invited EU leaders to talks on that day on Europe’s migrant crisis.

Kopacz urged Duda, who is backed by PiS, to attend the summit despite the handover ceremony in Warsaw and not allow “an empty chair ... to be the only symbol of Polish diplomacy”.

But Duda’s top foreign policy adviser, Krzysztof Szczerski, said Kopacz herself could still attend the EU summit as acting prime minister if she hands in her resignation earlier.

“The president declares that he will immediately accept this resignation and allow Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz to fulfil her duties until the appointment of a new cabinet,” Szczerski told reporters.

Szczerski added that Duda could not attend the summit because he also has to open the first sitting of the new upper house, the Senate, on that day.

PiS, a eurosceptic and economically populist party, said it would file a motion to allow a break in the first session of parliament so that Kopacz could travel to the summit, the state news agency PAP said.


The uncertainty is not a happy omen for diplomats in Brussels already concerned that the PiS election victory may lead to obstruction of EU decision-making. During the last PiS-led government in 2005-2007, Poland delayed the ratification of the EU’s Lisbon treaty, among other issues.

Kopacz said Poland should be properly represented at next week’s summit to defend its interests as the EU grapples with the biggest influx of migrants fleeing conflicts and poverty since World War Two.

“It’s crucial to say firmly that under (European) solidarity Poland will not accept more refugees than it can, and only those who are not a threat to our security,” she said.

PiS has been strongly critical of EU efforts to impose migrant quotas on member states and has signalled it will align Poland with other outspoken critics of the policy such as Hungary and Slovakia.

Its stance threatens to chill Polish relations with its biggest trading partner Germany, which is taking in far more migrants than other EU countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a fairer sharing of the burden among EU states.

Witold Waszczykowski, tipped to be Poland’s new foreign minister in the PiS government, told TVN24 channel that Warsaw could delegate an ambassador to the Nov. 12 gathering to “gather opinions as no decisions are due to be made there”.

Reporting by Adrian Krajewski and Marcin Goettig; Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Karol Witenberg in Warsaw; editing by Gareth Jones

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