February 23, 2018 / 7:51 PM / 10 months ago

EU's Tusk warns Poland must stop anti-Semitic remarks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Poland’s ruling party must do everything it can to stop anti-Semitic remarks that are hurting Poland’s standing in the world and putting its interests at risk, European Council President Donald Tusk told a news conference on Friday.

European Council President Donald Tusk delivers a media statement at the Chancellery in Vienna, Austria, February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, said after he met Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that discussions with other European leaders showed the situation of Warsaw was “very serious”.

“I told the prime minister the situation ... has a direct impact on Polish interests, Poland’s reputation and Poland’s standing in the world,” Tusk said, adding that Morawiecki understood that.

“There is only one solution. Everything needs to be done to stop ... the wave of bad opinions about Poland, which today resembles a tsunami, and the second wave of silly and indecent incidents, anti-Semitic statements in Poland,” he said.

“The ruling party has all the instruments to stop both these waves if it really wants to. We have all worked hard ... over the last 30 years on good relations of Poland with the world, including Israel and the Jewish community. We cannot allow someone to ruin all that within a few weeks,” he said.

“It is not too late for concrete action, just as it is not too late for common human decency,” he said.

Poland angered Israel, the United States and Ukraine in February when it passed a law that imposes prison sentences of up to three years on anyone using the phrase “Polish death camps”, or for suggesting “publicly and against the facts” that the “Polish nation” or state was complicit in Nazi Germany’s crimes.

Speaking to journalists at a conference of world leaders in Munich last Saturday, Morawiecki further angered international opinion by suggesting Jews themselves had a hand in the Holocaust.

Asked to explain the law, Morawiecki said:

“You’re not going to be seen as criminal if you say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators as well as Ukrainian perpetrators — not only German perpetrators.”

Naming “Jewish perpetrators” in the same breath as Nazis triggered outrage in Israel and added to growing concern about the rise in nationalism in Poland and tacit government support for far-right views since the Law and Justice (PiS) government took power in late 2015.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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