Can we really call it ‘solidarity’ if it’s not voluntary? The EU Commission is taking Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to court for refusing to accept refugees. The Commission believes that the three Visegrad states are failing to meet the obligations set out in a 2015 refugee relocation plan (which they all voted against) designed to take pressure off Italy and Greece.
If found in legal breach (a process which could take years to resolve) the European Court of Justice could levy fines against the three governments. So far, Poland and Hungary have refused to accept even a single refugee, while the Czech Republic has taken a grand total of 12 people. This stands in sharp contrast to countries such as Sweden and Germany, which have accepted hundreds of thousands of people.
In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis will be on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.
This week, we’re looking at Warsaw. The refugee crisis is a contentious issue in Polish politics. Fully 67% of Poles are against accepting any refugees from the Middle East and Africa, and only 4% are in favour of the permanent settlement of refugees across Poland. Critics accuse the government of spreading misinformation and encouraging stereotypes, while supporters point out that Poland is hosting thousands of refugees from the conflict in Ukraine.
We had a comment sent in from Graziano, who believes that EU funding should be cut if countries break EU rules or values. Would this be appropriate? Does solidarity run both ways?
To get a reaction, we spoke to Andrzej Porawski, Executive Director of the Association of Polish Cities, an organisation representing local governments in Poland. What would he say to Graziano? Does EU funding have conditions in place, including upholding European values on refugees and the right to asylum?
I would say to him that conditions are important. I do not support EU funding being seen as a gift. I understand there are conditions as part of a common framework shared by all European countries. It’s a framework building common values and a common Europe. If we want to spend public money owned by all our nations, we should formulate conditions. The more important conditions, in my opinion, are those conditions governing economic priorities. Conditions related to values are a little bit more difficult, because the understanding of values is still slightly different in different parts of Europe. And, unfortunately, we can see this very clearly in the understanding of different European countries on the whole problem of migrants and refugees.
We still hear a lot about migrants and refugees in Southern European countries, which is a really serious problem for Greece and Italy especially. But we have been ignoring, or almost ignoring, the millions of refugees from Ukraine. And those who support Ukraine, such as Poland, are also showing European solidarity in my opinion. But, unfortunately, this European solidarity is not recognised by those for whom the Southern migrants are more important. But we should remember the war in Ukraine, not only the war in Syria. I often see on European TV horrible scenes from Allepo or other cities in Syria. Rarely, however, do I see similar coverage of the devastation in Eastern Ukraine.
Should the EU sanction Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic for refusing refugees? Or is the EU ignoring the fact that these countries have taken refugees from Ukraine? Can we call it ‘solidarity’ if it’s not voluntary? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!