Poland's Duda Blasts EU `Dictate of the Strong' on Migrants

  • Duda says EU policy on refugees feeds `vicious circle'
  • Criticizes Germany for Russia gas deal undermining EU `unity'

The European Union must remain a bloc of sovereign nations ruled by the principle of “partnership” instead of one where richer, bigger members dictate terms on issues such as migrants, Polish President Andrzej Duda said.

A day before European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presents a plan to deal with an unprecedented wave of refugees entering the 28-country bloc, Duda rejected a German-backed quota system for taking in immigrants, saying decisions should remain voluntary at the country level. Echoing leaders in other ex-communist EU member states, the president said the plan will trigger a “vicious circle” because agreeing to take in migrants will convince others to leave their homelands for Europe.

“I won’t agree to a dictate of the strong,” Duda said during an economic conference in Krynica, Poland. “I won’t back a Europe where the economic advantage of the size of a population will be a reason to force solutions on other countries regardless of their national interests.”

Poland, the biggest net beneficiary of the EU budget, has so far agreed to take about 2,000 migrants. The issue is emerging as a main campaign topic before an Oct. 25 general election, where opinion polls show Duda’s opposition allies will unseat Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz’s government.

German ‘Neglect’

Duda was elected in May after promising to take the country out of the European “mainstream” and fighting for national interests, which he said were ignored by Kopacz’s predecessor Donald Tusk, who became the president of the European Council last year.

Kopacz, who took over after Tusk’s appointment, said in Warsaw on Tuesday that Poland could take more refugees than originally pledged. But she added that even if the country of 38 million people wants to show solidarity, it can’t afford to accept “economic migrants” and must focus on those whose life or health is threatened.

“We are ready to do more,” Kopacz said, calling for a “thorough plan” that would spread the burden of sheltering refugees. “We must show solidarity, but also act responsibly.”

Duda lambasted Germany for hurting European “unity” against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “aggression” in Ukraine by planning to extend a natural gas pipeline from Russia that bypasses both Ukraine and Poland.

The agreement signed last week between Russia’s Gazprom PJSC and European companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, EON AG and Engie to expand the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea “completely neglects Polish interests,” Duda said. “That makes it hard to believe in Europe’s unity.”

He also said Poland should hold a referendum on whether it joins the euro currency region because membership would reduce the country’s sovereignty.

“The euro referendum issue resurfaces from time to time,” Marcin Kujawski, a Warsaw-based economist at the Polish unit of BNP Paribas SA, said by phone. “Together with the opposition’s spending plans, which put a question mark over Poland’s ability to meet euro-entry criteria, we can say that the country is probably backing away from the euro zone.”

For more, read this QuickTake: Political Asylum

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