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Poles Value Denying Muslim Refugees Over Being in EU, Poll Shows

  • Poles would give up EU aid at price of keeping Muslims away
  • Survey shows ruling party’s anti-refugee stance lifts support

A majority of Poles would be ready to give up their generous financial aid from the European Union or leave the bloc altogether to ensure the country can shut its borders to Muslim refugees, a poll showed.

Coinciding with a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday, the poll of 1,000 people showed more than half of respondents, or 57 percent, said they would be willing to do without EU development funds to maintain the stance of rejecting refugees from Muslim countries. Fifty-one percent said they’d be ready to surrender membership in the 28-member trading bloc. The June survey, conducted by the pollster IBRiS and published in the Polityka weekly, had a margin of error of 3 percent.

The result underscores the impact of measures taken by the ruling Law & Justice Party, which has rejected a plan agreed by EU members in 2015 to shelter refugees from the Middle East and Africa in the worst migrant crisis since World War II. Led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the party insists it’s the only force that can keep the country of 38 million people “safe” from terrorists. It has blamed attacks in Germany, France, the U.K. on refugees, even though people with longer-term ties or who were born in those countries have mostly been responsible.

“Poles’ eagerness to receive refugees has dramatically dropped since 2015 amid the anti-refugee rhetoric,” Marcin Duma, the head of IBRiS, told Bloomberg News by phone. “Rising support for Law & Justice is linked with this rhetoric.”

Poland, the seventh-poorest member of the EU, is the largest beneficiary of the bloc’s development funds, which have helped the country build roads, stadiums, schools and funded thousands of other projects. More than 250 billion euros ($283 billion) were or will be spent there since Poland joined along with seven other ex-communist states in 2004, equivalent to more than the U.S.-funded Marshall Plan provided to western Europe after World War II in today’s dollars.

Scared Poles

The survey also conflicts with strong support for EU membership among Poles, with 71 percent of people, the fifth most in the bloc, believing that membership is “a good thing,” according to a March survey survey by Eurobarometer, the EU’s pollster. Law & Justice has benefited from its anti-immigrant stance and has a strong lead in opinion polls.

Defending her interior minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, on Wednesday from an unsuccessful no-confidence motion, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said her party’s goal “is not to scare Poles.” With the opposition denouncing Blaszczak as the face of “ruling by fear” for likening hosting refugees to “social disaster,” Szydlo said that “every day they can hear that even children aren’t safe in Europe these days.”

The anti-immigration stance has exacerbated already strained ties with the EU, and the bloc’s executive commission launched infringement proceedings last month against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for rejecting quotas for housing refugees. The EU also opened its first-ever probe into whether a member state is adhering to the bloc’s values after Law & Justice forced through judicial changes ruled illegal by the country’s top court.

Kaczynski doubled down on his anti-refugee message at a party congress on Saturday, saying that the nation’s past, including the Nazi invasion in World War II, give it a moral claim to continue to receive development funds while keeping its stance on immigrants.

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