In an interview for eight of Europe’s major mastheads, French President Emmanuel Macron said there were tensions between Europe’s east and west and that “European countries that do not respect the rules should pay the full political consequences”.
"There is a double betrayal. They decide to abandon EU principles, turn their back on Europe and have a cynical approach to the union which gives them money, without respecting its values," Macron said.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said: “I hope that President Macron, who will be at the European Council today and tomorrow and plans to meet [Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło], explains his words to Poles, Hungarians and the other nations of Central Europe.”
Henryk Kowalczyk, a Polish member of parliament from the governing, conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, said he was surprised at Macron’s words, adding that Poland acts according to European Union rules.
“Poland makes a contribution to the EU… the budget is split according to rules with an algorithm of supporting areas of lower economic growth,” Kowalczyk said.
“We are doing what the bloc says, what the treaties say. If the French president was thinking of refugees, well [that issue] is not mentioned in treaties and when we joined the European Union we were not taking on that commitment,” he added.
Poland has refused to accept any migrants from states under pressure in the EU’s migration crisis under an EU programme to relocate some 160,000 of more than two million migrants who have fled to camps in Italy and Greece from the war-torn Middle East and Africa since 2015.
Meanwhile, thousands of migrants have been dispersed throughout France since a makeshift camp of those trying to illegally cross the English Channel was shut down.
Earlier this month the European Commission launched legal cases against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic over their refusal to accept migrants.
Polish authorities have argued that “forced relocation” is inhumane, that the migrants do not want to stay in Poland and that relocation does not resolve the migrant crisis, suggesting instead that aid to the countries of origin would be more successful.
This is not the first row the European Commission has had with Warsaw, with Brussels raising concerns over the rule of law in Poland after PiS, which swept to power in October 2015, pushed through a number of laws that critics say violate EU standards. PiS has fiercely rejected such accusations.
Meanwhile, last June the European Commission launched procedures against Poland for tripling the country's harvest of timber and logging in forests previously excluded from intervention, including in Białowieża, Europe’s last primaeval forest.
However, the Polish environment ministry said logging in Białowieża, eastern Poland, aimed to fight a plague of the European spruce bark beetle, which feeds on the trees.
Hope to rebuild ties
But Waszczykowski and Kowalczyk both said they were hopeful that France’s relationship with Poland could be rebuilt.
Ties between Paris and Warsaw have been strained since a planned PLN 13.5 billion (EUR 3.2 billion) deal for Poland to purchase 50 Caracal helicopters from France’s Airbus Helicopters fell through last October, a year after the new PiS government took over negations. (vb/pk)