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Foreign Minister brings home Arab Spring refugees

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 17.06.2011 08:13
Last night, Poland’s foreign minister, Radek Sikorski touched down at Warsaw airport after his visit to North Africa this week with 16 refugees who had been living in Libya but fled to Tunisia to escape the fighting between Gaddafi‘s regime and rebels.

Foreign Minister Sikorski meets refugees; photo - PAP/Leszek Szymanski

The refugees, originally from Eritrea and Nigeria, were immediately taken to a reception centre in Dębak near the capital as a “show of Solidarity” with those struggling for freedom, Sikorski said.

“Poland was not a colonial country, so there is no tradition of multi-ethnicity. But as a symbolic expression of our solidarity […] I'll take today over a dozen refugees who found themselves in camps in your country,” Sikorski said at press conference in Tunis, Thursday, where had been having talks with Prime Minister Bedji Kaid Essebsi.

Sikorski said that since the fall of the regime of President Ben Ali in January following mass protests, Tunisia, "stands at the threshold of a new, democratic politics, which will bring it closer to Europe."

The Polish government has said that the Arab Spring would be central to its agenda during Poland’s six-month EU presidency which begins on 1 July.

‘Sikorski would be lynched’

Meanwhile, the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party has criticised Foreign Minister Sikorski’s statements that Poles should go to North Africa for their vacation this summer, and not Poland.

“In a democratic country […] say, France, a politician who said he preferred to go to Tunisia rather than to the Cote d’Azure would be lynched by domestic media,” said PiS spokesman Adam Hoffman.

Earlier, writing on his Twitter social media site, Minister Sikorski urged Polish holidaymakers to visit North Africa.

“Countrymen! Let us support Arab democracies. Let us visit Egypt and Tunisia. The resorts there are safe. The economies of these countries need steroids.”

Addressing a press conference in Cairo on Wednesday after signing an agreement on Polish-Egyptian tourist cooperation, Sikorski said that spending a vacation in Egypt is the most effective way to help the country’s economy and therefore assist Egypt in its transition to democracy.

Law and Justice Jaroslaw Kaczyński commented sarcastically, however: “This is indeed a highly original statement. We do have an original minister of foreign affairs.” (pg/mk)

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