It Took Poland’s Conservatives Only Days to Bring Up the War

Poland’s incoming Law and Justice government is citing World War II to deflect German criticism.

President Martin Schulz of the European Parliament receives guests in Brussels, March 4
President Martin Schulz of the European Parliament receives guests in Brussels, March 4 (European Parliament)

Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party has been in government for less than a week and already it is at neighboring Germany’s throat, rekindling memories of the last time it was in power.

In an interview with TVN24, the new interior minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, took the German president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, to task for criticizing Poland’s immigration policy.

Błaszczak said Schulz’ comments were “another example of German arrogance” and felt it necessary to invoke World War II. “We are talking in Warsaw,” he pointed out. “Warsaw was destroyed by the Germans.”

After radical Islamists killed more than 130 people in terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, Poland said it could no longer accept asylum seekers from the Middle East.

Schulz, a Social Democrat, accused the Poles of double standards.

“When Poland feels threatened by Russia and demands weapons, soldiers and funds, then Europe shows its solidarity,” he said. “Then in such a situation it is not possible to suddenly come along and say refugees are solely a German problem which has nothing to do with us.”

While the two issues may only be connected in the minds of Europhiles like Schulz, Błaszczak’s reaction was certainly over the top and did little to reassure liberals inside and outside Poland that this Law and Justice government will be any less hysterical than the last.

The right-wing party previously ruled from 2005 to 2007 under the brothers Jarosław and Lech Kaczyński. The two never missed a chance to offend the Germans even though they are Poland’s most important trading partners.

The Civic Platform government that came after them, by contrast, strengthened ties with Berlin and presided over a growing economy and a growing Polish influence in Brussels. Party leader Donald Tusk was elected president of the European Council last year.

Law and Justice has recently put up a friendlier face. Andrzej Duda, who was elected president in May, and Beata Szydło, the new prime minister, are both from a younger generation than the Kaczyńskis that is less obsessed with events from seventy years ago. But Jarosław is still party leader and seen as the power behind the throne.

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