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Posts tagged ‘Patient Land of Poland’

Ukraine, Poland want continued sanctions on Russia

August 31, 2019

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Saturday he and Poland’s president have agreed that sanctions ought to continue against Russia until Ukraine regains the territory it lost in Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Zelenskiy, accompanied by some members of his Cabinet, was on his first visit to Poland as president for political talks and to attend ceremonies planned for Sunday to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II.

He said he and Polish President Andrzej Duda had discussed the next steps needed to end the war in eastern Ukraine and to return the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine. “We have agreed on our next steps to stop the war in eastern Ukraine and to bring back occupied Crimea,” said Zelenskiy, who was a comedian who starred on a popular sitcom before his election in April.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in a move that Ukraine and almost all of the world views as illegal. The European Union and the U.S. imposed sanctions. In eastern Ukraine, a deadly conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has gone on for five years.

Zelenskiy said his and Duda’s “joint and principal position” is that the EU “sanctions should be reviewed only to be increased- not otherwise” unless existing peace agreements are fully implemented and “the territorial unity of Ukraine according to its internationally agreed borders” is restored.

Duda said he assured Zelenskiy of his support for continuing sanctions on Russia and protecting “Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.” Duda said especially in the context of Sunday’s World War II anniversary, “We must stress how very important it is that no one, in Europa or in the world, is allowed to change borders by force.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of world leaders also will take part in the anniversary ceremonies in Warsaw. The invasion of Poland by Nazi German troops on Sept. 1, 1939 marks the outbreak of World War II.

Poland remained under Nazi German occupation for more than five years and lost some 6 million citizens.


Israel-Central Europe summit canceled after Polish pullout

February 18, 2019

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland on Monday pulled out of a summit in Jerusalem, triggering the collapse of the entire meeting, after the acting Israeli foreign minister said that Poles “collaborated with the Nazis” and “sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.

The developments mark a new low in a bitter conflict between Poland and Israel over how to remember and characterize Polish actions toward Jews during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been due to meet with the leaders of four Central European nations known as the Visegrad group. With the Hungarian and Slovak prime ministers already in Israel and the Czech leader still planning to go, bilateral meetings were to go ahead instead.

Netanyahu had touted the meeting as an important step in his outreach to the countries of Central Europe, which have pro-Israeli governments that he is counting on to counter the criticism Israel typically faces in international forums.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had already announced Sunday that he was pulling out of the meeting after a comment by Netanyahu last week about Polish cooperation with Nazis. Morawiecki cancelled Polish participation altogether after the comments made by Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz, which Morawiecki denounced as “racist” and “absolutely unacceptable.”

Poland’s Foreign Ministry also summoned the Israeli ambassador, Anna Azari, to demand a second set of clarifications in recent days. Katz made his remarks Sunday in an interview on Reshet 13 TV. “Poles collaborated with the Nazis, definitely. Collaborated with the Nazis. As (former Israeli Prime Minister) Yitzhak Shamir said — his father was murdered by Poles — he said that from his point of view they sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk. You can’t sugarcoat this history,” he said.

Jewish leaders in Poland issued a statement saying that Shamir’s words were “unjust already when they were first said, in 1989, when Polish-Israeli relations were just beginning to be rebuilt, after the long night of communism.”

“They are even more unjust today, 30 years later, when so much has been done on both sides for a mutual understanding of our very difficult, but shared history,” the statement added. Poland was the first country invaded and occupied by Adolf Hitler’s regime and never had a collaborationist government. Members of Poland’s resistance and government-in-exile struggled to warn the world about the mass killing of Jews, and thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews.

However, Holocaust researchers have collected ample evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis, or Polish blackmailers who preyed on helpless Jews for financial gain. The head of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, noted that that Poland and Israel, while otherwise friends, have clashed over the “varying assessments of the magnitude of anti-Semitism in Poland, especially before and during World War II, and often competing historical narratives.”

He issued a statement acknowledging that “there are certainly pockets of anti-Semitism in Poland” but largely stressing the fact that Poles suffered and put up massive resistance to the Nazis during the war, also helping Jews. He also noted the Polish contributions in recent years to the renewal of Jewish life.

“As friends, we need to be able to manage our inevitable differences. That begins with choosing our words carefully — knowing when to speak, how to speak, and where to speak,” Harris said. “It means not allowing individual incidents to escalate out of control. And it means not ceding all the progress achieved to date to those who might wish to destroy it.”

Heller reported from Jerusalem. Karel Janicek in Prague contributed.

UN climate talks in Poland go into overtime

December 15, 2018

KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — Officials from around the world are still working to agree on the fine print of the Paris climate accord after two weeks of talks, even as workers dismantle sections of the conferenced venue around them.

Diplomats and ministers prepared for a closing meeting at noon Saturday, a day past the original deadline, but success was still uncertain. The U.N. talks in Katowice, Poland, are meant to provide a rulebook for all signatories of the 2015 accord, ensure financial support for poor countries and send a signal that countries are prepared to increase their efforts in years to come.

The rules for carbon emissions trading remain a key sticking point. Scientists say emissions of greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide need to drop sharply by 2030 to prevent potentially catastrophic global warming.

Polish leaders to walk with nationalists on Independence Day

November 10, 2018

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Polish government and the organizers of a march put on by nationalist groups annually for the country’s independence holiday have agreed to hold a joint event in Warsaw Sunday on the 100th anniversary of Poland’s rebirth as a state.

The announcement late Friday means President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other state officials will join groups who held a march in Warsaw last year where racist banners and white supremacist symbols were displayed.

Michal Dworczyk, the head of Morawiecki’s chancellery, tweeted that both sides reached an agreement, adding: “Poland won. On Nov. 11 there will be a great communal march to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Independence!”

The deal was also announced by the top march organizer, Robert Bakiewicz. He is a leader of the National Radical Camp, which traces its roots to an anti-Semitic movement of the 1930s. The development underscored how the ruling Law and Justice party has at times sought to embrace the same base that supports far-right groups. It’s a source of controversy in Poland, where many are furious at how radical nationalists came to dominate the Independence Day holiday.

Duda said he wants the participants to walk “under white-and-red flags, under our national colors, under the motto of a free and independent Poland.” The president told Poland’s Nasz Dziennik newspaper he wants all the participating groups to leave their individual emblems and banners expressing their particular point of view behind.

Last year’s march in the capital was cited in a recent European Parliament resolution that called for member states to act decisively against far-right extremism. It noted the presence at that march of xenophobic banners with slogans such as “white Europe of brotherly nations,” and flags depicting the “falanga,” a far-right symbol dating to the 1930s.

The announcement of the joint march comes after chaotic days of preparations and negotiations with the nationalist group before the centennial of Poland’s independence, which was regained at the end of World War I in 1918 when the three empires — Russia, Austria and Germany — that had ruled Poland for more than a century collapsed in defeat.

Duda’s office held talks with march organizers over several months in hopes of reaching an agreement on a joint march. But the talks broke down when the nationalists refused a demand to have no banners.

New talks between state officials and the nationalists took place Friday leading to the announcement of an agreement. Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, a hero of the anti-communist Solidarity movement of the 1980s, strongly criticized the authorities for what he described as pandering to “bandits” and “fascists.”

Law and Justice party spokeswoman Beata Mazurek appealed to all participants to be a “guardian” of order at the march and to report any “provocative behavior” to the police. On the eve of the anniversary, Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski attended the unveiling of a monument to former Polish President Lech Kaczynski, The twin brother of the ruling party leader was killed in a 2010 plane crash in Russia.

The memorial and its location in a large central square with statues and other installations representing significant moments from Poland’s glorious and tragic past has been another source of national discord leading up to the independence centennial.

Polish army organizing security for Independence Day march

November 08, 2018

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Defense Ministry will handle security during an Independence Day march this weekend in Warsaw as police are staging mass walkouts in a pay dispute that has created concerns about keeping people safe.

Over the past decade, radical nationalists have staged marches featuring racist banners and rioting on Nov.11 as Poles celebrate their nation’s independence, regained at the end of World War I after more than a century of foreign rule.

With security concerns running high, Warsaw’s mayor on Wednesday banned the nationalists’ march, and the president’s and prime minister’s offices quickly announced plans for an inclusive state march in its place.

Michal Dworczyk, chief of the Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s chancellery, said that the Defense Ministry, in charge of the army, will organize security at events marking the centenary of Polish independence on Sunday.

In recent days many police officers — up to 60 percent of the force in some places — have gone on sick leave to protests their pay, raising concerns about how it will be possible to secure the march in Warsaw along with many other events across the nation on Sunday.

Another divisive issue has been a statue being unveiled Saturday of the late President Lech Kaczynski in a central Warsaw square. At nearly 7 meters (23 feet) it towers over a nearby monument of the national hero Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, the statesman who led Poland in regaining its independence a century ago.

Kaczynski, who was killed in a 2010 plane crash in Russia, was the identical twin of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the right-wing Law and Justice party currently in power. While Poles united in mourning the tragedy that took his life and 95 others, including the first lady, they are deeply divided on whether he deserves such heroic status.

In another development, the president signed a law late Wednesday that makes next Monday a day off work for Poles since the holiday falls on a Sunday. Pro-business lawmakers and many in the business community say the last-minute organization of a day off is causing disruptions and chaos and warn it will affect their bottom line.

Poland blocks far-right march, will hold inclusive event

November 07, 2018

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The mayor of Warsaw on Wednesday banned radical Polish nationalists from marching on the 100th anniversary of Poland’s independence due to security concerns. The move prompted Polish leaders to quickly draw up plans for an inclusive march Sunday that could be embraced by all citizens.

It was a significant about-face for the populist government, which has been trying not to alienate far-right voters but then faced the strong possibility that the main news from Poland on its centennial would have been about extremists or even violence. It seemed the Warsaw mayor, normally a political rival from the opposition centrist Civic Platform, offered them a way out of their predicament.

Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said she wanted to put a stop to the extremist displays that have appeared yearly on Poland’s Nov. 11 Independence Day holiday at far-right marches that have drawn tens of thousands to the capital.

At last year’s march, some marchers carried racist and anti-Islamic banners calling for a “White Europe” and displayed white supremacist symbols like the Celtic Cross. There were also cases of violence against counter-protesters.

The event drew heavy media coverage and international criticism. Lawmakers in the European Parliament called the participants “fascists” — a label that infuriated the conservative Polish government, whose leaders said most people marched with the national flag and without the racist banners. They mostly praised the march as an expression of patriotism, with one minister calling it a “beautiful sight.”

This year, Poland is celebrating the centenary of its independence, gained in 1918 at the end of World War I. “This is not how the celebrations should look on the 100th anniversary of regaining our independence,” Gronkiewicz-Waltz told a news conference. “Warsaw has suffered enough because of aggressive nationalism.”

Gronkiewicz-Waltz noted that the chief organizer of the Warsaw far-right march is a leader of the National Radical Camp, which traces its roots to an anti-Semitic movement of the 1930s. She said she has asked the government to outlaw it but has been ignored.

“The capital city saved the honor of the country,” the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza wrote. Many other Poles have resented how the nationalists in recent years have managed to draw so much attention on Independence Day, overshadowing other celebrations.

President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met after the mayor’s announcement and announced that a march organized by the government would take place in Warsaw on Sunday instead. Presidential spokesman Blazej Spychalski invited all Poles to march with national flags to show that “we are one white-and-red team,” a reference to the flag’s colors.

The government had held failed talks earlier with the far-right nationalists, hoping to make their march a state event, but far-right organizers refused the government demand that marchers could carry flags only, no banners, Morawiecki said.

A similar ban on a far-right Independence Day march was announced Tuesday by the mayor of the western Polish city of Wroclaw, who cited the risk that participants might incite racial and ethnic hatred.

The bans followed signals that extremists from elsewhere in Europe planned to travel to Warsaw on Sunday. Mass walk-outs by Polish police officers in recent days also raised concerns that clashes between participants and counter-protesters could get out of hand if there were not enough officers to intervene.

Meanwhile, a controversial statue of the late President Lech Kaczynski was installed in a central Warsaw square ahead of its weekend unveiling as part of the centennial celebrations. Kaczynski, who was killed in a 2010 plane crash in Russia, was the identical twin of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the right-wing Law and Justice party currently in power.

While Poles have universally mourned the deaths of the president and the 95 other people who perished with him they remain divided on how to judge his presidency and whether he deserves such hero status.

More than 140 memorials to him already exist across the nation of 37 million people. Authorities in Warsaw’s local government opposed the statue and its central location. Pro-government provincial authorities were in favor. The clash is playing out in Poland’s court system even as the 7-meter (23-foot) statue went up.

The end of World War I is also being marked on Sunday in Paris, where dozens of world leaders will gather, including host French President Emmanuel Macron and counterparts Donald Trump of the United States, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In Britain, Armistice Day will be commemorated Sunday with a solemn ceremony at the Cenotaph in London that will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II. Special tributes to fallen and injured servicemen will also include a Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London.

Polish ruling party chief puts best face on election results

November 06, 2018

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland’s populist ruling party on Tuesday hailed its showing in local elections as an “all-out victory” despite the party’s failure to win mayoral races in any of Poland’s large cities.

In an apparent face-saving measure, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said “our victory is not subject to the slightest doubt” and called the results a good sign for his Law and Justice party in next year’s parliamentary elections.

Party officials presented charts to reporters to show Law and Justice victories in country and local councils. He was speaking following the vote that ended Sunday in some cities and smaller municipalities. The conservative ruling party won the most seats in regional assemblies but performed poorly in mayoral races, winning no big cities and only a handful of smaller ones.

Kaczynski contested the opinions of some commentators who say that the failure in the cities should sound a warning for the party, which won power in 2015. “This election brought another victory for Law and Justice and it makes a very good prognosis for the parliamentary elections,” Kaczynski said.

Poles will elect representatives to the European Parliament in May and to the national parliament in the fall, and will then pick a president in 2020.

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