MARTA MKOWSKA *
The attacks in Brussels might have added another brick into Poland’s wall against the refugees. Recent opinion polls show that 70 percent now oppose accepting refugees into the country, and more striking still, 50 percent of Poles support the idea of reintroducing border controls within the EU.
Just one day after the shocking atrocities, Polish prime minister Beata Szydło made a blunt statement revealing the government’s position on the EU’s relocation scheme: Poland is not ready to host any migrants. Rafał Bochenek, the government’s spokesperson added later that day that the Prime Minister’s declaration remains valid as long as there are no guarantees that European procedures regarding security and verification of the newcomers are working.
The timing of such a statement would not have been well received in most European capitals, but the government is holding firm on its policy, which it claims is designed to provide security for Polish citizens. With such a strong anti-migration sentiment within Polish public opinion, the government may yet successfully postpone its relocation obligations without being exposed to any legal or political consequences from the EU.
Indeed, each terrorist incident within the EU strengthens Law and Justice’s “fortress Europe” narrative, which militates for tighter border controls, a thorough identification process (preferably conducted outside of the EU) and development aid channelled to the third countries hosting most of the refugees to keep the ‘problem’ outside of the EU. The most recent attack gives just one more excuse for Polish politicians to take aim at European “multiculturalism” and point out that some of the refugees coming to the EU may, in fact, be terrorists.
Poland has declared strong support for common European efforts to tackle terrorism. Following last week’s extraordinary meeting of Home and Justice Affairs ministers in Brussels, Maciej Błaszczak the Polish interior minister reaffirmed that the government fully supports intelligence data sharing at an EU level and fast introduction of PNR (Passenger Name Record). Greater European coordination will also be beneficial for Poland in the short term. They country has a poor record of identifying and fighting Islamist terrorist networks, yet will host two major international events this summer: a NATO Summit in Warsaw and World Youth Day in Cracow. Both occasions will require close cooperation with other member states.
Domestically, the bombings in Brussels accelerated the government’s work on a new anti-terrorism law which is expected to be introduced in May. Błaszczak and Mariusz Kamiński, the Special Services Coordinator, presented the main provisions of the law just two days after the attacks in Brussels. However, the Polish Commisioner for Human Rights has already expressed his concerns regarding the project, as the law gives rather significant powers to both Internal Security Agency and the Ministry of Interior.
Perhaps some of these concerns are rooted in the suspicions against the one of the main authors of the law. Mariusz Kamiński was sentenced to three years in prison for abusing his power as Head of Central Anticorruption Bureau which he coordinated between 2006 and 2009 during the previous Law and Justice administration. However, before the sentence came into effect, Polish president Andrzej Duda pardoned him and Kamiński shortly became a minister in Szydło’s cabinet.
Poland will continue its support for close cooperation between intelligence and police services of the member states in the name of eliminating terrorism. The retention of Schengen freedoms is unlikely to be a key argument for the Polish government, especially if it decides that ‘open-door’ migration policy of certain member states affects Poland. Instead, it will put a national security narrative at the forefront of its foreign policy.
* This article was firstly published by ECFR (5th April 2016)