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Polish Parliament given update about situation at eastern border

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An extraordinary plenary session was held in the Polish Sejm on Tuesday because of the tense situation on the Polish–Belarusian border. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński, and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak informed MPs about the current crisis situation.

Poland – At the start of the session, Sejm Speaker Elżbieta Witek implored opposition members to temporarily bury the hatchet by adopting a responsible and thoughtful attitude during the session, which she described as “one of the most important, if not the most important, of this parliament”.

Witek concluded her introduction by thanking “on behalf of all of us” the thousands of law enforcement personnel guarding Poland’s eastern border. This was followed by a round of applause and a standing ovation from the overwhelming majority of MPs, including the opposition.

“The greatest provocation of the last decades”

For his part, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pointed the finger of blame for the current border crisis at Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin. The head of the Polish government described the current situation as “the greatest provocation in recent decades”.

“We are facing a new kind of war (…) It is a plan directed by Minsk and Moscow. (…) This crisis is being orchestrated in an organised manner as was the case in 2015 (…) These people are brought to the border from the Middle East and used as human shields in order to destabilise Central Europe and the European Union. (…) One of the main weapons used is disinformation”, he explained.

Morawiecki was keen to point out that “Poland’s eastern border is also that of the EU and NATO.”

He emphasised the various steps taken by the government since the beginning of the current migratory crisis.

“Border protection measures have been deployed since June (…) If we had not anticipated the worsening of the situation, we would certainly not be able to prevent the entry of these migrants onto our territory today”, he explained.

Opposition’s reactions

On the opposition side, reactions were relatively varied. The urgency of the situation led to a more respectful debate than usual, but the exchanges were nonetheless very lively.

The liberals of the Civic Coalition (PO), as well as the centrists of Poland 2050 (Polska 2050) and the Polish Coalition led by the agrarian party PSL, criticised the government for its lack of diplomatic effectiveness on the international scene. In their view, Poland should call for more support from its international partners in NATO and the EU (Frontex).

The main reproach of the Left (Lewica) concerned humanitarian issues. The Left’s MPs are calling for greater government involvement in providing psychological support to border guards and also “a roof, a meal and a blanket” for migrants who manage to cross the border, whether it be legally or illegally.

For their part, the nationalists of the Confederation (Konfederacja) were critical of the government’s handling of the crisis. In their eyes, Poland should have built a real barrier on the border with Belarus, as is being done in Lithuania, but is still only being planned in Poland.