Witold Waszczykowski, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland HARDtalk


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Witold Waszczykowski, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland

Zeinab Badawi speaks to Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski. Is a country that was held up as a model of post-Soviet transition turning away from liberal democracy?


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It has just gone past half past two in the morning. That means it is

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time for HARDtalk. Welcome to HARDtalk with me, Zeinab

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Badawi. What is going on in Poland? In July, the European Union began

:00:18.:00:21.

legal action against the Polish government over proposed reforms,

:00:22.:00:27.

that critics say will politicise the legal system. It has threatened to

:00:28.:00:33.

withdraw funding and suspend voting rights in EU. My guess today is

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Witold Waszczykowski. It is Poland turning away from liberal democracy?

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And what does this mean for its people and its place in Europe and

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the world. -- my guest tiday. -- today.

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Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, and Warsaw, welcome

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to HARDtalk. Your party won the elections but is now facing

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criticisms. What has gone wrong? I don't think anything is wrong in

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Poland. We are running the country for the last 21 months. We have very

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strong democratic mandates from our people in Poland. And we are trying

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to modernise the country, develop the country, and of course to stay

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in the European Union and in Nato and implement all the decisions of

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these institutions, also here in Poland. After the fall of the Soviet

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Union, Poland was seen as a bastion of liberal democracy. We had the

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leader of the Solidarity movement who became president and want the

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Noble peace prize. The World Bank heaped praise on Poland for making

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such a successful transition from communism to democracy. And now

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look, you are getting criticisms from abroad, and also internally,

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for being too authoritarian. We are still a democratic country, and we

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want to continue our McReddie process. But we want democracy

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without objectives. I live long enough, so I got to live in a

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democracy with objectors. -- continue our democratic process.

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Some people try to create other democracies, liberal democracies,

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and that exclude some ideas and concepts. We just want to stay on

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the democratic course and to be a democratic country without

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objectives. We continue the transformation of the country. It is

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developing at a high speed right now, about 4% growth per year. And

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all democratic institutions are preserved and kept by our

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institutions and our government and parliament. So those accusations

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about authoritarianism are wrong. In May, tens of thousands of people

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protested on the streets of Warsaw at what they say are curbs on

:03:38.:03:42.

democracy. Critics claim that you are introducing reforms in the

:03:43.:03:49.

judiciary which would compromise the independence of the courts, and give

:03:50.:03:52.

too much power to the Justice minister, who is also the prosecutor

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general. Yes, you are right. Tens of thousands of protesters were

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protesting on the streets. But for millions of polish people that did

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not protest, and our party and how we govern, where supported by 30% of

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the population in Poland. We have a clear mandate to transform and

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democratise the judicial system, which was left untouched for 28

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years, says the Communist times. So I think that this is a judgement of

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the opposition here in Poland, who find it difficult to accept the

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verdict of the election which happened almost two years ago. --

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since the Communist. They using this as an excuse just to judge

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incorrectly our judgement. But can I put it to you that even the

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President, Andrew Dudayev, a former member of your party, once these

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proposals amended, because he says giving the Justice Minister the

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power to dismiss members of the judiciary is not democratic. So even

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the President is critical. -- Ondrej Duda. We accept that two vetoes, and

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this discussion goes back to the Parliament. We will get together

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with parliamentarians to find a solution for this problem. But even

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the President, as you mentioned, he is critical about the contemporary

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situation of the judiciary system. We have two continue the

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transmission of the system. But maybe the better way. Everything is

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going back to the Parliament to find a better solution for the

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Parliament, to the judiciary system in Poland. You have angered the

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European Union. The European Commission has announced legal

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action against the Polish government. It is citing acute

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concern about the independence of the Polish courts, which it says

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will be undermined. So what are you going to do about that? You have

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been invited for talks with the European Commission. Are you going

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to discuss and amended the proposals, watered down? What is

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going to happen? Yes, we engage Win a dialogue with commission. -- we

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engaged in a dialogue. We are patient, and patiently, we are

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trying to discuss and inform the commission about the process. The

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process is going on, as you mentioned, even with some legal

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action of the Parliament having been stopped by the President. So there

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is a Cellino time for the commission to interfere in this situation. --

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so there is absolutely. I don't see any legal excuse for the commission

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to be engaged right now. We will exchange letters and opinions with

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people like Mr Tillmans, but I don't see reason for the commission to

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interfere in reforms and transformation of the system in

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Poland. -- Tillerman. So the Polish government will have talks with the

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European Commission, but you say you will not listen to opinions or take

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advice at all. You will listen, but won't -- you will talk to me but

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won't listen at all? I think that is wrongly evaluating our situation. --

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talk to them. We engage in a dialogue. Just a few days go, I sent

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a letter to Mr Timmermans, and asked for additional clarification on his

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accusation against Polish reforms. I keep reminding him and others that

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the process is not finished. It is ongoing. It back to the Parliament.

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We don't see any reason why it the commission should interfere right

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now. You also being criticised other reforms that are seen as falling

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short of European Union values. Last year, there was a controversial law

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approved to allow Poland to appoint the heads of TV and radio. Poland

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has been accused of threatening, and European values. As you write an end

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and the threat as you rightly mentioned, this is public radio and

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television. This is owned by state owned institutions. -- as you

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rightly mentioned. The situation is in European Union countries, and we

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are not touching the private media, or interfering in private TV or

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radio or newspapers, but those media who belong to the state, of course

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they are ruled by the state owned institutions. This is a prerogative

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of the state to nominate the chiefs of these institutions. Just like in

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other countries, in other member states of the European Union. But

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they are not attracting the criticisms that you are now. I mean,

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for example, it is not just the European Union. The Council of

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Europe, which is not part of Europe, the human rights Commissioner, he is

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critical of Poland placing is public service media under direct

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government control will stop so whatever you are doing, it is not

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quite the same as other European Union countries. -- Humans Rights

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Commissioner. You go beyond by having this direct government

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control, Ajer? I can only repeat what I said. I'm not the expert on

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this. I and the Foreign Minister. So I prefer to engage in the foreign

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policy of Poland, which is also important for the European Union and

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the future of the European Union. But I can only repeat what I heard

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from the experts that we are repeating and copying the solutions

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which exist everywhere in many countries. -- I am the Foreign

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Minister. All right. One thing that you do look at is this issue of

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refugees. In June, the European Commission again launched an EU law

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infringement procedure against Poland because you are refusing to

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take in refugees, as part of an EU wide quota system. Why should Poland

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be exempt from this? We disagree with the commission about the

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mechanics of so-called relocation, because decisions are taken against

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the international treaties, the European treaties, against

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international and European law. It is euphemistic to save relocation,

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because in fact this is resettlement by force of people who do not want

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to be resettled to a country like Poland. So we disagree with the

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commission. The second problem is that we already have a large number

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of migrants coming from the eastern part of Europe. Only last year, we

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issued more than 1,200,000 visas for the Ukrainians. The majority chose

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to stay in Poland. There are also migrants. I don't know why they are

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coming from the Middle East and North Africa, why they are supposed

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to be better evaluated, that are taking care of, by the institutions

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in Europe than migrants coming from, also touched by war, Ukraine. So we

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are the country which is open for migration, but we disagree with the

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mechanics of taking decisions about migrants and refugees. So basically,

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Poland does not want to take any migrants and refugees from the

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Middle East and Africa, and the criticism there is that because

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Poland is a very much in this country, with only 0.4% of your

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population made up of foreigners. Over 90% are Roman Catholic. Cedar

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one was a migrants. I will give you an example of what the Deputy Prime

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Minister said last year. -- so not very many migrants. He said people

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would be blown up. Is that what people don't like about Poland?

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These ideas exist in the Polish population. More than 75% of polls

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do not want to accept this relegation by force of the migrants

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from North Africa and the Middle East. But we try to implement the

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decisions of the commission from September 2015, and many months ago,

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we sent our border guards to the camps in Italy and Greece, we sent

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also security officers. Firstly try to identify some of these people.

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And of course, the majority of them it is very difficult to identify

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them. They do not have documents. This is a threat for the security of

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the country. Of course, nobody from these migrants, these refugees, we

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prefer to see migrants, had any inclination to emigrate to Poland.

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So we cannot accept the situation. This progress in the European Union

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is decided by relocation by force people who do not want be relocated

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country like Poland. -- relocated to a country. This is a sentiment that

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underscores what you have just said that make people unhappy about the

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comments that are coming from official Poland, for example, the

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chairman of the ruling party, said in April last year why he did want

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refugees. These people bringing diseases, parasites, bacteria, they

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don't affect them, but affect us. Is that kind of comment acceptable, to

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using? Once again, I can only repeat that

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75% of the Polish population is accepting the policing of the

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government, not to accept the decision of the EU to resettle by

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force people from Africa and the Middle East. We don't want to commit

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suicide as a politician and a government, to go against the public

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would do that. The accusation as spokesperson for the Catholic

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bishops, who are urging Poland to receive refugees, says that fears

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have been fuelled by some political parties. According to the Never

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Began an organisation which tracks racist attacks in Poland, they say

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they have increased considerably in the last year and that there is a

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correlation between hate speech of the political class and those

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assaults. So, there is a link. I put it to you one more time, are you

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happy with the state of affairs? No, of course we are not happy. We have

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discussed this issue and the problem of migrants during the visit last

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year of Pope Francis. He was visiting us, he gave a speech in

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Krakow and he mentioned that there are many ways to support, help and

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assist refugees and migrants. He did not mention that Poland was supposed

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to accept thousands of people from Syria and the Middle East. He had

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the chance to visit the Vatican many times and discuss with the hierarchy

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that situation. We all understand that we at first supposed to start

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assisting people in the region of Middle East, not Africa. First we

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engage with the European to help find them peace, a peaceful solution

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for the war. That has been going on already for seven years in Syria. We

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are supposed to control the borders of the EU. How are we supposed to

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help them relocate in Europe? Both countries who have the ability to

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accept these migrants may accept them, those who want to emigrate to

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the country are supposed to emigrate. We cannot accept in the

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21st century, resettlement by force. Once again, we are accepting

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millions of migrants coming from Ukraine and other areas. Poland is

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finding these people in Poland. You made that point, thank you. All

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these things we have been discussing have drawn a lot of criticism from

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the EU Poland. Poland is that biggest recipient of EU funding. In

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2015, you received 13.4 billion euros in funding. You cannot afford

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to fall out with the EU, can you? This funding, these structured funds

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and subsidies which are part of the agreement between member states,

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they are derived from the treaties. These funds have nothing to do with

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the behaviour of the country. It is compensation for the opening of the

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economic system, for the opening of the market, the investment, the

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deals with other economies, stronger economies of the Western EU. Is

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nothing to do with... It is not a reward for us for being liberal or

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ante liberal. I reject this accusation that we are supposed to

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give up receiving these funds because we are not behaving

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correctly, according to some... Who do you think is making... Who is

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making that accusation? I'll give you an example. The German vice

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chancellor says, those countries that do not share a German values

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should not count on German financial help. Germany is the biggest

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contributor, by far, to the EU's funding. Are you saying that Poland

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is not that risk of a withdrawal of EU funding? We cannot combine the

:19:33.:19:38.

situation of migrants or European values to the economic operation,

:19:39.:19:46.

because structural funds, this is a reward for the opening of the

:19:47.:19:51.

economy, for the weaker economy, for cooperation with a stronger economy

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of the Western European economy. It has to do with the population, with

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the economy, but not with migrants. Is not a reward for accepting

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migrants. Another thing that is creating some concern, in January of

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this year, the United States deployed troops on Polish soil for

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the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union. Germany in particular

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is concerned about Nato exercises in Poland and the Baltics. And

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increasing tensions with Russia. Are you not concerned about worsening

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ties with Moscow? We are concerned already, for at least three years,

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by the behaviour of Russia. Let me remind you that Russia initiated a

:20:52.:21:00.

rebellion and have acted in regards to Crimea. There are incidences on

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the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. Some years ago, Russia initiated

:21:05.:21:10.

aggression against Georgia. So, reacting to this Russian policing,

:21:11.:21:22.

Nato decided to build a special unit to support the security of the

:21:23.:21:30.

Eastern area of Nato. Last year in Warsaw, Nato decided to deploy extra

:21:31.:21:42.

troops. A somewhat tenuously decided, the United States decided

:21:43.:21:49.

to send a whole brigade. Nato are correctly reacting to the acts of

:21:50.:21:56.

Russia. Nato is defending and deterring, but also trying to keep a

:21:57.:22:00.

dialogue with Russia. We support this dialogue. I have to put to

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you... We sent deputy ministers to Moscow for dialogue. We then sent

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another deputy to Moscow. We are reacting positively, but we do not

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have a positive ads from the other side. Finally, are you enjoying

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being Foreign Minister of Poland at this rather difficult time when you

:22:32.:22:36.

are getting all these criticisms we have been discussing on this

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HARDtalk? I can repeat what I started in the beginning, which I

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did not finish is successfully because you prevented me to tell

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you, for the very first time, we have clearly defined our foreign

:22:52.:22:57.

goals and targets and policy. We have clearly defined our interest.

:22:58.:23:03.

This interest is to implement, using the membership of the EU and of

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Nato. Some of these interests do not coincide with the others, the other

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members of this institution. We have a discussion, a live debate with

:23:12.:23:19.

this. This is a decision or an action of the commission, it is only

:23:20.:23:25.

a smokescreen. There are real problems of security, energy, with

:23:26.:23:32.

the Common Market in Europe after Brexit. Decisions about Smart

:23:33.:23:42.

protection, which is suggested by some other Western politicians. We

:23:43.:23:47.

prefer to discuss, and I engage in discussion with my colleagues these

:23:48.:23:54.

issues. But not directly with that conversation. This is an excuse to

:23:55.:24:02.

deprive Poland of our position and to weaken our position in the

:24:03.:24:07.

future, and in the budget of the European Union possibly. I have to

:24:08.:24:11.

phrase the fact that this is not an easy job, but so far, successful.

:24:12.:24:17.

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski in Warsaw, thank you

:24:18.:24:25.

very much for coming on HARDtalk. Thank

:24:26.:24:26.

Zeinab Badawi speaks to Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski. In July the European Union began legal action against the Polish government over controversial proposed reforms that critics say will politicise the legal system. It is threatening to withdraw funding and suspend Poland's voting rights in the EU. Is Poland, a country that was held up as a model of post-Soviet transition, turning away from liberal democracy?