There is an old joke about a man who fervently prayed to God to win the lottery. He begged daily and wailed loudly that his requests were being ignored. Finally, the annoyed Creator replied “Boy, give me a chance. At least buy a ticket!”. The Polish government adopts the same approach to the money from the European Union. It laments that it does not receive it, but it does nothing to change this.
Mateusz Morawiecki complains at almost every opportunity that the EU does not support the Polish authorities in the hardship of caring for hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine and that the government in Warsaw has taken the entire burden of the operation on itself.
“I was in Lviv. I saw soldiers with broken arms or legs. They will be treated in Poland, because we are also taking care of the wounded. But we need money for this, just as we need money for the 2.5 million refugees to whom we have opened our doors and hearts in Poland. Ninety-three per cent of them are women and children. The EU has paid us no penny for this so far,” Morawiecki said in an interview with German tabloid Bild.
As usual with the current Prime Minister, his statements are dominated by half-truths untruths.
Let’s begin with the fact that it was not the government that shouldered the burden of helping the refugees in the first weeks of the war, but, above all, NGOs, local authorities and common Poles. Morawiecki’s mythomania will not change that.
Moreover, at the end of March, in an interview for the daily Polska Times, Jaroslaw Kaczynski made it clear that Poland does not need any support in helping refugees.
Kaczynski said: “We do not refuse when someone wants to help us, but we have a rule: we do not beg. Of course, we think we deserve some help, but we do not beg for it. We are a country in an absolutely good shape, over three times richer than in the early 1990s and over three times richer than Ukraine per capita.”
Therefore, I see that Morawiecki does not agree with Kaczynski and he thinks that Poland needs help. However, it would be appropriate to explain to the citizens why the prime minister has a different opinion than the leader of the party and deputy prime minister for security and defence. Could it be that Kaczynski does not realise the scale of the challenge or has no idea of the costs the state has to bear for this crisis? This does not speak well of him.
However, since Morawiecki has come to the conclusion that he needs additional funds from the EU, one has to wonder from where they will come. The EU budget does not come from nothing. It consists of contributions from all the member countries and, as any budget, it is divided into different areas. If the Polish Government would like to increase the budget, it would have to persuade the other countries to increase their contributions, or give the European Commission the opportunity to raise the funds itself, for example in the form of new taxes, which would also require the consent of the other member countries.
I have no information that the government in Warsaw has shown any initiative on this matter apart from the letter Morawiecki wrote in mid-April to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. I have not seen the letter and it is not publicly available, but Rzeczpospolita newspaper reported that Morawiecki estimated the cost of keeping the refugees at 11 billion euros, and that he wanted to raise the money from confiscating the assets of Russian oligarchs.
This is nothing more than a PR trick, because the Prime Minister knows very well that it is the individual countries that seize these assets. And they are not confiscating it, but freezing it. Von der Leyen cannot, for example, put a yacht seized in Spain on Allegro and pass the money to Poland. I assume that even Morawiecki is aware of this. But he is still playing his game.
Meanwhile, the EU not only can, but also wants to help Poland. EU institutions are proposing to use money already allocated to Poland.
The first source consists of the funds from the 2014-2020 budget, within which Poland received 80 billion euros. According to the government information, 130 million euros of it haven’t been used. This is more than a half of billion zlotys, which can be applied for. Everything indicates that the Polish authorities have not yet done so.
The second source of support may come from the React-EU fund destined for fighting the effects of the pandemic and to be spent in the years 2020-2022. Within this fund, Poland received 1.6 billion euros, which is around 7.5 billion zlotys. As OKO.press website reported:
“The new regulations allow countries that have accepted refugees in excess of one percent of their population to receive 45 percent of these funds in advance. This money can be redeployed to refugees and cover everything: from health care, housing, social assistance to clothing and food.”
Jan Olbrycht, an MEP from the Civic Coalition and an eminent expert on EU finances, estimates that Poland could obtain 1.5 billion euros from these two sources alone. Unfortunately, it is still unclear how much of this money the government wants to allocate to help refugees. And these are not the only funds which could be applied for.
Poland could also benefit from the other forms of assistance. It is worth remembering that the EU countries have agreed to open their borders to Ukrainian refugees and ensure their right to work, health care, education and other public services. In Germany alone, there were already 390,000 refugees from Ukraine at the end of April. Poland could ask to relocate some of the Ukrainians to other countries, but Kaczynski does not want to agree to this. Why? Probably to have the possibility to refuse when Greece or Italy ask for help on that matter.
Besides, it is more convenient for Morawiecki and the others to present themselves as poor victims whom allegedly no one wants to help, especially since, at the same time, the politicians of the power party are trying to badger the European institutions into releasing money not for the maintenance of refugees, but for the National Reconstruction Plan. We have to remember that these are tens of billions of euros frozen by the EU due to the United Right’s led assault on the independence of the courts.
Today, Morawiecki is trying to tell the EU that the aid that Poles – not the government, but above all the ordinary people – have given to refugees should give Kaczynski a possibility to pacify the courts. Thus, I want to explain to the Prime Minister that one has nothing to do with the other. The decency of citizens cannot justify the meanness of those in power.
Poland needs money to help refugees and to rebuild its economy, as well as it needs the independent courts. The paradox is that all these needs could be met if only the government would do its job. Unfortunately, PiS prefers to sacrifice the country’s well-being in the name of fighting for control of the courts.
The future of the Polish economy and, by extension, the fate not only of refugees but also of Poles, has become a hostage to the obsessions of Kaczynski and Ziobro.
The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/polska-zakladnikiem-obsesji-kaczynskiego-i-ziobry/
Translated by Natalia Banaś