Double standard?

Did Poland lose any international political advantage by censoring President Obama’s carefully worded remark’s regarding the Polish Constitutional Court issue?
Does Poland now have the right to speak- even indirectly about the 2016 American presidential elections or another country’s domestic issues which could impact Poland?

By Frank J. Dmuchowski

After a meeting with President Duda of Poland, President Obama made some indirect remarks regarding the Polish Constitutional Court issue which were censored out by Polish government controlled media. For the current Polish government this would be consistent with their stated and clear policy of ignoring criticism and referring to the Constitutional Court concerns and other issues as being strictly internal Polish matters which outside governments, including the European Union, had no business interfering with. President Obama’s remarks were made at the end of the recent NATO meeting in Warsaw.

The purpose of this article is to ask if Poland’s “get tough” policy on telling other nations to stay out of commenting on Polish internal (domestic) matters constrains Poland from appropriately and effectively commenting and working another country over their “internal matters”. Does this apply even if another country’s domestic and international actions could have a potential negative impact on Poland’s economic or national security concerns? One would hope not but in international politics “turnabout is fair play.” After all, the concern in Poland might be that other nations will tell Poles to stay out of their internal affairs.

Before getting to the core question on Poland’s international involvement it should be noted that the governing party, Law and Justice, has done a brilliant job, according to many, on maintaining its strong voter support on domestic issues. Currently that support is in the 35-40% range based on some current polling. This is the same margin by which they won the election. The support continues to be based upon: a) child benefit subsidy of 500 zloty per month for each child after the first, b) the effort to develop an affordable housing program and c) the continued distrust of the previous Polish government.

Unfortunately, some might argue that the same could not be said about Poland’s international strategy. How Poland resolves this conundrum which they have created for themselves will likely be an increasing challenge for the foreseeable future.
Please note in reading this article it is NOT intended to be a commentary on the Constitutional Court or Brexit issues. They are used as examples which impact Poland’s ability to effectively deal with international issues which can impact her national security and domestic growth issues.

Two key international concerns for Poland
The current important examples which come to mind are:

(1) the United States Presidential 2016 elections in which one candidate has made very clear his position on illegal immigration and also why the U.S. should review its NATO commitments in light of the failure of some European countries to honor their commitment for defense spending. Currently the defense spending as a 2014 % of GDP is United States 3.9%, Poland approx. 1.8%, France 2.1%, Great Britain 2.1%, Italy 1.3%, Germany 1.2%. (source 2016 International Institute for Strategic Studies). It should be noted that in 2016-17 Poland should achieve the NATO requirement of 2.0% of GDP. This candidate is asking the question: if NATO allies won’t support their own defense why should we shoulder their burden? Poland should be very concerned about who the next president of the United States will be.

(2) the Brexit question and Great Britain’s responsibility to allow non-British Poles to remain in Great Britain. This question also extends to the United States and other countries who are trying to severely restrict immigration and are looking to remove current illegals. Remember these individuals often remit substantial sums of money to families in Poland. (Great Britain is also referred to as the United Kingdom. It consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)

Do Obama’s remarks on the Constitutional Court issue and the Polish Government state controlled media’s censoring set a standard for non-interference which Poland must observe?

By censoring Obama’s remarks on Polish state controlled television and other state controlled media the Polish government has made it very clear that it considers the Constitutional Court issue to be a strictly internal Polish matter and everyone including the United States government needs to respect the decision of Poland’s Law and Justice government and stay out! The Polish State media is controlled by the Law and Justice party. Therefore, when the Polish state media censors the comments of a United States president, one might reasonably infer that the decision came from the highest levels of the Polish government.
Here are Obama’s censored remarks which were made at a news conference at the conclusion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit in Warsaw on July 8 and 9. President Duda of Poland stood beside President Obama when the remarks were made. It should be noted that opponents of the current Polish government were very unhappy that his remarks were not stronger. President Obama said:

“And finally, I want to congratulate Poland on recently celebrating the 225th anniversary of its constitution — the oldest written constitution in Europe. And this speaks to the long yearning of the Polish people for freedom and independence. Indeed, after the Cold War, the rebirth of Polish democracy was an inspiration to people across Europe and around the world, including in American. Because Poland’s progress shows that democracy and pluralism are not unique to any one of our cultures or countries — they are describing universal values. And a central tenet of American foreign policy is that we speak up for these values around the world, even with our closest allies.

And it’s in that spirit that I expressed to President Duda our concerns over certain actions and the impasse around the Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal. I insisted that we are very respectful of Poland’s sovereignty, and I recognize that Parliament is working on legislation to take some important steps, but more work needs to be done. And as your friend and ally, we’ve urged all parties to work together to sustain Poland’s democratic institutions. That’s what make us democracies — not just by the words written in constitutions, or in the fact that we vote in elections — but the institutions we depend upon every day, such as rule of law, independent judiciaries, and a free press. These are, I know, values that the President cares about. These are values that are at the heart of our alliance, which was founded, in the words of the North Atlantic Treaty, “on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.”

From the Wall Street Journal article on July 8, 2016 by Martin Sobczyk we have the following:

“Mr. Duda didn’t immediately react to Mr. Obama’s comments, which also included praise of Poland’s role in Western institutions and a pledge to put U.S. troops in Poland as reassurance in the face of a resurgent Russia. Poland considers the U.S. its most important security guarantor.
Since winning a landslide parliamentary election last October, Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party has rewritten the rules that govern the Constitutional Tribunal, the country’s top court that reviews legislation, an overhaul that critics say compromises the court’s independence.

It has also scrapped the appointments announced by the previous government and installed its own judges, moves contested by the court and the opposition. Such action has contributed to a standoff between the government and its centrist predecessor that is undermining the court’s ability to issue rulings.

U.S. diplomacy has worked mostly behind the scenes for months to encourage the Polish government to change course regarding the court. The government has rejected the pressure, with the Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, likening it to interventions from Moscow when Poland was under Soviet rule

Since winning a landslide parliamentary election last October, Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party has rewritten the rules that govern the Constitutional Tribunal, the country’s top court that reviews legislation, an overhaul that critics say compromises the court’s independence.

It has also scrapped the appointments announced by the previous government and installed its own judges, moves contested by the court and the opposition. Such action has contributed to a standoff between the government and its centrist predecessor that is undermining the court’s ability to issue rulings.

U.S. diplomacy has worked mostly behind the scenes for months to encourage the Polish government to change course regarding the court. The government has rejected the pressure, with the Law and Justice party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, likening it to interventions from Moscow when Poland was under Soviet rule”.

From a July 9, 2016 blog article in the very well respected Financial Times by Henry Foy we have:

“It was a carefully worded criticism – just 160 words long – that Barack Obama delivered to Poland’s government on Friday, as the US president used the NATO summit in Warsaw to rebuke the country’s right-wing ruling party for moves that have caused a constitutional crisis and seen it charged with endangering democracy.

But the subtle critique, which drew surprise among Polish journalists and anger among some ruling politicians, was months in the making, involved dozens of advisers and hours of discussions, which culminated in a late-night meeting on the eve of the speech and a critical intervention from former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

Arriving in Warsaw ahead of the summit, Ms. Albright conducted a whistle-stop tour of meetings around Poland’s capital to speak with members of the political opposition, leading journalists and the civil society group Committee to Defend Democracy (KOD), people involved with the talks told Albright. The fact-finding mission helped sway Mr. Obama’s advisers into going ahead with the public admonishment of his hosts. Speculation over whether Mr. Obama would mention the political climate in Poland at the summit had been rife ever since his attendance was confirmed.

At question is a series of reforms by the broadly eurosceptic and nationalist Law and Justice party and supported by Polish president Andrzej Duda that have paralyzed the country’s highest court, giving Law and Justice political control over public media channels and seeing it stack the country’s civil service with supporters.

“I expressed to President Duda our concerns about certain actions and the impasse around Poland’s constitutional tribunal,” Mr. Obama said in a speech after meeting with Mr. Duda, as the Polish president stood next to him.”
This is only a sampling of the international reaction to the censoring of President Obama’s remarks by the Polish state television media.

Brexit Issue
The Polish government and its get tough policy with the European Union was strongly based on mutual support from Great Britain and it Prime Minister David Cameron. However, when the British public surprisingly voted to leave the European Union two things happened. First, Poland lost an ally in its quest for more individual country independence within the EU. Second, it has become very clear that a lot of British who voted to leave the EU did so because they want the immigrants out of their country. The Poles are one of the biggest immigrant groups and they are definitely taking jobs from less qualified British subjects. These Poles are estimated to be sending approximately 1 billion Euros per year back to Poland.
Cleary Poland, if it wishes to be consistent with its own domestic policies, should keep out of Great Britain’s internal decisions regarding the handling of non-citizen Polish immigrants. Of course if there is violence against Poles in Great Britain then Poland and other countries have an obligation to forcefully speak out.

An interesting highly read European blog posted by an Arturo Camillacci

This blog which appeared after the Brexit vote seems to accurately describe the situation in Great Britain regarding attitudes toward Poles living there. The anti-Polish comments and actions seem to be by some economically deprived Brits who see the foreign Poles as taking their jobs. Mr. Camillacci presents an effective commentary on what is going on. He says:
“For me the biggest (but not entirely unexpected) surprise in the aftermath of the Brexit vote is the spate of incidents of open bigotry and racism that spread across the United Kingdom in the days following the outcome of the vote, particularly against Poles and other Eastern Europeans living in England.

They include the posting of laminated cards reading “Leave the EU – no more Polish vermin” to members of the Polish community in Huntingdon, near the eastern city of Cambridge, on Saturday; the racist graffiti scrawled on a Polish community center in Hammersmith (west London); to the woman in her 20s who was set upon by two thugs in Salisbury, and hit in the face and body in an alley.

More than 200 such incidents have been reported in the space of just a few days, and this is causing grave concern not only among EU citizens living in England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland seem to have been unaffected so far) but also among British citizens of Asian and Caribbean descent, which found themselves targeted by groups of thugs yelling at them racial slurs they hadn’t heard in decades.

It looks like the referendum has been mistakenly interpreted by some of the less educated and uncivilized Britons as “Voting Leave to make them leave”, and when they realized that none of the “reviled foreigners” will be compelled to leave their neighborhood by the referendum’s outcome, they are resorting to taking the matter in their own hands and “persuade” as many as they can find in the only way they know.

obama-i-dudaOne can only hope that Great Britain will find an acceptable way to retain many of these Poles who want to stay and who for the most part make a wonderful contribution to British society.
Of course many in Great Britain’s “Brexit supporters camp” would say “this is a British internal issue and the Polish government needs to stay out of British internal affairs”.

Conclusion
It is becoming increasingly clear to many that the actions and standards which Poland set for its own domestic policy is presenting problems for them internationally. They are seeing that they cannot have it both ways. Poland will decide on its own path, as well it should. At the same time other countries will decide on their own path. These countries will be less constrained in pursuing “tough” approaches in dealing with Poland on some issues. After all, they are saying that their internal matters is their business and that Poland needs to respect that.
Just as Poland wants others to do the same on Polish internal matters.
Foto: President.pl

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