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European Council
Council of the European Union

Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with President of Poland Andrzej Duda

European Council
  • 18/01/2016
  • 20:40
  • Statements and remarks
  • 15/16
  • Home Affairs
  • Foreign affairs & international relations
  • Institutional affairs
Press contacts

Jüri Laas
Press officer
+32 22815523
+32 470957561

Preben Aamann
European Council President Spokesperson
+32 22815150
+32 476850543

A warm welcome once again, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is a very important day for us personally as well. It is the first meeting of this kind since President Duda came to office, and since I became President of the European Council. The context of this meeting is very interesting as well, also in terms of the Polish situation. I was very pleased about our convergent views on the strategic tasks for the EU, the role and place of Poland in this strategy as well as Polish influence and interests in terms of involvement in European strategy.

We discussed the main problems facing European politics today. We have a very similar assessment of the actions needed in the context of the so-called Brexit. It is in the interest of the EU and Poland that the UK remains a member of the European Union. There is no doubt about this. We need to come up with a reasonable compromise, which will not be detrimental to basic European rights, including equality rights. There will be no room for discrimination, which I have been saying from the very beginning of this process, we will instead be seeking a compromise which will enable a successful campaign in favour of the UK staying in the EU, while at the same time protecting fundamental European values.

We discussed European Union's energy security. For many years Poland has co-authored Europe's main security strategy, and I am pleased that there is common ground also in this area, including in relation to Nord Stream 2. Our assessments in this respect are very similar, if not convergent.

As far as the migration crisis is concerned, President Duda has once again said today that Poland is as always prepared to fulfil its obligations, and we exchanged opinions on this. Our opinions are convergent: that the key task is to strengthen the EU's external borders, that effective control of the EU's external borders both guarantees the continuity of Schengen and, above all, is a prerequisite for any kind of migration policy. I am convinced that Poland can play an important role here. Obviously, we also discussed the Polish context, the situation in Poland, including in connection with the decisions made by the European Commission. I want to stress, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, that our face-to-face meeting today has confirmed that the interests of Poland and the EU are the same. Poland has no enemies in the EU. We can talk about different interests of different member states on particular issues, but it has been clear from the very beginning of Polish membership of the EU that what has been beneficial to the EU has also been beneficial to Poland, and vice versa. We have always been able to count, as Poles, on the assistance and cooperation of European institutions. And we are all aware that Poland is a beneficiary, and that it has been able to take advantage of this over the years.


Mr President, it is important to avoid exaggerated epithets and not to give in to overblown comments about what is happening in Poland and in Europe. In this respect we also shared the same opinion. I was happy to hear this from the President. It is worth the effort, and I think this is a task for both of us, to discourage politicians, both in Poland and in Europe, from resorting to exaggerated language, resentment or aggression. We do not have to look for enemies in Europe, Poland has no enemies in Europe.  I would also like to rectify claims, which I imagine are formulated for the purpose of propaganda, regarding conspiracies, allegedly being plotted here in Brussels against Poland. I want to say that here in Brussels, where you work during the day, rather than at night, which doesn't help conspiracies, there are nearly 3,000 Poles working for the EU institutions. I know many of them personally, I also watched their work over seven years as prime minister of Poland. And I can assure you that these are people who work both for Poland and the EU with a clear conscience, because they know that there isn't a conflict between EU and Polish interests. They are genuine patriots, and even if they sometimes have differing views on what is happening in Poland, they have always managed to reconcile the EU and the Polish viewpoints. And there is no escaping the fact that it is the EU which has best served the Polish interests in the international dimension.

I remember, Mr President, almost exactly 30 years ago I was working with Lech Wałęsa in what at the time was still the underground "Solidarity" movement, we met in Gdańsk and we were saying that Poland must return to the community of the West. No-one knew at the time that that would involve receiving financial or other support.  In fact, what we were saying was that Poland must return to the bright side of the world, it must break free from the dark politics forced upon us by an alien country. It was obvious that this was not only about interests, but also about values: respect for human beings as well as institutions; and the fact that the Western democratic model involves limitations of executive power as well as full respect for pluralism and plurality, and the value of democratic institutions. And we managed to move from the dark side of the political world to the light side.

Mr President, I realise that the demands of propaganda are such that sometimes you need to strike someone hard, and today we are witnessing an overblown debate both in Warsaw and in Brussels. But perhaps what is most important - and I address this to all sides of the conflict - is not to believe in your own propaganda, but instead to speak honestly about Poland and Europe. For example, the narrative suggesting that the economic situation in Poland is catastrophic, this kind of propaganda could lead to someone actually believing it. It's important that we don't believe it, but I am afraid that some on the outside indeed have. For example, the latest rating - in my opinion an exaggerated and unfair one - by the S&P agency demonstrates that from time to time people do believe such negative depictions of Poland. I am very happy that those who spoke out against this rating first were representatives of the Polish government. The comforting words they said about the state of the Polish economy were also a source of satisfaction for myself. Regarding the Polish economy, I don't even know if I could have come up with such intense and strong compliments as those uttered by the Deputy Prime Minister in the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydło.

I would like to state that what is dangerous in Europe and around Europe, what we associate also with that dark past, that lack of respect for democracy, what aims to break Europe - whether it's from the outside or in - that is the reason why this European debate is filled with so much emotion. I am here to warn you against hysterical comments, but it's also worth standing together to protect the historic event that was the move to the light side of Europe.

Mr President, I know you like science-fiction literature and films. We have both probably been to see the same films recently, and I want to tell you in this context that it is really never too late to come to the light side of the force. And that's what's been happening to Poland over the past decades. Thank you very much.