In a public speech during his visit to Poland on July 6, United States President Donald Trump praised the Polish government for its efforts allegedly to defend shared values, including the rule of law and free press, against the threat of terrorism.
What apparently missed Trump’s attention is the constitutional crisis in Poland. Since winning elections in October 2015, the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) has sought to weaken checks and balances on the executive and undermined the rule of law by politically hijacking the constitutional tribunal – the highest court in the country. PiS has proposed legislation seeking to put the judiciary under the control of the executive, interfered with independent media, restricted freedom of assembly, and harassed nongovernmental organizations.
These are all actions that run contrary to the fundamental rights and principles which constitute the basic foundation of democratic states that respect the rule of law. Such actions also flout the fundamental principles and values of the European Union, which Poland is bound by as an EU member state.
The Polish government’s problematic actions don’t stop there.
It demonizes Muslim migrants and asylum seekers and engages in fearmongering politics. For example, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of PiS, in October 2015 said that Muslims brought “all sorts of parasites and protozoa,” that they seek to impose Sharia law, and that they use churches as toilets. Minister of Interior Mariusz Blaszczak said in August 2016 that he would not tolerate a “Muslim influx,” equating it with a risk of Islamic terrorism.
Polish border guards routinely deny access to Polish territory and the asylum procedure to asylum seekers from the Russian Republic of Chechnya and Tajikistan, countries where government critics are persecuted, forcibly disappeared, and subjected to trumped-up charges and mock trials. Instead, Poland summarily returns them to unsafe Belarus and ignores European Court of Human Rights orders specifically banning returns from Poland to Belarus.
If Donald Trump really wants to see Poland defend shared values in Europe, he should be honest about the many shortcomings in its current approach.