Polish PM accuses Macron of pursuing ‘protectionism’ in EU

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło speaks with journalists during the XXVII Economic Forum. Krynica Zdroj, 6 September. [Darek Delmanovicz/EPA]

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło accused French President Emmanuel Macron of “trying to introduce protectionism” on Wednesday (6 September) amid a clash over his proposals to overhaul a controversial EU rule on sending workers abroad.

“It really worries me that the French president is currently undermining the pillars of the European Union and trying to introduce protectionism, striking at the free market and the circulation of people and services,” Szydło said on the TVP Info news channel.

Macron courts EU’s eastern leaders over posted workers, antagonises Poland

Snubbing Poland, French President Emmanuel Macron is touring eastern EU countries to gather support for tightening EU rules over the employment of cheap labour in other member states. But Warsaw said it would oppose this reform “to the very end”.

“These are worrisome signals. I think now is the time when at least some of the EU’s leaders must answer the question of whether unity is important to them… or whether some of these leaders want to divide the European Union.”

Macron made overhauling the so-called Posted Workers Directive one of his key election promises and is set to push for it at an EU summit on 19-20 October.

The regulation lets companies send workers from low-wage countries like Poland to wealthier economies on short-term assignments without paying the host country’s social charges.

The rule has caused resentment in western countries like France, Germany and Austria, which argue it amounts to “social dumping” that creates unfair competition on their labour markets.

There has been staunch resistance in Eastern and Central Europe, where most of the less expensive workers come from. But no outright rejection was voiced when Macron recently met with the leaders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

The Brief: Macron scores points in first mission to Eastern Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron opened the autumn political season last week by meeting four Central and Eastern European leaders, succeeding in drumming up support for his key political initiatives.

Poland is the EU member that benefits most from the regulation.

Addressing Warsaw’s opposing views on the matter last month, Macron said Poland was “a country that has decided to go against European interests in many areas” and risks finding itself “on the margins” of the EU in the future.

Szydło responded at the time by calling Macron’s criticisms “arrogant”, but on Tuesday (5 September) she spoke of the possibility of a “compromise”.

WW II reparations

Feeling cornered in the EU, Poland has exacerbated the tone vis-à-vis Germany too.

Poland and Germany should hold “serious talks” about World War II reparations, the Polish foreign minister said Monday (4 September), after his colleague said the figure could be as high as a trillion dollars.

“We should sit down to serious talks with the Germans and together think about how to deal with the issue” of reparations, Witold Waszczykowski told Warsaw’s RMF radio station.

“How can we deal with the fact that Germany’s 1939 attack (on Poland) and unresolved post-war issues still cast a shadow on Polish-German relations?” he said.

Warsaw was “preparing” its formal position on WWII reparations, Waszczykowski said, without specifying when it would be made public.

“The fact is that Poland was destroyed during the war, terrible crimes were committed here, and we have received no compensation for that,” he said.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak on Saturday (2 September) said Warsaw could claim a trillion dollars from Berlin.

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