“Life is so constructed, that the event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.” The words of Charlotte Bronte, the centenary of whose birth occurs next month, and which, if true, may well result in a disappointment for Poland’s Prime Minister, Beata Szydlo. For she said that the agreement reached at the Brussels summit between the EU and Turkey was consistent with the expectations of Poland. Whether the agreement in its current form survives reaction to today’s terrorist bombings in Brussels remains to be seen.
At the summit, the EU reached an agreement with Turkey to deal with what the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, described as “the biggest challenge the EU has ever faced”. Szydło said that the agreement reached on Friday is supposed to stop the wave of illegal immigrants, which is consistent with the expectations of Poland, especially since it did not result in further quotas for accepting asylum seekers.
“We are one step closer to solving this problem,” PM Szydło said. The agreement provides for the return of “all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as from 20 March 2016”. Meanwhile, “EU Member States agreed to provide Greece at short notice with the necessary means, including border guards, asylum experts and interpreters.” In return, the EU will accept Syrian refugees direct from camps in Turkey on a “one out, one in” basis, pay a large amount of money to Turkey for its trouble, allow visa free entry for Turkish citizens to the EU, and speed up Turkey’s application to join the EU.
Leaving aside the question as to whether bartering with humans in this way is quite cricket, it seems that the policy will do nothing to stem the numbers but will help Turkey to reduce numbers at camps there. A much more humane solution would have been to have agreed to process asylum applications in Turkey, thus sparing refugees the dangerous sea crossing, and to help Turkey to provide suitable accommodation for refugees in Turkey. Still, common sense and the EU have never been bed-fellows. After all, why bother to defend EU borders if you can pay somebody else not to do it for you.
Be that as it may, expectations continue to be unfulfilled in the row over the Constitutional Tribunal. Despite the urging of the Venice Commission, whose opinion published on 11th March called on Poland to publish the judgment of Constitutional Tribunal, which rejected changes to the Tribunal’s modus operandi enacted last December, Beata Szydło has refused to do so, thus preventing the judgment from becoming binding. She has argued that the judgment was itself unconstitutional.
The European parliament is expected at the end of next month to vote on a resolution on the observance of the rule of law in Poland, something for which there was not enough backing when first mooted in January. True to form, the government is not worried. Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymański said on Monday that any such resolution would have “no direct consequences.”
Szymański added that it is unlikely the European Commission would wish to impose sanctions against Poland because the political effects of such a move would be too painful. He told Polish radio that such a move “would break up the cohesion of the European Union.” He added that the European parliament often adopts a political stance and that it simply wants “to express its opinion,” and suggested the Polish opposition had been agitating for a European Parliament resolution against Poland. “In this case the opposition really wants to find a useful tool to further internationalize an internal issue – the political and legal row over the tribunal.”
Of course, there are those in Poland who are not happy. On Monday, Poland’s Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) grouping said that it would press for the prime minister to be brought before the State Tribunal for refusing to publish the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal. The move looks certain to fail since the SLD does not have a single deputy in the lower house of parliament and a motion to bring Beata Szydło before the State Tribunal, a special judicial body separate from the Constitutional Tribunal, would need to be supported by three-fifths of MPs in a vote in order to succeed.
So there you have it – a certain amount of chaos at home and abroad, something outside everybody’s expectations.