Ex Polish leader Walesa slams Warsaw plan to drop refugee quotas16 november 2015, 14:34
Former Polish leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa slammed plans Sunday by his country's incoming government to stop welcoming refugees under a hotly-contested EU plan following the Paris attacks, AFP reports.
"I would categorically disagree with the position," he told AFP on the sidelines of a gathering of Nobel laureates in Barcelona.
"Poles used to really enjoy help from other people and we have to be in solidarity with all those who are in need."
Poland's incoming European Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski said Saturday that Warsaw no longer considered an EU plan to redistribute refugees across Europe as a "political possibility" in light of the Paris attacks that left at least 129 people dead.
The programme -- long criticised by the EU's eastern-most members -- has come under fresh criticism after officials said a Syrian passport found at the scene of one of the attacks belonged to an asylum seeker who registered on a Greek island in October.
"I personally am in favour of assisting the migrants and helping them," said Walesa, whose Solidarity opposition movement triggered the peaceful demise of communism in Poland in 1989.
"But on the other hand, our major help should be focusing on helping to overcome war in their countries of origin.
"Until these are ended, we need to help them survive and be sheltered in our country," said the 72-year-old.
Walesa, who in 1990 became Poland's first democratically elected president since World War II, has made contrasting comments on the flow of refugees entering Europe -- many of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria.
He said Sunday that he had noted some of the refugees trekking across Europe towards countries-of-choice Germany and Sweden were "better dressed, they seemed to be better taken care of than myself."
And while he insisted on the fact that people must help one another, he questioned why they were not staying home to fight for their country.
"When martial law was introduced in Poland I was invited to different places around the world, I had open invitations but I decided to stay on and not to leave," he said, referring to the early 1980s in Poland when the communist government tried to crush opposition, arresting Walesa and other dissidents.
"I can understand women, children fleeing, but males should be there to fight," he said.
Walesa has in the past battled with Jaroslaw Kaczynski -- the powerful politician who is widely thought to pull the strings in the conservative, eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party that won October elections.
On Sunday, he wished the new government well, pointing out that the PiS had won an absolute majority in both houses of parliament -- a first for Poland.
"Democracy has given them an enormous opportunity for good governance," he said.
"I wish I had a similar majority and opportunity when I was in power, but I wasn't given that."
But he also issued a thinly-veiled warning to the new ruling party.
"If they are going to do things for the advantage of Poland I will support them," he said.
"And if they do anything against that, I will prevent them from destroying the freedom that we fought for.
"We've got the Internet, mobile phones, so we can call on people to protest easily these days... if they're going to run the country badly."