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Democracy needs protection, care and even tenderness. Tusk's Call

Donald Tusk in Wrocław (credit: Europejskiej Stolicy Kultury Wrocław 2016)

(B2) The words made by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, last Saturday (17 December) in Poland, during the closing ceremony of Wrocław – European Capital of Culture – were full of meaning. And they deserve some careful reading.

Besides being one of the former Polish Prime Minister's first speeches in his native land in a long time, it comes at a key moment for the country. Poland, like several other countries, questions the notion of freedom, democracy, power,

The message sent is a real warning to the party of Jarosław Kaczyński (PiS, Law and Justice) and to the government of Beata Szydło. A message which has a more general scope because it can be read beyond Poland…

“The essence of Europe is a unique model of democracy where citizens, law and morality define the limits of power. And not vice versa. As we know, democracy without respect for culture, when we deprive people of access to information or impose a single model of life, it becomes as unbearable as a dictatorship.

“Today, therefore, in this critical moment, [democracy] requires protection, concern, and even tenderness, it will not survive on its own. She is more fragile and delicate than us Poles when we missed her behind the Iron Curtain during my youth. Will the European model survive? This is not an ideological question but the question of our survival. Anyone who today defies the European model of democracy, violates constitutions and good morals, puts us in danger.

“After yesterday's events in Parliament and on the streets of Warsaw (1), with the personal memory of what December means in our history (2), I appeal to those who actually exercise power in our country, for respect for people. And I say thank you to those who fight for European democracy in Poland. Thank you, you are the best goalkeepers in Poland. » (3)

 (Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) On Friday afternoon (January 16), opposition MPs began blocking the parliamentary gallery protesting against restrictions on journalists inside parliament. The majority deputies then moved to another room, where they decided to vote in particular on the 2017 budget. Demonstrations followed.

(2) Donald Tusk refers mainly to December 1981 and the proclamation by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, then head of Polish state, of martial law (state of war) cutting short a movement for emancipation of Polish society. But it can also refer to December 1970, with the strikes against rising prices in Gdansk (Tusk's hometown, he was 13 years old at the time) and in several Baltic cities. Demonstrations which were violently repressed by the regime with several dozen deaths. It led to the resignation of the then Polish leader, Władysław Gomulka.

(3) Translated from Polish by us, from the text transcribed by Gazeta

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).