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Poland Joins Other Eastern European Countries Refusing To Accept Refugees


We have reached a moment when much of the Western world is anxious about outsiders and threats. We know all about the debate over Muslims and refugees in the United States.


The many European nations facing similar issues include Poland. Some officials have expressed doubts about Poland accepting a share of Middle Eastern refugees. A newly-elected government there is also anxious about the looming power of Russia, the country to the east.

INSKEEP: The Law and Justice Party has accused Polish officials of conspiring with Russia. Irena Grudzinska-Gross, a scholar at Princeton University, says that's not all.

IRENA GRUDZINSKA-GROSS: They have also an anti-European Union band. The first press conference that the new prime minister had - Mrs. Beata Szydlo - she removed, or she had removed, the European Union flags. It's only the Polish national flag that is behind her.

INSKEEP: What specific criticisms have they made of the European Union?

GRUDZINSKA-GROSS: They are against this acceptance of the refugees. They are very much concerned with the fact that the refugees are Muslim - some of them, at least. And you have to take into consideration that Poland did not accept a single refugee yet. So these refugees are on the - you know, the danger from afar.

INSKEEP: Is there some larger trend taking place across Eastern Europe?

GRUDZINSKA-GROSS: Yes. That is, the changes that are happening in Poland are a mirror image of what happened in Hungary and what is happening in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia.

INSKEEP: In country after country, you have what we would think of as more right-wing governments that are more suspicious of Europe and skeptical of accepting refugees.

GRUDZINSKA-GROSS: Yes. And the complete collapse of the left - post-Communist, new left, any kind of left. There's no counterbalance. The opposition to this right-wing is center right.

INSKEEP: Let me just ask, once in a while somebody in the United States will say something about, my state is going to secede if things don't improve. But nobody really takes that seriously. Are people taking seriously the possibility that this political change in Europe could begin to cause Europe to unravel?

GRUDZINSKA-GROSS: I definitely worry about it because the situation with Hungary, which is actually, you know, doing its own thing, and the European Union doesn't know how to control it - that is a sign that there's a real weakness in the center of European Union, and that there is a possibility of some kind of a retreat of European Union into a smaller amount of countries. That is quite real, I'm afraid.

INSKEEP: Irena Grudzinska-Gross, thank you very much.

GRUDZINSKA-GROSS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.