New Greens/EFA deputy Sylwia Spurek had, until this week, been a member of the Socialist group, Parliament's second biggest, following her election in the 2019 European elections.
At a briefing in which she explained her reasons for joining the Greens/EFA Group, Spurek fired a broadside at Poland over its approach to asylum policy, but also the EU which recently unveiled a “migration pact” designed to help tackle the current refugee crisis in southern Europe.
Spurek told reporters, “I have said many times that I feel ashamed of what my government is doing. It shows no sign of solidarity [in helping refugees].”
She added, “I don’t understand how it is possible to exclude people who are trying to escape torture and persecution. We owe these people respect, help and solidarity.”
“I am sorry that my government shows no solidarity,” said Spurek, who sits on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee in Parliament.
Spurek added, “What this also shows is that the EU must finally change its policies on asylum and refugees. For now - and has been demonstrated by the recent fire at a refugee camp in Greece - EU policy seems to focus more on still keeping these people behind wires.”
“I have said many times that I feel ashamed of what my government is doing. It shows no sign of solidarity [in helping refugees]. I don’t understand how it is possible to exclude people who are trying to escape torture and persecution. We owe these people respect, help and solidarity” Sylwia Spurek MEP
Her comments come after the LIBE Committee recently adopted a report stating Poland was in serious violation of the principles of democracy and human rights.
The Law and Justice party (PiS) government in Poland has long been at loggerheads with the EU over accusations that it undercuts democratic standards.
While the post-communist state benefits from generous EU funds, its rulers have come under pressure for putting courts and judges, media and academics, non-government organisations and rights groups under direct government control.
Judiciary reforms have gone ahead since PiS came to power in 2015, bringing Poland into conflict with the EU over perceived interference in the independence of the judiciary.
On migration, the Visegrad Four - Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia - reiterated their opposition to mandatory relocation after a fire destroyed Moria, the largest refugee camp on Greece’s Lesbos island.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has repeatedly said his country would not accept refugees.
“The EU must finally change its policies on asylum and refugees. For now - and this has been demonstrated by the recent fire at a refugee camp in Greece - EU policy seems to focus more on still keeping these people behind wires” Sylwia Spurek MEP
Spurek told reporters she was joining the Greens because of the “importance” they attach to issues of concern to her, such as human and animal rights and climate action.
“These are all a crucial part of my DNA,” she told the briefing.
She added, “If we want to counter a climate catastrophe and also ensure that human rights are respected then we must act independently of the influence of lobbyists and a national media backlash.”
“My aims remain unchanged and I will also continue to press the Commission to ensure that the Istanbul Convention is ratified. This is vital because every woman in Europe must be safe and free from the risk of violence.”
Terry Reintke, Vice-Chair of the Greens/EFA Group, who was speaking alongside her new group colleague, paid glowing tribute to Spurek, saying, “There has been a Green wave all over Europe, but, to date, we have not had a member from Poland so this makes this extra special - our first Polish member.”
She added, “The situation in Poland is very difficult with constant attacks on the rule of law. This, in a country which is at the heart of Europe with brave people who have fought for freedom over decades.”
“We now have a Polish member of the group to represent Polish people. Sylwia has a very fascinating and impressive biography. She has been involved in activism for twenty years and championed action to combat domestic violence.”
It was announced at the news conference that the Greens will propose Spurek to become a Vice-Chair of Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.