Polish ambassador Piotr Wojtczak spoke to Delano about the difficult relations between Poland and Luxembourg on the sidelines of an embassy event held at the Schéiss cultural centre on 4 May
Photo: Maison Moderne
In an exclusive interview, the new Polish ambassador Piotr Wojtczak explained the symbolism of his country’s Constitution Day, and more specifically how he sees the sometimes tricky relations between Poland and Luxembourg.
On 4 May, the Polish embassy organised an official reception at the Centre culturel Schéiss in Belair to celebrate its constitution day. The constitution of the Republic of Poland of 3 May 1792 was based on the concept of the sovereignty of the nation and the tripartite rule. It ensured the dominance of legislative power over the executive and granted extensive powers to the House of Deputies while weakening the monarch. While the constitution only lasted for a year, that day is still celebrated as one of the two national days in Poland.
Wojtczak spoke with Delano on the sidelines of the event.
Martine Huberty: What does the constitution day mean for Poland and its people?
Piotr Wojtczak: Poland is a very ancient nation with also ancient democratic traditions. Poland came up with the first written constitution in Europe which has all the elements of democracy, even of contemporary democracy. This document placed Poland in the middle of democratic countries. But it happened at a difficult moment in the history of Poland because it was the year Poland lost its independence. It was divided up by the three great powers and Poland disappeared for decades. This constitution gave hope to people for independence. In 1918, it finally happened that Poland found independence again, if not for long: in 1939, and not just until after the second world war, when it fell under another regime which lasted until 1989. This constitution guided us, gave us hope and through it we could become a nation where the idea of democracy, of solidarity and of tradition and to be a welcoming country. It is the basis of that.
How are the values of the constitution being upheld in Poland today?
First, it has a symbolic value, because we have had more constitutions since. During the second republic, we had two; now during the third republic we have had another one for the past few years. Historically, it is a symbol, and that is why the 3rd of May is one of two national days in Poland--the second is Independence Day on November 11 when we celebrate the reestablishment of the Polish state in 1918.
How are the relations between Luxembourg and Poland today?
I have the hope and the will to activate the relations between the two countries. Of course, we live in the European Union; our heads of state and government, and ministers meet several times at the various formations of the councils of the European Union, but the bilateral dialogue is a different cup of tea. I don’t think it is always very deep. I intend to launch this bilateral dialogue; that is why I am here. I have only been here for three months, but I have already exchanged opinions with some people. I hope that in the very near future, we will have some deeper contacts.
It is true that we live through difficult times.
We are criticised unjustly. I have to say that unfortunately, the representatives of the Luxembourg state are rather active and voice their opinions in a rather direct fashion. I, as ambassador, but especially my authorities do not agree--and nor does the Polish population. It is very unfair to judge a country if you don’t go too deep into the details. It is very easy to state that Hungary is not a democracy, that Poland has no freedom of the press; but what sort of press freedom do they talk about? There is total press freedom! I don’t see in Europe, or elsewhere, another country that is more open for differences of opinion than Poland. The press and media do as they like; everyone says what they want. So it is not really justified to criticise my country that much.
That is why I think we need to have a dialogue. It is much better to talk than to publicly declare things without being able to get a reaction.
When minister Asselborn criticises our country, maybe he doesn’t choose his words very well.
It is unimaginable in Polish political circles to criticise another country in such a way. Whatever it is or whatever happens, politicians are positioning themselves publicly on the internal domestic arena and try with its external partners to meet, have a dialogue and try to better understand each other, and to try to deepen relations. That is the mission. Of course, one cannot compare members of the Polish government with personalities such as Marine Le Pen! That is done in bad faith, to put it mildly! If one reads Le Pen’s programme, how can one mention Poland in the same context? It is true that the Polish government is traditional and conservative, but saying that it is populist seems to me that one doesn’t understand the word populism.
How would you define populism?
We have a good example in Marine Le Pen--that is populism. Populism is, what the other presidential candidate said: “Poland is a danger for democracy”--that is populism! …. It is their decision to criticise Poland on this, but that is populism!
We just have different opinions, but we would never make similar statements about other countries. People can and should discuss things and state their opinions. But no one listens to the explanations of our politicians when we have resolved the problems of our courts and tribunals, that the talk about limited press freedom is not entirely true, that we don’t get the right to reform our justice system--but the reform doesn’t mean that we are against democracy or that we are against the powers of justice! No! They do reforms in every country. Every country has its problems. Luxembourg has problems of mobility: but we wouldn’t go and say that you do it badly…
But mobility does not affect the democracy of a country…
I just chose that as an example. Come to Poland! It is an enthusiastic country: it has the biggest majority of people who are enthusiastic about Europe! Anyway…. and this is what I regret, is that the opposition in Poland, the Civic Platform, has put itself in total opposition, which means it uses instruments which are not very attached to democracy. I regret that there is no constructive criticism from the opposition--they are just not happy they have lost the election after 8 years in power. That is my personal opinion. We should have the same style of discussions as you have in your parliament in Luxembourg. The discussions are strong, but there are certain limits.