Poland ready to take in more Ukrainians, says Deputy Prime Minister – POLITICO

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BERLIN – Poland is ready to host Ukrainian refugees for as long as necessary, its deputy prime minister said, but stressed that the top priority for both his country and the rest of the Western alliance should be helping Ukraine to defend itself.

“We have the capacity and we are still ready to take in more refugees,” Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Gliński, who oversees Poland’s efforts to take in Ukrainian refugees, said in an interview with POLITICO.

Last month, Poland took in 2.3 million refugees, Gliński said, more than any other European country. The number of arrivals has recently dropped, but Warsaw is preparing for future waves. Echoing Ukraine’s concerns, however, Gliński signaled that it was imperative for the West not to confuse humanitarian aid with helping the country fight the Russians.

“This is a very sensitive issue from Ukraine’s point of view because it is still defending its independence,” Gliński said.

The US has pledged to provide $2 billion in military aid to Ukraine, and the EU has pledged to provide aid totaling €1 billion.

Poland’s size and geographic location on NATO’s eastern flank has made it the logistical and political center of the alliance since the start of the war, the main gateway of security for those fleeing the conflict, and the main corridor for Western arms shipments to Ukraine. Poland’s new status was clearly visible over the weekend when US President Joe Biden visited the country to confer with its leaders and deliver a key address.

The crisis has helped Gliński’s Law and Justice Party, a staunchly conservative political movement that controls the government, divert attention from its longstanding disputes with the EU over what Brussels describes as a systemic attack on democratic norms in the country, among other things the subjection of the EU judiciary to political interference and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

While these issues remain unresolved, the Ukraine crisis and growing concerns about the acute threat Russia poses to European security have inevitably postponed the talk.

Poland’s willingness to accept so many refugees, which it refused to war refugees arriving in Europe from Syria and Afghanistan, has also impressed many EU capitals.

Gliński attributed the different approaches to the fact that around 1.5 million Ukrainians lived and worked in Poland before the war and to the deep cultural ties between neighboring countries.

“There is also a visible change in the Ukrainian approach to our values…they are trying to become more European,” he said. “This is the result of the war.”

In contrast, refugees from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa are more difficult to integrate, he argued.

“They can be absorbed, but only through a slow evolutionary process,” he said.

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