Poland, France trade barbs over Russia’s war on Ukraine

Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a show at French TV station TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris on Wednesday.

WARSAW (AP) — Poland on Friday summoned France’s ambassador over French President Emmanuel Macron’s reference to Poland’s prime minister as a “far-right anti-Semite” in a budding feud over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

It was not immediately clear exactly when Ambassador Frederic Billet would arrive at Poland’s Foreign Ministry. Officials in Poland blamed the harsh words on campaign fervor ahead of this weekend’s presidential election in France.

The bitter exchange between Macron and Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appears as an unwelcome crack in the European Union’s unity forged amid outrage over Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.

In an interview published online by the French Le Parisien newspaper Thursday, Macron called Morawiecki a “far-right anti-Semite who bans LGBT persons.” Macron, who is seeking a second term in Sunday’s vote, also claimed that Morawiecki has been trying to help French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

Piotr Mueller, a spokesman for Poland’s right-wing government, said it was a “lie” to suggest that Morawiecki had anything to do with anti-Semitism and blamed Macron’s remarks on the emotions of a heated election campaign.

Poles are especially sensitive to accusations of anti-Semitism because of the Holocaust that Nazi Germany largely carried out in Poland. Most of Europe’s Jews lived in Poland before World War II and millions perished in death camps or ghettos run by German Nazi forces that occupied the country during the war.

Macron didn’t specify what he was referring to, but Morawiecki angered Israel and many Jews in 2018 when he said that there were also “Jewish perpetrators” of the Holocaust. Morawiecki’s government also introduced a law that penalizes apportioning blame to Poles for Holocaust crimes committed by the Germans. Another law Morawiecki’s team introduced effectively bars restitution of private property that had been owned by Holocaust victims and was later seized by the state.

The French leader’s remarks were in response to Morawiecki’s harsh criticism of his talks with Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin in a still futile effort to end the bloodshed in Ukraine. Morawiecki said Monday that no talks should be held with (war) criminals like Nazi Germany’s leader Adolf Hitler or the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin.