Tusk to challenge Cameron’s remarks on Polish migrants
January 8, 2014
Polish PM Donald Tusk
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he would ask his British counterpart David Cameron to explain his earlier remarks made about Polish migrants taking advantage of UK welfare system when the two leaders speak on the phone on Wednesday.
In an interview with BBC on Sunday, Cameron said that he will call for an amendment to the EU’s governing treaties that would allow Britain to withhold welfare payments from workers of other European nations, whose children are living overseas. As Cameron made the case for change he singled out people from Poland, one of the biggest migrant communities in Britain, as an example of the potential for the rules to be abused.
"There are European countries who, like me, think it's wrong that someone from Poland who comes here and works hard — and I'm absolutely all in favor of that — but I don't think we should be paying child benefit to their family back at home."
There are more than 25,000 Polish children receiving child benefit payments in Great Britain and they are the biggest beneficiary group.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Tusk, asked about Cameron's comments, said it was not acceptable to single out any single nationality.
"The British government is fully entitled to introduce new rules, including social regulations, for all people living in Great Britain but no one has the right to point to Poles as an example of the group which abuses these rules," the Polish PM also said.
Tusk also said Poland would veto any changes to EU rules aimed at reducing welfare payments for any particular nationality rather than applying equally to citizens of all EU member states.
"We will not agree to it if these are changes that would stigmatize any particular national minority," Tusk said.
He said he has a telephone conversation with Cameron scheduled for Wednesday, and would raise the issue.
Meanwhile, Poland's main opposition party, conservative Law and Justice PiS, may leave the political group of European Conservatives and Reformists in the European Parliament (ECR) given the negative stance of the British Conservatives, also ECR members, on Polish immigrants in the UK, PiS caucus spokesman Mariusz Blaszczak said.
The decision will be taken after receiving a response of British PM David Cameron to PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s letter on the immigration issue, Blaszczak said. In the letter Kaczynski wrote he was surprised by Cameron's criticism of the opening of the British labor market to new EU members, including Poland.
In late November the British PM said in the House of Commons that the decision taken by the Labor Government in 2004 to open the labor market to new EU countries was "a shameful dereliction of duty".