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An Odd Polish Primer On The Upcoming EU Presidency

Jaroslaw Kaczynski at a party conference in Warsaw in July 2010

Jaroslaw Kaczynski at a party conference in Warsaw in July 2010

It was a rather bizarre video-conference in the European Parliament today with Polish opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of the Law and Justice Party.

In a direct link from Warsaw, the former prime minister was supposed to talk about his views of Poland's upcoming EU Presidency, which starts on July 1. But in fact, it dealt almost exclusively with another point on the agenda: a white paper presented today by his party on the Smolensk air crash that killed his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, and 95 other prominent Poles.

The Russian report that was published in January, which blamed Poland's air force chief for pressuring the crew to land despite bad weather, was dismissed, not surprisingly.

Antoni Macierewicz, a former minister in Kaczynski's government who headed the parliamentary team investigating the causes of the crash, then concluded simply that responsibility for the events falls, above all, on the Russian side.

And then Macierewicz spent the next hour presenting alleged evidence from the 20-chapter report to support that conclusion: After the presidential plane had undergone repairs in Russia, it had a couple of serious breakdowns. Russia provided the Poles with the wrong approach charts for Smolensk airport. They also failed to deliver the required meteorological data to the Polish side. The airport was poorly illuminated at the time of the crash, and, what's worse, Russian air-traffic controllers "intentionally" gave erroneous meteorological data regarding visibility at the airport.

However, the most damaging accusations were all the things that the Russians allegedly did after the crash. They destroyed the wreckage of the plane; the autopsies of the victims were falsified; the testimonies of flight controllers that were unfavorable to the Russian side were omitted; and the black-box recordings were tampered with and did not contain 17 crucial seconds of discussion from the cockpit.

Only after Macierewicz's excessive finger-pointing did Kaczynski present his view of the current Polish government's priorities for its EU Presidency.

"They could have been more ambitious," was his conclusion.

-- Rikard Jozwiak

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