Poland’s government announced today that in the wake of the attacks on Paris, it will no longer participate in the EU’s resettlement plan for the thousands of refugees attempting to reach Europe. “After the tragic events of Paris, we do not see the political possibility of respecting the plan,” Poland’s European affairs minister wrote in a statement.
The plan, approved in September, would distribute 120,000 refugees throughout the EU’s 28 member states—a relatively small number considering the 770,000 people who have reached the continent by sea this year. Only a little more than 100 refugees have been resettled so far. The plan was adopted over the strong resistance of Eastern European countries, including Poland, who have far smaller foreign-born populations and have been reluctant about taking in large numbers of immigrants. Poland’s previous government had agreed to take in 5,000 refugees under the scheme, but in late October, Poland elected the nationalist, euroskeptic Law and Justice Party, which had strongly criticized the decision at the time. Poland has seen large rallies against taking in more refugees.
The Paris attacks are likely to upend the European conversation over this already painful and contentious issue, particularly if early reports are confirmed that at least one of the attackers entered Europe through Greece as a refugee. Poland is unlikely to be the last country to make this kind of move.
Legally speaking, EU countries don’t have the right to back out of the plan, which was voted on by a majority of states, so if more countries start resisting it could pose a threat not just to the resettlement scheme but to the union’s entire governance system. This is particularly tragic given that the vast majority of those making the dangerous journey from Syria to Europe are fleeing violence of the kind seen in Paris on Friday night.