Sergei Stanishev at the Polish border: everything must be done to help the Ukrainian people and recipient countries
People running for their lives, traumatised women and children, and the constant need to help those fleeing the war in Ukraine – this is what PES high-level representatives saw at the Polish-Ukrainian border today.
The PES delegation led by PES President Sergei Stanishev visited the border checkpoint of Medyka, a crossing point used by a significant proportion of the 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees that have entered Poland.
The delegation observed the humanitarian efforts underway following the brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine, took stock of the latest developments at the border, and offered a message of support and solidarity.
Photographs from the visit are available on Flickr.
PES President Sergei Stanishev said:
“Today we saw great suffering. People, mostly women and children, are fleeing for their lives. Many are traumatised, their families scattered or lost. But I have seen great compassion too. People are going to extraordinary lengths to help. We are deeply touched by the efforts of Polish local authorities, citizens, NGOs, and civil society, who are doing whatever they can to support Ukrainians in need.”
The PES delegation noted the critical importance of the EU dimension to managing the crisis. The Polish government must cooperate with all member states that are offering help.
High-level representatives of PES member parties and organisations, including the S&D Group in the European Parliament, the PES Group in the Committee of the Regions, the Young European Socialists, and PES Women, were part of the PES delegation, supported locally by Lewica - the progressive opposition in Poland, which is part of the PES family.
Lewica MPs in the Polish parliament have led the push for more support for Ukrainian refugees, including proposing that they are able to obtain Polish identification codes, giving them the right to stay and work in Poland for 18 months, benefit from public healthcare and the school system, and access the same social benefits as Polish citizens. Lewica was the first political party in Poland to transform its 300 offices into aid and information centres for refugees.
Socialists and democrats acknowledge the support to Ukrainians provided by Polish authorities, but at the same time the PES and S&D – alongside a majority of political parties in the European Parliament – are clear that a blind eye must not be turned to the poor rule of law situation in Poland. Progressives have strongly criticised the PiS government for undermining judicial independence and attacking women’s and LGBTI rights.
PES President Sergei Stanishev added:
“The PES is constantly in contact with representatives not only from Poland, but Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and other countries close to the warzone. They should be able to count on EU support to deal with this crisis.
“We commend the tremendous effort from the people, local communities and municipalities who are receiving and hosting new arrivals. We must step up our efforts to guarantee more durable solutions and support, while access to protection and asylum must be ensured for all people seeking safety at Poland’s borders.
“Thanks to Commissioner Johansson the EU has acted quickly. Alongside established mechanism which must now be fully implemented, there are new measures. These have been especially important to provide support and protect women and children, who represent the majority of people fleeing the conflict and who face high risk of gender-based violence and trafficking.”
Sylvie Guillaume MEP (S&D Group), President of the PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions Christophe Rouillon, Italian MP Lia Quartapelle (PD), German MP Christian Petry (SPD), French MP Michèle Victory (PS), Lenna Vromans from the Dutch Labour party, Francois Cometform from the Socialist Party in France, Secretary General of the Young European Socialist Ana Pirtskhalava, Katja Ziska from PES Women, and PES Deputy Secretary General Giacomo Filibeck took part in the visit as part of the PES delegation. Włodzimierz Czarzasty, Nowa Lewica co-Chair and Deputy Speaker of the Polish Parliament, and Andrzej Szejna MP and Vice President of Nowa Lewica, were among the hosts.
Following the border visit, the delegation travelled to the city of Przemysl to see an aid collection and distribution hub with Deputy Mayor Bogusław Świeży. Later, the delegation held a meeting in Rzeszow with Deputy Mayor Dariusz Urbanik.
Yesterday, the PES delegation visited a help centre for refugees established by Lewica, and accommodation for refugees in Warsaw’s Bielany district. It also held a meeting with Senior External Relation Officer Andreas Kirchhof and Protection Associate Joanna Subko from UNHCR Poland. The organisation is managing the Poland chapter of the Regional Refugee Response Plan, which delivers projects on education, basic needs, water and sanitation, child protection and gender-based violence.