Donald Trump Receives Warm Welcome In Poland As The Country Shifts Right

Amid fears the Polish government is attacking the rule of law, Trump gives it his seal of approval.

Cheering crowds greeted President Donald Trump in Poland on Thursday as he stopped to make a speech in Warsaw ahead of meeting with world leaders at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

“We’ve come to your nation to deliver a very important message: America loves Poland and America loves the Polish people,” Trump said to an audience full of revelers waving both American and Polish flags before claiming that he won the Polish-American vote in last year’s presidential election.

In wide-ranging speech ― preceded by brief remarks from first lady Melania Trump ― the president championed U.S.-Polish relations while also attacking NATO.

“Europe needs to do more,” he said. “Europe must demonstrate that it believes in its future by investing its money to secure its future.”

Addressing a group Eastern and Central European leaders earlier on Thursday, Trump applauded the Three Seas Initiative, a coalition of countries in the region trying to reduce their dependence on Russian energy. Trump celebrated his own energy policies, including his success in greenlighting both the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. 

Trump’s warm welcome in the Polish capital stands apart from his usual reception in Europe, where he is publicly disliked and politically at odds with many of his counterparts. His trip to Brussels in May led thousands of Belgians to gather in the streets in protest.

But in Poland, Trump is finding a more positive response and a right-wing nationalist government with many views that mirror his own. As he basks in the adulation, Poland’s government is touting the trip as a victory and claiming other European nations are envious of the honor.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party took no chances with turnout, with its members of Parliament transporting busloads of constituents to the event. Polish media reported that each lawmaker was instructed to bring at least 50 supporters to the speech.

Much like Trump, the Law and Justice party came to power on a populist platform taking aim at the country’s establishment politicians and has pursued policies aimed at turning away from liberalism.

Trump shares anti-refugee policies with the Polish party, which is locked in a feud with the European Union over resettlement plans. The Polish government has refused to take in any refugees as part of the EU relocation plan to share the costs of the migration crisis, causing the European Commission to seek legal action against Poland and other dissenting states last month.

Poland has been undergoing a marked shift to the right since the Law and Justice party won an electoral victory in late 2015. Under Chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice Party has targeted press freedoms and put new media laws in place that give the government control over public broadcasters. 

Last year, the EU also gave Poland a formal warning over the party’s planned changes to the Polish constitutional court. The EU warned that the policies, which included allowing the party to stack the court with judges of its choosing, threatened the rule of law. 

The changes to Polish media and the courts, along with other reforms, have led critics and political opponents to fear that the Law and Justice party is removing many of the country’s checks on power. It has also placed Poland closer to the ranks of illiberal countries like Hungary, creating internal tension with EU leadership in Brussels.

As the EU and Poland feud, Trump’s arrival is a boon for the Law and Justice party, which is portraying the visit as a sign of support from the United States. Trump, meanwhile, finds a friendly venue to make his speech before he faces the upcoming hostility in Hamburg.