Poland has summoned the French ambassador to Warsaw after President Emmanuel Macron slammed Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki for backing his far-right presidential rival and branded him an extreme-right anti-Semite.
The swipe comes as the French president, who is seeking re-election this month, contends with a rising far-right at home, putting Marine Le Pen, who met Morawiecki in October, within touching distance of winning the presidency. It also highlights deep divergences between the two men over Macron’s negotiations with President Vladimir Putin since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
Earlier this week, Morawiecki criticized Macron’s efforts to bring an end to the war in Ukraine by negotiating with Putin, dismissing them as ineffective and likening them to holding talks with Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot.
Macron hit back on Wednesday, accusing Morawiecki of interfering in the French presidential elections, with the first round of votes scheduled on Sunday. In an interview with readers of daily newspaper Le Parisien published on Friday, he went further, describing Morawiecki’s comparison as “shameful”, and launching into an attack on the Polish prime minister.
“The Polish prime minister is an anti-Semite of the extreme right who bans LGBT people,” Macron was quoted as saying. “He is under EU investigation because he arbitrarily fired numerous judges.”
The reason for Morawiecki’s attack, he added, was that the Polish prime minister, who hails from the conservative-nationalist Law and Justice party, was supporting Le Pen. “Let’s not be naive. He wants to help her before the vote! ” he said.
On Sunday Macron and Le Pen are predicted to beat the other candidates and face each other in the second round on April 24. Recent opinion polls have suggested an increasingly tight race between the pair.
The Polish government spokesman, Piotr Müller, described Macron’s comments as “incomprehensible”.
“I understand that in the political emotions that accompany every election campaign, words are said to go too far. But speaking about the prime minister of the Polish government in the context of anti-Semitism. . . is a lie, ”he said.
He added: “I hope that this election campaign in France will calm down a bit, and that then the French president will talk differently, and will actually stick to historical facts.”
Sebastian Kaleta, Poland’s deputy justice minister, took to Twitter: “Oh the words of truth about the ‘effectiveness’ of his phone negotiations with Putin have hurt [Macron]. Macron’s nerves show that he is aware of the moral bankruptcy of his policy towards Russia. “
Macron has said talking to Putin is a “thankless” task that he undertakes with the support of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky because he is trying to negotiate humanitarian evacuations of civilians from besieged cities such as Mariupol, as well as organize a ceasefire and a Russian withdrawal .
His campaign has recently underlined that Le Pen sought and received Putin’s endorsement in the 2017 presidential race by meeting the Russian leader in the Kremlin. Back then she also secured a loan from a Russian bank close to the Kremlin to fund her campaign. Meanwhile Macron had accused Moscow of hacking his campaign’s website.
The Polish government has been at the forefront of calls for the EU to take a harder stance against Russia over its invasion. It has urged the west to supply more weapons to Ukraine and pushed for tougher sanctions including on oil and gas. Macron last week called for an embargo on Russian coal and oil exports.
“Another day of Russian war crimes – this time a cold-blooded attack on civilians in Kramatorsk,” Pawel Jablonski, deputy foreign minister, wrote on Twitter on Friday, after what appeared as a Russian missile strike on a railway station in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region killed dozens of people.
“Another day without European sanctions on oil and gas. To believe that repeated phone calls with Putin will stop this war – is to be naive. Leaders do not have the right to be naive. ”
FT subscriber webinar
Join FT correspondents and guests for a Q&A on Monday April 11 at 5pm UK time on the outcome of the first round of voting in France’s presidential election. Register for your free subscriber ticket