We, members of the NGO “D.OK – Democracy is OK”, are taking the liberty of addressing you on a most urgent issue. As Polish citizens living abroad, united in our belief in democratic principles and values, we are deeply concerned for the state of democracy in Poland.
Poland, due to its geopolitical role, was and is an important element of security in Europe and the world. It was admitted to NATO as the leader of democratic changes in Central and Eastern Europe. The security guarantees ensured by NATO have taken on a more concrete form after the decision to strengthen the eastern flank of the Alliance and deployment of four battalions in Poland and the Baltic states. As Poles, we are grateful for the support of NATO for our country. However, we would like to bring to your attention that the planned Summit in Warsaw and the Alliance’s recent decisions are being used by the Polish government for the legitimacy of its policies, which are not approved by more than half of Polish society.
We are sure that you are aware of the worrisome developments in Poland, of the current government breaking the constitution and moving away from democracy toward the autocratic rule of one party and its leader. By doing business as usual and going ahead with the planned NATO Summit in Warsaw you are giving your stamp of approval to the antidemocratic shift in Poland.
On your web page What is NATO? you prominently start with the declaration „NATO promotes democratic values …” Also recently you have given a speech at the Warsaw University where you have emphasized „Our common values – individual liberty, democracy and the rule of law – are the source of our unity.” And you have ignored that at the same time the Polish government is making steps which break the rule of law and subvert the democracy. It has been disappointing, especially in view of your own past commitment to democracy. As you have reminded us in your speech you have „supported Solidarnosc and political prisoners in Poland during the 1980s”. We are very grateful for that. We hope you will continue to stand with your principles. While there are no political prisoners in Poland, at least yet, the anti-democratic laws passed recently in Poland are steps potentially enabling it. Poland has already reverted partially to the communist period, with many people are afraid of losing their jobs if not keeping quiet and following the Party line. This especially goes for people involved in media and news. And we all know where that leads.
In NATO „all decisions are taken by consensus”. With more NATO member countries drifting away from democracy, and from the common values, the consensus will be harder to achieve and it may eventually threaten the alliance. Or worse – the alliance may change to a military force which defends autocratic rule in its member countries.
You must be aware that the President of Poland has issued a prohibition to any spontaneous demonstrations in Warsaw during the Summit. Not just for any gatherings close to the venues where the talks are to be held, but for the entire city. It is made under the pretext of security for the NATO diplomats. If NATO goes along with this, it will be giving its sign of approval to such clearly unconstitutional policies curtailing freedom of expression. As we have seen in other countries, security can be provided without such anti-democratic regulations. After the Charlie Hebdo terror attack, there was a huge demonstration in Paris which was attended by many heads of state. Would it be conceivable to have them making this appearance while the streets were kept empty from everybody else? Likewise having the NATO Summit while there is a blanket of prohibition on spontaneous gatherings and demonstrations makes it a travesty of NATO democratic principles.
The European Union has already taken steps and is requesting that the Polish government adheres to EU principles of democracy. NATO is today in a unique position to make a real statement in support of those principles. We hope that you will strongly condemn anti-democratic changes in Poland. In particular, please do send a strong signal to the present Polish government that it should not expect security guarantees if it does not abide by the common values on which NATO has been founded.