Stop Sniping at the Citizens of Europe – a Polish Londoner speaks out

Author: Wiktor Moszczynski

Many long-standing British citizens of Polish origin have lived and worked here since our parents fought alongside the British Armed Forces to defeat Nazi Germany during World War Two.

Our generation was largely supportive when the United Kingdom joined the then European Common Market in 1973. We were very enthusiastic indeed when a free independent post-Communist Poland was able to accede to the EU in 2004.

Many young Poles were finally given the same opportunity that Western Europeans had enjoyed for two generations, namely access to a Europe-wide free market economy, which also guaranteed democracy, human rights and safety from external invasion.

Although the Polish economy still has much catching up to do, its younger generation has impressed the UK with its industrious and entrepreneurial work ethic,  as well as its growing contribution to Western culture and education.

More than 700,000 Polish citizens have remained here, many of them setting up families and ensuring a steady input into the British economy and UK exchequer.

Largely, with some inevitable exceptions, they are integrating into the UK economic and social mainstream as smoothly as my generation did more than half a century ago, while retaining also the best of their distinct Polish culture and national traditions.

It is understandable that, with the current stagnation in the Eurozone and with the on-going crisis in the British economy, British citizens and their political parties are seeking to redefine how the EU should work and also their own relationship to the Union.

However we are increasingly aware that the newer communities of Poles and other Central Europeans who have lived and worked here legally since 2004 are being singled out as scapegoats with the recent upsurge in a more intense anti-European sentiment in this country.

There are threats and insinuations about their right to work and travel, to their access to the health service and basic benefits, despite the fact that they are now long-term UK taxpayers. EU citizens from Central Europe have every right to live and work here not only under current EU regulations on the free movement of labour but also under UK immigration laws on permanent residence and UK citizenship.

I would appeal to all politicians to oppose insidious and cowardly sniping at Poles and other EU citizens.

In the spring of this year the total number of Polish citizens on the London electoral register amounted to 98,799, nearly as large as that of an Inner London Borough.

As a quarter of the Polish population in the UK lives in London that indicates a total of some 400,000 votes of Polish citizens in this country eligible to vote next May in the European and local elections.

That figure also does not include some tens of thousands of second and third generation British citizens of Polish origin who will object strongly to parties and candidates that seek to gain short-term popularity by making derogatory comments about their fellow countrymen.

We ask that any debate on UK-EU relations be conducted on a rational basis, without chauvinism and paying proper respect to all of us who contribute to the UK economy and British way of life.


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