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Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, sought to distance himself from the hard-line anti-migrant views of leaders in his native Poland, saying he would never speak about migrants the way they do.
Tusk's comments late Thursday came after he set off a debate earlier in the week by saying the EU's quota system for resettling migrants has been ineffective and divisive. The comment angered Italy and Greece, where tens of thousands of migrants are in camps hoping to be resettled elsewhere in the Europe. But his words were welcomed in Poland, with the new prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, saying that Tusk was starting to speak about migration "like Poland does."
Tusk disputed that. He said, "I will always want to help those who protect Europe, but I will never go over to the side of those who talk about other people with contempt or disrespect."
Poland's ruling party often depicts the mostly Muslim arrivals as threats to the country's security and to its Christian identity. The party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has even said they carry "parasites and protozoa" that threaten native Europeans.
Poland's prime minister says he expects the European Commission to formally warn his country next week that it is violating the European Union's fundamental values.
The step would embarrass Poland and could bring it closer to being eventually stripped of its voting rights in the bloc.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Thursday in Brussels that the procedure known as article 7.1 will most likely be introduced Wednesday by the Commission, the executive arm of the 28-member bloc.
The Commission has been threatening to launch the so-called article 7 mechanism against Poland for what it says is a serious breach of EU values. It says that new Polish laws on the judiciary violate the principle of the separation of powers, weakening rule of law in Poland.
The next step — stripping a country of voting rights — is laid out in article 7.2 in an EU treaty. That, however, is seen as unlikely to occur because it would have to be passed in a unanimous vote, and Hungary's illiberal government has vowed to block action against Poland.
Morawiecki said Poland is lobbying to prevent the article 7.1 step, saying "from the beginning of what we feel is an unfair procedure, until its end, we will definitely speak with our partners about it many times."
Poland's new prime minister, Mateusz Morawicki, says he is hopeful for a "very good" compromise with Britain on the status of Poles living there after the country leaves the European Union.
Britain's departure from the 28-member European Union, or Brexit, is among chief topics of the bloc's current summit in Brussels. The matter of the post-Brexit rights of hundreds of thousands of Poles working and studying in Britain is of major concern to Poland's government, which wants them to retain their current status and benefits.
Morawiecki, who is attending his first EU summit, said that negotiations so far indicate that the "compromise that we will achieve will be right, will be very good."
He said he believes that the Poles will be treated properly and covered by "proper care," in line with Poland's expectations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says European Union countries can't show only "selective solidarity" when it comes to dealing with migrants.
European Council President Donald Tusk said before the EU summit starting Thursday that the bloc's mandatary refugee quota system has been divisive and ineffective. Merkel, whose country took in large numbers of migrants in 2015 and 2016, said as she arrived at the summit that the basis for consultations set out by Tusk is "not yet sufficient."
Merkel said: "We need solidarity not just in regulating and steering migration ... on the external borders — that is good and important, but we also need internal solidarity. In my opinion, there cannot be selective solidarity among European (Union) member states."
Poland's new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says he is happy that Poland's opposition to allowing refugees into Europe seems to be gaining greater acceptance in the 28-nation bloc.
Morawiecki's comments came in reaction to European Council President Donald Tusk's statement that the EU's mandatary refugee quota system has been divisive and ineffective.
Speaking Thursday as he arrived at an EU summit, Morawiecki said, "I am pleased with all the voices that support our narrative and approach to the issue of refugees."
He said Europe should not accept refugees but should help them in refugee centers elsewhere.
Tusk's comment, aimed at launching a debate on migration at the two-day summit, has angered Greece and Italy, which are struggling with large numbers of migrants they want to resettled elsewhere in Europe.
A new Polish prime minister makes his foreign debut at a European Union summit, a first test of whether the Western-educated former banker can bridge a deepening rift between his right-wing government and Brussels.
Mateusz Morawiecki, 49, was tapped last week by the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party to replace Beata Szydlo. Her two years as prime minister were marked by bitter conflicts with the EU over migrants, the environment and the state of Poland's democracy.
Poland's current isolation marks a sharp reversal for a country which until 2015 was emerging as an increasingly influential voice in European affairs, something underlined by the election in 2014 of a Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, to lead the European Council.
Tusk leads the two-day summit which begins Thursday.
European Union leaders are gathering in Brussels set to move Brexit talks into a new phase as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Theresa May over her plans to take Britain out of the 28-nation bloc.
Heated debate is also likely as the leaders thrash out whether mandatory refugee quotas should remain a part of the EU's response to the arrival of thousands of migrants in Greece and Italy.
They are also due to officially endorse a new system of defense cooperation, bringing order to the way nations cooperate on security matters.
A draft of their summit statement, seen Thursday by The Associated Press, says that progress made in Brexit talks "is sufficient to move to the second phase" to discuss future relations and trade.