Former PM Beata Szydlo MEP was not amused about a question being asked in English during a prime time Polish state TV election debate EPA-EFE/Piotr Polak


‘Are we still in Poland?’ TV debate chaos as Polish EP candidates asked to speak in English


A Polish State TV EU election debate ended with a spat over language after presenters asked the candidates to answer the programme’s final question in English.

The move was apparently designed to test the English skills of the MEP candidates taking part, with the presenters justifying the move by saying that the language was commonly spoken within EU institutions.

Things initially went smoothly, with Borys Budka, representing Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO) party, being happy to respond in English.

“We would like to ask you for votes,” the candidate said, his grammar slightly stilted.

“Of course, European Union is our common responsibility. So please vote. Please go to these elections.”

Other candidates, were less accommodating.

“Are we still in Poland?” Polexit MEP candidate Stanisław Żółtek exclaimed.

“We’re in Poland but in Brussels, there are two official languages: English and French,” one of the debate hosts responded.

“So Polish is to be ignored?” Żółtek replied.

Former Law and Justice Party (PiS) PM Beata Szydło then intervened, taking the side of Żółtek

“I must put the record straight,” she declared. “All languages in the EU have the same rights.”

The journalist stood firm on the question, claiming that, in Brussels, no one spoke Polish.

But this was not enough to convince Szydło.

“We should not be ashamed of our own language,” she declared.

The chaotic multilingual exchange dominated online conversation following the television debate.

Konrad Berkowicz, a Confederation MP who is standing in the European Parliament election, derided the programme’s decision to include the segment as “cringe-inducing”.

“If our government was as fluent in defending our interests in the EU as Budka was in the use of the language, Poland would be a land of milk and honey,” he quipped.

Poles will vote in the European elections on June 9 to elect 53 MEPs. Turnout is expected to be around the 40 per cent mark. The polls indicate that the KO is neck-and-neck with the PiS.

Tusk’s party held a rally in central Warsaw on June 4, which failed to attract the mass turnout hoped for.

That came in contrast to the more than 100,000 people who attended a similar event on June 4 last year ahead of the Polish parliamentary elections.

At this year’s event, only around 15,000 took part, being seen as a sign by many that Polish voters may be suffering from electoral fatigue after having been asked to vote in three major elections in just eight months.