In the beginning it must be emphasized that everybody from the Polish authority can be proud of this issue, as in a dispute with the Norwegians political calculations and diplomatic correctness were pushed aside. In defence of Polish families from whom the office of bad fame Barnevernet takes away children, all suitable services of Polish Republic rose to the challenge. – We have been monitoring the issue for a few years. And it is necessary to express great words of acknowledgment to the government and various institutions which decided to deal with this matter seriously. This is a clear signal for Polish consuls all over the world, like dr Sławomir Kowalski used to do it in Norwegia – says an attorney Jerzy Kwaśniewski to ‘Niedziela’, a chairman of the Institute for Legal Culture ‘Ordo Iuris’.

Consular exchange non grata

The Norwegians are a small nation of 5 million population, but are very proud. They were brought up on protestant state absolutism. They did not use to criticize state institutions, but one of them is Barneverent, that is, an Office for Children. However, it looks that in a dispute with Warsaw the Norwegian government has gone too far and got much more lost.

Dismissing the consul Kowalski for a few months before the end of his cadency in Oslo should be understood as malice or rather an expression of helplessness towards a definite attitude of Republic of Poland. In addition, there is an issue of granting asylum to a Norwegian woman Silije Garmo, who found a refuge in Poland from persecutions by Barneverent. Officially the Norwegian authorities did not admit it, but the issue of asylum for human rights breach was embarrassing to them. – This has been probably the first case like that since the times of the Second World War, when the Norwegians are given asylum in a different country – says Kwaśniewski.

Therefore they decided to take a revenge on the Polish consul who had taken the side of Polish families for years. It is said that due to his steadfast attitude he helped in about 150 cases. In 2016 he got a prestigious title of the Consul of Year, and in 2018, in a report of the Supreme Audit Office actions of the consulate in Oslo were given as an example, which defends rights of Poles living there.

So, the consul was doing his work with engagement, doing exactly for what he is paid by Polish tax-payers, and which – for obvious reasons – was not approved of by officials of Barnevernet. First the Norwegian Foreign Ministry asked for dismissing the consul, but his Polish equivalent consul refused it definitely. After weeks Oslo officially acknowledged Kowalski as persona non grata. The respond of Warsaw was consistent and immediate. A few hours after an official note from Oslo got to the Foreign Ministry, a symmetric answer got to the Embassy of Norway in Warsaw. Mrs. Consul had a week to pack and leave for Poland.

Oslo surprised?

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry seemed to be surprised by such a consistent reaction. – We did not receive any complaints from the Polish authority about the behavior of Norwegian diplomats in Warsaw. It is not sensible that Poland reacted in that way – said Kristin Enstad, a spokeswoman of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

So, it looks that the Norwegian diplomacy was not listening to what our leading politicians and representatives of the Foreign Ministry say, or it simply ignored it. – We evaluate the action of the Polish consul in Norway Sławomir Kowalski explicitly positively, who defended Polish families. The call for his dismissal cannot be justified. A reaction will also be calm, but also adequate and considering the aforementioned circumstances – a vice-chief of the Foreign Ministry Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk said on 22 January 2019. People in the government often warned that if Norway made another step, Warsaw would take analogue actions in response.

As a result of incompetence of the authorities of Norway, there is another loud international dispute. A diplomatic not got to Oslo immediately, acknowledging consul in Warsaw a persona non grata. Several hours later it was officially announced that Silije Garmo would receive asylum in Poland as her homeland does not follow human rights. The issue of children’s protection was also touched on by a Spokesman of Chidlren Mikołaj Pawlak who invited his equivalent consul from Oslo to Warsaw. ‘The Spokesman of Children’s Rights expresses his concern about the fate of Polish families and children from Norway after a decision of Norwegian authorities about dismissing our diplomat. Consul Sławomir Kowalski is known for a fight for Polish children’s rights with the Norwegian office Barnvernet. Mikołaj Pawlak, similarly as the Polish Foreign Ministry, has got a good opinion on the work of the consul for the sake of defence of Polish families’ interests and agrees with the attitude of the Foreign Ministry that the accusations from the Norwegian party towards his work are unjustified’ – we read in a message by the Office of the Spokesman of Children’s Rights. What is more, Pawlak assured that every Norwegian family, towards which illegal actions of Norweian Social services were documented, Polish authorities assure safety, stabilization and suitable conditions for children’s development.

It seemed that Norway would let the consul Kowalski hold his post. After 6 February there appeared such signals from the prime minister of Norway Erna Solberg. Poles were likely to talk on it about did not want to give in as for Polish children’s protection. It does not change the fact that keeping silent about the issue would be the best solution for the authorities of Norway as in the escalation of the conflict this country losses its good image, and Poland wins as a defender of human rights.

Breaching the Vienna convention

The issue of the conflict on the Warsaw – Olso line became the subject of interest among media in Poland, Norway, and also in whole Europe, and even in the USA. Among lots of the newspapers, it is difficult to find defenders of the Norwegian attitude as it is not the first time that Barnevernet has been the subject of discussions in the world. In the recent years the Norwegians have already been in conflicts with, among the others, India, the Czech Republic and Romania. In 2018 a critical resolution was given to Barnevernet by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and a Romanian family won with Norway to the European Tribunal of Human Rights in Strasburg. – Now we cannot leave the issue of our consul as it is. We are going to raise this issue in international organizations and in the Parliamentary Assembly of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – says an MP Jan Dziedziczak, the former vice-chief of the Polish Foreign Ministry.

In the Polish-Norwegian conflict what is the most important is the good of Polish families and children. The Spokesman of Children’s Rights points that Norwegian authorities are breaching the Convention about children’s rights which was ratified by them. But the consular dispute also concerns an open breach of the international law included in the Vienna convention. In a film on YouTube, revealed by ‘Ordo luris’ we can see and hear that police officers forced the Polish consul to leave a building where there were Polish children. What is more, despite having diplomatic immunitet, he was threatened with using force by police officers and heard: ‘It is your last chance to leave, otherwise, we will take you out by force’. “You must leave, as I am saying so!’. Whereas the spokeswoman of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry is still repeating the lies and accusations towards the consul, that he was behaving violently, making it difficult to complete duties and refused to follow the instruction of the police. – The consul had a complete right for interference and the police should have helped him in it. The recording shows that the consul was behaving according to law, whereas law was breached by the Norwegian police officers. This is open breaching the consular law from the Vienna convention. I hope that the issues will be presented in the international arena – says an attorney Kwaśniewski. – Further slandering the consul by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry is qualified to sue the Norwegian police officers for libel. The media also got a report of a Polish psychologist who was accompanying the consul during that intervention. – I will not forget that situation. A 6-year-old little girls, clinging to her mother, was being pulled away by officials holding her legs. Loud sobs, spasms. I cannot get over something like that – says Kamila Gryb who cooperates with the consul Kowalski. It is five years since she has been realizing a program of psychological help for Polish families in Norway.

Barnevernet – a country in a country

Although the Norwegians are not used to criticism from national institutions, negative voices are appearing more and more often. Even in popular media a lot was said that the intervention by police officers registered on the recording had been far from international standards. The words of acknowledgment among the Norwegians were expressed to the consul because he had been very kind and also determined. Criticism from Barnevernet appears in Norway from time to time. A reform of this institution is also becoming an issue of election campaigns, but eagerness will always disappear after an election victory. In 2018 the Committee of Children’s Rights UNO was strongly criticized by the country of Fiords and before that, in 2015 there appeared a very critical report on Barnevernt. Unfortunately, the minister for children, family and ecclesiastical issues Linda Helleland denied any criticism. In her opinion, Norway is a pioneer in the area ‘children’s good’, and other countries can learn from the Norwegians about legal regulations and practical attitudes.

Unfortunately, care for children is a country in a country. Most communal officials who decide about children’s fate, are very young people without any greater experience. – The average length of employment in Barnevernet are 10-12 years. Later employees go away and get employed by their older colleagues who run companies dealing with foster care to which children are taken away from families by Barnevernet. This is an effectively functioning and very well-paid system – says the attorney Kwaśniewski. – A son was taken away from a single Polish mother because he was taken to nursery very rarely. This issue is in the European Tribunal of Human Rights in Strasburg.

In Norway there is a whole army of officials and private entrepreneurs which take advantage of the current system of care for children. In this country it is practically impossible to find a psychologist who would not be paid by Barnevernet. Therefore parents usually have no chance to win with this organization. And families of Polish immigration have become a victim of this effective machine in the recent years. – My thesis is that in the context of the relatively low natural growth in Norway, a possibility of assimilation of Polish children is very attractive for the Norwegian government. So, a pretext is used that Polish children should be taken away from Polish families, cut off from the Polish culture and tradition so that they would be made Norwegians whom today’s Norway lacks – says MP Dziedziczak.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 8/2019 (24 II 2019)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl