WARSAW – French President Emmanuel Macron accused Russia of engaging in historical revisionism on World War II but said during a visit to Poland on Tuesday that a strong Europe needs to remain open to honest dialogue with Moscow.
Macron addressed students and faculty members at Jagiellonian University in Krakow on the second day of his trip to Poland. Both the French leader and Polish officials called the visit a breakthrough for relations between their countries.
While speaking at the university, Macron condemned the Kremlin's recent efforts to blame the outbreak of World War II on acts by Poland and some western European governments.
He said "scientific and historical facts" clearly show that Poland, which was occupied by Nazi Germany throughout the war, was a victim and suffered immense losses in its population.
While Moscow's misrepresenting of facts needs to be kept in mind, Macron stressed that Russia is part of Europe geographically and should not be isolated as the EU looks toward the future following Britain's departure last week.
“I am convinced that we can build an architecture of stability, of peace, of trust in Europe only if we talk with Russia” but “not yield things to Russia, not forget what it did or what it does, but demand a deescalation,” Macron said.
“I think it a major error to distance ourselves from a part of Europe that we don't feel comfortable about,” Macron said.
French companies engaged in trade with Russia have pressured Macron to repair relations with Moscow and to ease economic sanctions. The companies are central to Macron's political base.
The Polish government favors maintaining EU sanctions on Russia for its activities in Ukraine, including the 2014 seizure of Crimea.
Another reason for Macron reaching out to Russia is his disillusionment with U.S. foreign policy under President Donald Trump, who has made important decisions without without consulting European allies.
Commenting on France's view of Moscow, Poland's ambassador to France, Tomasz Mlynarski, said the European Union should speak with one voice in its dialogue with Russia and that there was “no room for avant-garde ideas.”
Poland's relations with Russia are strained, and recent remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin about the start of the war have added to the tension. Poland rejected the allegations as untrue.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Tuesday that Poland has not yet been invited to ceremonies scheduled for May 9 in Moscow to commemorate the end of World War II.
Angela Charlton contributed from Paris.