Poland, Hungary ignore EU boycott to celebrate Iranian revolution in Tehran
Hungary proudly calls for deeper ties with Iran, but Poland’s attendance is more surprising.
Poland and Hungary broke ranks with other EU countries in Tehran last week and sent their ambassadors to a formal reception with President Ebrahim Raisi to celebrate the 44th anniversary of the Iranian revolution.
The diplomatic encounter is contentious because Tehran has cracked down on massive anti-regime street protests with lethal ferocity — and has even turned to executing demonstrators. Iran’s international status has also become increasingly toxic over the past year because of Tehran’s supplies of Shahed kamikaze drones to Russia, which are flown into civilian targets in Ukraine.
A series of photographs, some published online by an Iranian news outlet and others verified by POLITICO, show the two ambassadors — Poland’s Maciej Fałkowski and Hungary’s Zoltán Varga-Haszonits — sitting behind Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the ceremony on Thursday as well as in the reception line (the event was held ahead of the Saturday anniversary.) In one of the photographs, Fałkowski can be seen shaking Raisi’s hand with a slight bow.
“How could you — as the regime beats, blinds, tortures, rapes and kills innocent protesters for crying out ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ — bow before the Butcher of Tehran?,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of the United Nations Watch, an advocacy group, asked Poland’s foreign ministry on Twitter.
Representatives for Poland and Hungary did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Though there’s no formal agreement among EU members not to attend events such as the one where the ambassadors were photographed, the bloc’s capitals do have an informal understanding to act in concert with symbolic steps, such as by boycotting high-profile public ceremonies, in order to register their shared dismay over Tehran’s crackdown against protesters.
That Hungary, which has earned a reputation as the EU’s black sheep under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and is eager to deepen ties with Iran, would ignore such a consensus isn’t surprising. Indeed, Iran’s government said that Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó had also sent a message of congratulations to mark the anniversary of the revolution.
Poland, however, is a different story. Warsaw has been among Ukraine’s staunchest supporters. Polish leaders argue that helping Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian invasion is essential for both Poland’s and Europe’s own security. Iran’s military supplies to Ukraine would ordinarily have made Poland one of the least likely countries to attend a celebration of the revolution.
To be sure, EU capitals’ informal boycott of Iranian events has less to do with the country’s support for Russia than its treatment of protestors and women. Iran’s government also said it also received messages of congratulation on the anniversary of the revolution from Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia.
And like Hungary, Poland’s nationalist government is often at odds with its EU partners on matters big and small.
That said, Warsaw is usually at pains not to offend its most important ally — the United States.
Why Poland would allow its ambassador to be seen bowing to the Iranian president at a ceremony celebrating the so-called Islamic revolution, which resulted in the taking of more than 50 American diplomats as hostages, is a mystery.