France's ambassador to Poland has said he was "shocked" by the Polish foreign minister's remarks that France had become the "sick man of Europe", reports EU Observer.
"I won't hide that I was surprised, even shocked, by those remarks," Pierre Levy, the French diplomat, told Polsat News, a Polish TV broadcaster.
France was trying to build closer ties with Poland, he said, but the Polish minister's comments made him "wonder whether Polish authorities really wanted to mend our relations".
He spoke amid long-standing EU concern that the nationalist-populist bent of Poland's rightwing ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), including its attack on judicial independence and media freedom, as well as its eurosceptic rhetoric, violated EU norms and values.
"We want Poland to play a full role in Europe. We want to stand together. I can't imagine a Europe worthy of the name, in which Poland didn't play its role together with us," Levy said, alluding to an EU sanctions procedure that could see Warsaw deprived of its EU voting rights.
But he warned that populism threatened European interests in an apparent dig at PiS tendencies.
"Polish people should know that the forces against [French president Emmanuel] Macron on the Right, on the fringe Right, the Left and the fringe Left, are forces whose political vision go against the fundamental interests of Poland - in the case of the EU, of Nato, of Russia," Levy said.
"Instability in Europe is in the interests of powers lying to the east and also those in the west," he added, alluding to Russia, but also to the US under its populist new leader, Donald Trump.
Levy spoke after the Polish foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, lambasted France over its 'yellow vest' riots and over the recent terrorist attack in Strasbourg.
"Something's not right" in France, Czaputowicz told press shortly before Christmas.
"The protests in recent weeks, president Emmanuel Macron's retreat from reform of the country, it's sad because France is the sick man of Europe, dragging Europe down," the Polish minister said.
His reference to "reform" came after Macron promised more spending on welfare in reaction to the yellow vest movement, which could see Paris break EU fiscal rules.