18 April 2010

King Harald cancels attendance in President Kaczynski's funeral

Most of Europe's airspace has been closed for security reasons due to the volcanic ash spread from Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. This has made it difficult for many state leaders to attend the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski in Krakow on Sunday 18 April 2010.

King Harald V of Norway, Norway's foreign secretary Jonas Gahr Støre, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, President Barack Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy are among the many state leaders who have cancelled their trip to Poland.

The state funeral of Lech Kaczynski will begin with a mass at the St. Mary's Basilica. Later the bodies will be interred in the crypt of Wawel Cathedral, a decision that has sparked many protests. Many feel that the controversial President Kaczynski should not be regarded as equal to Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935), architect of Polish independence and Chief of State 1918-1922, or to the many Polish kings who are laid to rest in the crypt.

Maybe one should not focus too much on the president himself, but on the institution of the presidency. I find it appropriate that all heads of state who have expressed a wish to be buried in the crypt at Wawel should have their wish respected. It was the family of President Kaczynski who had requested that he should be buried in the crypt, so in accepting the request maybe a precedence has now been set.

The family of President Ryszard Kaczorowski (1919-2010), who also died in the plane crash at Smolensk, Russia, was also offered the honor, but declined. His funeral will take place on Monday 19 April 2010 in Warsaw.

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