Warsaw’s Fury Over Tusk Re-election
14 Mar 2017 EWR Online
Government threatens to stymie EU initiatives as row with Brussels rolls on.
tol.org 13 March 2017
A threat by Poland’s foreign minister to begin blocking European Union initiatives brought a stinging rebuke from the main opposition party yesterday.
The rightwing government accuses the EU leadership of railroading through Donald Tusk’s re-election as president of the European Council. Poland was the only country to oppose Tusk’s candidacy as the council voted 27 to 1 at last week’s summit to keep the former centrist Polish prime minister in office for another term.
“Surely, we must drastically lower the level of trust in the EU,” Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told the Polish tabloid Super Express last weekend, Bloomberg reports.
He said the summit showed that Warsaw “can be cheated at any moment” by other EU members.
Slawomir Neumann, the parliamentary caucus leader for Tusk’s former party, the opposition Civic Platform, accused the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) of trying to undermine the EU.
“Law & Justice is seeking to make the EU repugnant in the eyes of Poles, wanting to take Poland out of the union,” Neumann told TVN24 television yesterday.
PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said last week that the government isn’t seeking to pull out of the EU, Bloomberg says. Kaczynski, party cofounder and a former prime minister, holds no government post but is widely seen as the party’s most influential figure.
Asked what steps he might take, Waszczykowski told Super Express, “For instance, blocking different [EU] initiatives, in order to play a very tough game,” according to EU Observer.
“For many years, Polish public opinion was kept naive, thinking that the EU was a club of altruists which takes care of joint outcomes. Yesterday we were shown that it’s different,” he added.
The EU has also threatened Poland, raising the possibility of sanctions including loss of voting rights over the PiS-led government’s steps to weaken the independence of public broadcasters and the judiciary. The government’s approval last week of a draft bill on the country’s top judicial council will do nothing to warm relations with Brussels.
The proposed law would end the terms of current members of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a body with significant say over the nomination of judges, and give parliament the power to choose 15 of its 25 members.
The council and the country’s ombudsman argue the law would violate the constitutional separation of powers, Reuters reported.
• Ahead of last week’s summit, Kaczynski accused Tusk of violating EU principles of neutrality regarding the internal affairs of member states and openly supporting the opposition in Poland.
• Kaczynski's opposition to Tusk's re-election might stem from personal animosity between the two. The Financial Times recently wrote that he holds Tusk “morally responsible” for the death in 2010 of President Lech Kaczynski, his twin brother, in a plane crash in Russia. Tusk was the prime minister of Poland at the time of the accident.
(Compiled by Ky Krauthamer)