EU-Warsaw apple of discord
Donald Tusk was re-elected as Council President despite his native Poland's fierce opposition
17 March, 2017
It was meant to be just a footnote at the EU summit held in Brussels on 9 March. Instead, the re-election of Donald Tusk as Council President turned to a bitter conflict between Brussels and Poland. Snubbing Warsaw's will to replace Tusk with a little known MEP, the leaders of the other 27 EU Member States supported Tusk and re-appointed him at the helm of the Union. As a response, Polish PM Beata Szydlo refused to sign off on the official record of summit conclusions, while her boss and leader of the Polish ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) party Jaroslav Kaczynski accused the EU of being put on its knees by a “German dictate”.
What lies inside the conflict is a bitter personal feud between Tusk and Kaczynski and it has nothing to do with the EU itself. Raised as politicians under the strong Solidarity influence, they fought namely for the Solidarity heritage pretending to be the only true heirs of the once mighty movement. They both lead parties which sprang from the Solidarity ruins and have dominated Polish politics in the last decade.
In 2005, Tusk was defeated by Jaroslav Kaczynski's twin brother Lech in the presidential election, while his Civic Platform party lost parliamentary vote to PiS. However, in two years Tusk got a revenge by winning the 2007 parliamentary election ousting Jaroslaw as PM. In 2011, the Civic Platform confirmed its parliamentary majority, giving Tusk a second term and making him Poland's first PM to win re-election since the fall of communism. In September 2014, Tusk resigned in order to take the position of EU Council President, while in few months time PiS won parliamentary election returning Jaroslav, although indirectly, to power.
With Tusk's re-election the feud is heading to its next dimension - to the EU level. Following the vote, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski accused Brussels in double standards and vowed that from now on Warsaw will start “playing hard” in its relations with the EU. “We must be conscious that at any moment we may be deceived. We will have to start following a negative policy,” he pointed out, adding that could include “blocking” various European initiatives.
The war is open, but it would rather be a war of words than a real conflict. Nevertheless, the damage is already done.