March 05, 2017
Poland vs Tusk
The FT speaks about a complication, and it may ultimately turn out to be just that, but the stand-off between Poland and the European Council will have serious political implications and it may set new precedents, no matter how it ends. The issue will come up at this Thursday’s European Council.
As the FT had reported before, the Polish government has now put up another candidate against Mr Tusk, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, MEP, a member of Mr Tusk’s own Civic Platform party, which expelled him immediately after his candidacy was announced. Tusk has broad support for his renomination for a second and final term as president of the European Council - for another two and a half years. The vote is by qualified majority, and it is possible, in theory, for Mr Tusk to be voted back in against the wishes of his own government. That, however, would break one of the unspoken rules of the European Council, which is not to elected a candidate against the expressed wishes of its own national government. A reelection of Mr Tusk would put the relationship between the EU and Poland onto a new low, from which it may not recover.
The FT quotes Poland's foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, as saying that
“I cannot imagine supporting a candidate who fights against his own government. I also cannot imagine that the other EU member states would support a candidate who doesn’t have the support of his own government.”
The history behind this impasse is old. It was Tusk who ousted Jaraslow Kaczynski, the leader of the governing Law and Justice party, as prime minister in 2007. And Kaczynski sees Tusk as complicit in what he says was a conspiracy to kill his brother, Lech, in a plane crash in 2010.
Der Spiegel recalls that Tusk has tried hard to avoid any confrontation with the Polish government during his time in office. But he did criticise the government when it cracked on the rights of the parliament last year, demanding respect for constitutional principles and values, which triggered a protest by Kaczynski who accused Tusk of a breach of neutrality.
Kaczynski’s candidate is a well known Polish politician, Poland’s first government representative at the EU in 1991, an MP since 2004, and an EP vice president until 2007.