Posts Tagged ‘poland’

Jean-Claude Juncker says it is a ‘tragedy’ that EU is celebrating 60th anniversary without Britain

March 25, 2017

The Telegraph

March 25, 2017

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looks on during a special summit of EU leaders to mark the 60th anniversary of the bloc's founding Treaty of Rome

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looks on during a special summit of EU leaders to mark the 60th anniversary of the bloc’s founding Treaty of Rome

Brexit is a “tragedy” for the Europe Union, the bloc’s chief Jean-Claude Juncker lamented yesterday, as the leaders of the remaining 27 EU member states gathered in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the organisation’s founding treaty.

Theresa May, who will trigger Article 50 to begin Britain’s formal withdrawal from the EU on Wednesday, was conspicuous by her absence as the leaders stepped up to sign a new Rome Declaration setting out a vision for the future of the European Union without Britain.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers a speech during a special summit of EU leaders to mark the 60th anniversary of the bloc's founding Treaty of Rome,
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers a speech during a special summit of EU leaders to mark the 60th anniversary of the bloc’s founding Treaty of Rome

The 1,000-word document was signed in the same room in Michelangelo’s  sumptuously decorated Palazzo dei Conservatori on Rome’s Capitoline hill where the leaders of the six founding EU member signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957 – but this time contained no mention of “ever closer union”.

“Brexit, the exit of Britain, is a tragedy,” Mr Juncker said as the leaders proclaimed that the EU was “undivided and indivisible” despite the fierce disagreements that have roiled the bloc in recent years over immigration, the euro and the ongoing sovereign debt crisis.

Juncker: “We are not proud enough of what we have achieved in Europe”.

Asked whether the Rome document represented the lowest common denominator of European ambition, Mr Juncker said the disagreements over the text, which Poland and Greece were threatening to refuse to sign just 24 hours earlier, represented strength, not weakness.

“What we achieved in the days before Rome, and in the last few hours here in Rome, conveys something of an incipient optimistic mood – because, contrary to what was assumed, there was no clash, no big dispute between several conceivable paths,” he said.

As he spoke, there were demonstrations across Europe in support of the EU, including in London where a ‘Unite for Europe’ march headed towards parliament, with dozens of protesters carrying yellow flowers to lay at a memorial for the Westminster attack victims.

Tsipras on social Europe: “Its an open-ended fight. We will keep struggling.”

However despite the promise of unity, within minutes of the ceremony closing some EU leaders made clear that the disagreements which had been put aside yesterday would soon resurface.

Alexis Tspiras, the Greek prime minister, said he had thought hard about refusing to sign the declaration in a protest against demands from Brussels and Berlin for further austerity measures in order to release the next tranche of Greece’s €86 billion bailout.

After the ceremony, Mr Tsipras said he had been satisfied by a reference in the declaration to “unparalleled levels” of social protection in Europe, but made clear he would continue to fight demands for further cuts to pensions.

Pope Francis greets France's President Francois Hollande after an audience with European Union leaders in Vatican
Pope Francis greets France’s President Francois Hollande after an audience with European Union leaders in the Vatican

 “I was thinking about whether to sign or not,” he said, “but I believe we managed to put inside a very significant reference to a ‘social Europe’. Secondly, it’s an open-ended fight and we will keep struggling.”

Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister and European Council president who was born only a month after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, gave an emotional address about growing up behind the Iron Curtain.

Describing his own struggle for democracy growing up in Gdansk and fighting with Poland’s Solidarity movement, he warned that if Europe could not unite, then the project that transformed his own life, would fail.

“Europe as a political entity will either be united, or will not be at all,” he said. “Only a united Europe can be a sovereign Europe in relation to the rest of the world. Only a sovereign Europe guarantees independence for its nations, guarantees freedom for its citizens.”

Some leaders accepted there had been failure. Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian prime minister, said that Brexit indicated that the Europe Union was in need a fundamental re-think and had failed to respond adequately to the challenges thrown up by globalization.

He noted that the EU had suffered a “crisis of rejection” in Brexit, but also made clear that the EU was looking resolutely ahead to a future without Britain in its ranks: “There were six of us back then,” he said,  “today we are 27”.

View image on Twitter

.@JunckerEU: “Nous avons réussi la paix, un marché commun, une monnaie unique. Raisons pour être fiers de l’Europe.”

He added: “In facing that changed world, Europe turned up too late – on immigration, security, growth, jobs. We cannot, Jean Monnet urged, stop when around us the entire world is moving. But unfortunately we did, we stopped. We did.

“And that triggered in a segment of public opinion – which proved to be the majority in the United Kingdom – a crisis of rejection. It brought forward nationalistic sentiment that we thought had been consigned to the archives and so that is the real message which must emerge for us from today’s celebrations.”

Despite the promise of a ‘rebirth’ of the European Union after Brexit, regional analysts said that the Rome Declaration represented the limits of the EU’s ability to reform itself.

“The Rome summit has resulted in grand statements of intent, but substantial political limitations are going to limit the EU’s collective ability to radically alter the status quo,” said Mujtaba Rahman, head of the Europe practice at the Eurasia Group.

“So while EU leaders are now going to aim for a more multi-speed structure in some areas, the end result is likely to be more business as usual.”

 Related here on Peace and Freedom:

What does a multi-speed EU mean for central and eastern Europe? — “Poland is EU’s problem child”

March 25, 2017

Central and eastern EU member states are wary that a so-called “multi-speed” Europe will relegate them to the bloc’s second tier. However, a more flexible Europe may just be the boost they’ve always needed.

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Saturday’s summit commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties was always going to be more than just a celebration of peace and unity. It will be a landmark for the bloc’s next leap of faith as it sets out its post-Brexit roadmap.

Top of the bill is the proposal for a so-called “multi-speed” Europe, which is likely to form the basis of any declaration coming out of the Rome summit.

Under this new, looser framework, EU member states will be able to cooperate on various initiatives if they so choose, while those that would rather opt out will be allowed to do so. This means, in theory, that no country will be forced to commit to any deal it deems practically or ideologically untenable.

The notion of a “multi-speed” Europe is by no means new: the single currency and Schengen agreement can already be regarded as part of such an approach. Yet the idea has been spurred by recent policy deadlocks in Brussels, namely over defense and migration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the first leaders to raise the prospect of a “multi-speed” EU at February’s summit in Valletta, before it quickly gained the backing of the bloc’s other founding members. Accelerated integration among some is preferred to standstill for all.

Broken eastern promises?

However, the prospect has made some eastern and central European nations wary that it could hollow out EU institutions and enforce larger members’ dominance.

Poland’s Kaczynski says EU on path toward disintegration


Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party – currently the EU’s problem child – has decried the move, warning that it could tear apart the EU. Reports suggest that Poland could try to veto the proposal..

“Kaczynski mentions that in Europe it is hegemony of Germany, and Merkel twists arms so that any decisions that are taken are good for Germany and nobody else,” Jakub Wisniewski, vice president of GLOBSEC think tank and Poland’s former ambassador to the OECD, told DW. “When seen through these lenses, any future integration will reinforce this trend… when other countries on the European peripheries will be deprived of rights and of their entitlements, such as money flowing from Brussels through structural funds.”

Meanwhile, the EU’s newest member states – Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia – have voiced concerns that the EU institutions that give them clout on the continent could be hollowed out. All three countries have made tremendous efforts in their transitioning to democracy and EU values. However, if the western European economies choose their integration path, the countries could fear they will find themselves relegated to the second tier of European policy making.

How the region benefits

However, any protest from central and eastern members against the two-speed concept would to be self-defeating for the region.

EU leaders discuss different speeds

First, more flexibility would only enforce the region’s more practical approach to EU integration. “The likes of Austria and Poland already have a pragmatic attitude towards the EU,” Dina Pardijs, program coordinator at the European Council of Foreign Relations and co-author of the report “How the EU Can Bend Without Breaking,” told DW.

“They embrace the parts that work for them and disregard the parts that don’t. More flexible cooperation, even if it weakens the EU’s structures, wouldn’t be that bad for them.”

Second, while a multi-speed approach would see new circles of cooperation emerging, they would likely be established within the current EU treaties rather than through the formation of new structures.
“Countries are being very careful not to put any very disruptive proposals forward,” Pardijs said. “So if anything they will be too careful and probably make too small a step for the goal of breaking deadlock to be achieved.”

Perhaps the most positive bearing will be enjoyed by the region’s EU candidate states. According to Wisniewski, any tapering within the single market or freedom of movement among the peripheral countries would dramatically lower the threshold for EU membership. It would also be less disruptive on the economy of any new state.

Integration within the European Union finds itself at a crossroads. If a multi-speed framework comes to fruition, Western European states will likely embark on their own accelerated path for integration, while central and eastern European states will coordinate when it suits them and pursue their own initiatives.

The end of ever-closer union may prove to be just the impetus EU integration needed.

Includes video:


” (Poland’s Kaczynski says EU on path toward disintegration)

Warsaw court jails lawyer for spying for Moscow

March 20, 2017


© AFP/File | A lawyer has been jailed in Poland for giving Russia information on a new liquefied natural gas terminal at Swinoujscie, whose port is pictured above, on the Baltic coast
WARSAW (AFP) – A Polish-Russian lawyer has been sentenced to four years in prison for spying for Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, a Warsaw court said Monday.The lawyer, a man with dual citizenship identified only as Stanislaw Sz. for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty at the trial held behind closed doors. He can appeal the verdict.

Judge Agnieszka Domanska said the man gave Russia information on Poland’s energy sector, in particular regarding a new liquefied natural gas terminal at Swinoujscie on the Baltic coast, according to the Polish news agency PAP.

He notably got hold of a secret report by the national audit chamber NIK on natural gas contracts and the launch last June of the Swinoujscie terminal, which Poland built to ease its dependence on Russian gas.

Poland currently relies on Russia for about forty percent of its gas, with a third coming from domestic sources and 20 percent from central Asia.

Stanislaw Sz. was arrested in October 2014, at the same time as a Polish officer, Zbigniew J., who was sentenced last year to six years in prison by the Warsaw military court for spying for Russia.

Their cases were related but the two men did not work together, according to Polish media reports.

Germany is below average in tackling population decline — “Germany doesn’t have enough money to spend on helping families” — Child Care, Keeping Elders At Work Pose Challenges

March 16, 2017

Chancellor Angela Merkel and four of her ministers are discussing the government’s demography strategy at a summit in Berlin. Their record so far? Below average, says expert James Vaupel.

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DW: A few years ago, Germany was fearing a population collapse. Was that just typical German angst?

James Vaupel: Yes, it was mostly German angst.But not just German angst. People in Italy, Poland or Russia are concerned about population collapse as well. The population has started to decline in many countries. And if you extrapolate this into the distant future you can imagine the situation with a much smaller population. But it takes a long time. And over a period of many decades, public policies might change, people’s attitudes might change.

Has that happened recently in Germany? We have seen a sort of mini baby boom lately.

If people had the number of children they want to have, then the typical German family would have more than two children. But the number is still much lower. Why? One problem is daycare. Another problem is combining employment with having a family. In [the former] West Germany, mothers are typically expected to stay home with small children. That is damaging for their career and their income.

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The government has been trying to tackle these issues. More daycare centers, longer parental leave – has that not had any impact?

It has had a modest impact. But it is too little. When a young couple has a child, an enormous burden is put on the couple. And the government could do a lot of things to make that burden less. Denmark and Sweden, for example, do a much better job in helping young people have children than Germany does. In Denmark, there is long paternity and maternity leave. There is flextime so that people can work a flexible number of hours per week. There are a lot of part-time work opportunities. And there is lots of daycare at a very low cost.

How would you rate German policies – are we just OECD average, then?

I think Germany is below average in terms of the help provided to young people. And Germany is certainly below average in the attitude that women with children should not work. In most countries it was like that 50 years ago but not today. That is just very detrimental to fertility.

Is it up to refugees from Syria and other places then to fill the gap?

Of course, a 20-year-old migrant can replace a baby that was not born 20 years ago. The difficulty with migrants is that it is very difficult to assimilate them. This is a major problem in many European countries.

If you could change policies in Germany, what would you change first?

The pension system. The age of retirement. One of the reasons why Germany doesn’t have enough money to spend on helping families is that so much money is being spent on older people who do not work. If people worked longer, that would save a lot of money and would contribute to the economy. Germany could then spend more money on education, on health, on assimilating migrants, on defense, on research, if older people worked to a higher age.

And how would you convince people to keep working?

A very important thing would be to have more flexible working hours. If you want to encourage older people to stay in the workforce you need more part-time jobs, more flextime jobs, where you can pick the hours you want to work. There is still too much inflexibility in the German system.

Dr. James W. Vaupel is the founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany.

Energy Security: Poland and Ukraine Don’t Want Second Russian Gas Pipline — Western views are”naive” — Russia involved in backmail

March 15, 2017


© AFP | Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski (L) and his counterpart from Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin talk at the balcony of Lazienki palace in Warsaw on March 15, 2017
WARSAW (AFP) – Poland and Ukraine said Wednesday they would take legal action against Russian plans for a second gas pipeline to the EU, a project they allege Moscow could use for political “blackmail”.

Russian energy giant Gazprom plans to build a pipeline called Nord Stream 2 under the Baltic along an existing line to boost gas delivery capacity to Germany from Russia, thus bypassing Ukraine and Poland.

“For many years we’ve said that both Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II are political tools, used above all by Russia on Europe… Russia can use these two lines for blackmail at any time,” Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said at a joint press conference in Warsaw with Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin.

Waszczykowski also said that his country, a member of the European Union, and Ukraine, which is not a member of the EU, would “probably join forces” to use all legal means including international courts to convince the EU about the pipeline’s alleged “political” nature.

“Our opinions on cooperating with Russia and on energy security differ from views held by many western European states,” Waszczykowski said, adding that he thought Western views were “naive”.

Under Moscow’s thumb during the communist era, Warsaw and Kiev have long lobbied for energy independence from it, arguing that Russia could turn off the tap on gas supplies to press client states into complying with its wishes.

Klimkin said the EU ought to ask itself whether it wants to be “dependent on another state, because Gazprom is part of the Russia that nobody trusts.”

Waszczykowski said that thanks to its new Baltic LNG terminal and new deliveries via a pipeline from Norway, Poland would be able to wean itself off Russian natural gas within five years.

“We have limited confidence… in European institutions,” he said, adding Poland was doing its all to be “free from the diktat” of relying on gas deliveries from Russia.

Klimkin said that Ukraine halted gas purchases from Russia more than a year ago. Moscow seized Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and has since backed a separatist insurgency in the east of the country.

A peace plan brokered by France and Germany in February 2015 to end the conflict in Europe’s backyard has stalled and bloody clashes continue regularly along the frontline.

Waszczykowski on Wednesday suggested that “sooner or later” the United States would have to become involved in brokering a lasting peace.

NATO head says more defence spending from European allies ‘essential’ to US ties

March 13, 2017


© AFP/File | “In 2017, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the positive momentum and speed up national efforts to keep our pledge,” Stoltenberg said in a report, referring to members’ 2-percent defence spending commitment
BRUSSELS (AFP) – NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Monday told allies to boost defence spending, as demanded by US President Donald Trump, if they want to preserve crucial transatlantic defence ties.

“This is essential for the continued strength of the transatlantic bond on which our alliance is founded,” Stoltenberg said in NATO’s 2016 annual report.

“For almost 70 years the unique partnership between Europe and North America has ensured peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said.

“That is an achievement we can never take for granted.”

Trump caused dismay in Europe when he said on the campaign trail that NATO was “obsolete,” and failing to meet the challenge posed by Islamic terror groups.

His administration has repeatedly pressed the allies to meet a pledge to spend two percent of GDP annually on defence by 2024.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO allies cut defence spending only to find themselves caught out by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

NATO leaders, pressed by then US president Barack Obama, agreed the two percent target in 2014 and reaffirmed it at a 2016 Warsaw summit to counter a more assertive Russia.

The NATO annual report said only five countries met the two percent target — the United States, Britain, Greece, Poland and Estonia — while Washington still accounted for nearly 70 percent of combined alliance defence spending.

Overall, the US-led alliance reversed the downturn in 2015 and last year, defence spending rose 3.8 percent or $10 billion (9.3 billion euros), it noted.

“In 2017, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the positive momentum and speed up national efforts to keep our pledge,” Stoltenberg said in the report.

Meeting the two percent target has caused some soul-searching in Europe over what the wider impact will be.

Critics cite the example of Germany, currently on 1.2 percent of GDP but an increase to 2.0 percent would put Berlin’s defence budget on a par with Russia’s at around 65 billion euros.

Trump has also called for a $54 billion hike in US defence expenditure, currently at more than $600 billion, winning broad support but also criticism that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Poland PM accuses French President Francois Hollande of blackmail over subsidies — Hollande said that richer Western nations were helping to pay for Poland’s development

March 10, 2017

BBC News

Polish PM Beata Szydlo has accused the French president of trying to blackmail her country, in a row over Thursday’s re-election of EU leader Donald Tusk.

At the end of an EU summit, she said it was unacceptable for Francois Hollande to threaten to stop funds because Poland was “not behaving properly”.

Poland had tried but failed to stop Mr Tusk’s re-election, and refused to endorse the summit’s joint statement.

Ms Szydlo also warned partners Poland would not accept a multi-speed Europe.

She said the EU faced new divisions if stronger nations tried to integrate more among themselves at the expense of weaker ones like Poland and fellow ex-communist countries in the east.

Friday’s talks in Brussels focused on the future of the post-Brexit EU.

EU members discussed making a joint declaration that should stress EU unity when they meet in Rome on 25 March.

Francois Hollande at Brussels summit - 10 March
Mr Hollande is said to have been involved in a confrontation with Polish officials at Thursday’s dinner. AFP photo

Poland’s failure to endorse the summit joint statement reportedly led to a confrontation over dinner on Thursday evening, with Mr Hollande saying that richer Western nations were helping to pay for Poland’s development.

“If someone says ‘you’re not behaving properly so you won’t get the money’ – that’s unacceptable,” Ms Szydlo told a news conference on Friday.

Under a shadow: Analysis by Kevin Connolly, BBC News

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a press conference at the Council of the European Union, on the first day of an EU summit, 9 March
Theresa May was at the summit on the first day —  GETTY IMAGES

When the idea of an EU celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding Treaty of Rome in the Italian capital was first mooted it must have seemed like a good idea.

Now Brexit casts a long, dark shadow over those proceedings – an organisation that has known nothing but steady expansion is about to lose a member state for the first time.

That is a confidence-sapping thought for an institution which has no firm timetable for planned future expansion in the Balkans.

There is no big idea on offer from the European Commission – just a palette of five vague outlines of how the EU will work in the future. The moment does not feel right for grand visions.

Then there is the Polish government’s anger at the re-election of their fellow-countryman Donald Tusk to a top job at the European Council. Poland – a huge beneficiary of EU funding – suddenly feels as though it might take the place in the European awkward squad that the UK is vacating.

Poland is the biggest net recipient of EU funds – in 2015 it got €13.4bn (£11.7bn; $14.2bn) from the EU.

The EU budget will come under huge strain when the UK – one of the biggest net contributors – leaves.

The row came after Poland failed to block the reappointment of Donald Tusk as European Council president – a key strategic role in the EU.

This meant there was no consensus on the joint statement. Controversially, the conclusions – normally an expression of EU unity – came instead from Mr Tusk personally.

A long-running feud between him and Jaroslaw Kaczynski – the nationalist guiding the Polish government – caused the debacle.

Meanwhile there is new momentum behind the idea of EU members moving at different speeds. France, Germany and Italy back it – but Poland is adamantly against.

Poland and its neighbours fear being left behind if their stronger partners integrate in more areas, especially the eurozone.

Brexit ‘not the end’

When the 27 EU leaders meet in Rome they will mark 60 years since the launch of the European Economic Community with the Treaty of Rome.

But soon the UK plans to trigger Brexit, the first withdrawal of a member state, a process fraught with risk and uncertainty.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I don’t like Brexit because I would like to be in the same boat as the British.

“The day will come when the British will re-enter the boat, I hope. But Brexit is not the end of the European Union, nor the end of all our developments, nor the end of our continental ambitions.”

Poland ‘alone’ in the EU after Tusk re-election snub — Anti-European Union storm clouds — “The EU is in Germany’s sphere of influence.”

March 10, 2017


© AFP | Donald Tusk was reelected as European Council president despite strident opposition from the rightwing government in his native Poland

WARSAW (AFP) – Polish media on Friday underscored their country’s isolation in the European Union after the bloc’s leaders re-elected liberal Donald Tusk as president despite strident opposition from the rightwing government in his native Poland.”Tusk won 27 to 1,” read the headline splashed across the Gazeta Wyborcza liberal daily, while the centrist Rzeczpospolita daily concluded that “Poland is alone in the EU”.

The bloc’s leaders voted by 27 to one at the summit in Brussels on Thursday to give former Polish premier Tusk a new two-and-a-half-year mandate, with only Poland’s current Prime Minister Beata Szydlo voting against.

Szydlo, whose right-wing eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) party has nursed a long and bitter enmity with the centrist Tusk, announced that she would block the summit’s final communique in revenge.

Polish media close to her government on Friday welcomed her “courage and the intransigence” in the face of “terrible pressure” in Brussels.

But Rzeczpospolita dubbed Tusk’s re-election “the unprecedented failure of the Law and Justice government.

“It’s obvious that Warsaw is isolated and has no allies in Europe,” the daily said in an acerbic editorial.

Gazeta Wyborcza meanwhile observed that “the open war against the EU will have detrimental consequences for Poland”, particularly in terms of the future EU budget and regional policy.

“If (PiS party leader Jaroslaw) Kaczynski forces the government to get angry with the EU, it’s not the EU that will lose but Poland,” it said.

Radoslaw Sikorski, a former Polish foreign minister, called Poland’s failure in Brussels the “political Waterloo”, evoking the crushing defeat of its rightwing government.

But according to the nationalist news website, Tusk’s re-election demonstrates that the EU is “in Germany’s sphere of influence.”

“It (Tusk’s re-election) is an element of German domination in Europe”, the site said in an editorial echoing earlier comments by Kaczynski and Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski.

“Poland finally has a diplomatic policy and a prime minister that work in the national interest, without humbly waiting for praise” from others.


Poland’s Kaczynski says EU on path toward disintegration

By Marcin Goettig and Agnieszka Barteczko | WARSAW

Poland warned fellow European Union leaders on Thursday that their decision to reappoint former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk to chair their summits was a step toward disintegration of the 28-member bloc.

Tusk, a centrist, won his second 30-month term as president of the European Council of EU leaders on Thursday with the backing of all EU member states but Poland.

Warsaw’s ruling conservatives, long at loggerheads with Tusk’s centrists, had argued the 59-year-old Pole was unfit for the job because of his criticism of their government.

The Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the wide backing for Tusk – even from Poland’s allies in central Europe – was a result of pressure from the German government.

“The (EU) is an organization dominated by one country. We cannot hide this, this country is Germany,” Kaczynski told reporters in Warsaw.

“(The EU) is dominated so extensively that the pressure on individual politicians is huge,” he said.

“If the EU does not abandon this road, it will be consigned to history.”

Since ousting Tusk’s centrists from power in 2015, Poland’s conservatives have faced accusations of authoritarian tendencies over their efforts to exert more control over state institutions.

Their relationship with Germany, Poland’s biggest neighbor to the West and its main trade partner, appeared to improve over the last year, however, compared to its frostiness when Kaczynski’s PiS party last ruled Poland in 2005-07.

The PiS is mindful of the broad support for the European Union among Polish voters, driven in part by generous EU financial aid, but it uses anti-EU and anti-German rhetoric to bolster its nationalist message at home.

Kaczynski has long said member states should be given more power within the bloc at the expense of EU institutions.

“We are steadfast supporters of the European Union,” he said on Thursday. “But it has to be an EU where it isn’t possible to appoint someone to a top-level office without the backing of the national government.”

“The rule that high-ranking officials should have the backing of their country was broken,” he told reporters.

But, he said, any talk of Poland wanting to leave the EU was “nonsense”.

(Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Andrew Roche)

EU summit showdown: Theresa May caught in diplomatic crossfire over Donald Tusk re-election

March 9, 2017

A rock and a hard place: The PM will have to choose a side in the upcoming European Council election

A rock and a hard place: The PM will have to choose whether to support Donald Tusk or the Polish government in the upcoming European Council election CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES


Theresa May was due to walk into the middle of a diplomatic showdown in Brussels later today when she attends what will almost certainly be her last European Union leader’s summit before triggering Article 50.

European leaders are locked in a fierce battle with Poland over the re-election of Donald Tusk to a second term as president of the European Council.

Poland has indicated it wants British support for a rival Polish candidate who in turn has almost no support from the other 26 member states.

The showdown – which is expected to end with Mr Tusk’s re-election by a majority vote if necessary – leaves Mrs May facing a delicate diplomatic dilemma.

Watch | Tusk: ‘the only real alternative to a hard Brexit, is no Brexit’


Either the Prime Minister ignores Polish demands for support and risks upsetting a potentially key ally for Britain in the coming Brexit talks, or she backs the Polish candidate and isolates Britain from major powers like France and Germany who openly support Mr Tusk’s reappointment.

Francois Hollande said this week that he would not participate in the “eviction” of Mr Tusk who is a former Polish prime minister and arch-enemy of the current Polish ruling party who accuse him of bias against states with Eurosceptic governments.

Last January Witold Waszczykowski, the Polish foreign minister, called Mr Tusk an “icon of evil and stupidity” after he sent out a New Year’s Eve tweet wished his followers a “fatherland free of evil and stupidity” – a reference to the current Polish government.

Watch | Juncker: UK won’t get a cut-price Brexit


Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, said on Wednesday that Mr Tusk was “totally unacceptable” for Poland, accusing him of “breaking the basic EU rules, the rules of neutrality toward internal matters of member nations.”

Poland also sent a letter to all EU leaders, including Mrs May, demanding that Mr Tusk not be re-appointed. European diplomatic sources said that a compromise over Mr Tusk’s candidacy was out of the question since it would hand a political victory to Mr Kaczynski, a hardline conservative whose party is under official review by the European Commission for allegedly undemocratic policies.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, is facing opposition to his re-election from his home country of Poland
Donald Tusk, the European Council president, is facing opposition to his re-election from his home country of Poland  CREDIT: EPA

“There is no way, now that he has picked a fight, that Kaczynski can be allowed to win this,” the source said. “The member states won’t stand for it and if Britain has any sense, it will back Tusk. To do otherwise would be seen as a major parting of the ways before Brexit talks begin.”

In a clear sign that Europe had no intention of allowing Poland to hijack the process, Malta, who currently hold the rotating EU presidency, announced that the Polish candidate – a little known MEP named Jacek Saryusz-Wolski – was not being invited to attend the quarterly Brussels summit.

Senior UK diplomats played down the significance of the row for Mrs May. Downing Street refused to reveal the UK’s voting intention before the summit, adding only that: “The Prime Minister has been clear that she thinks that he (Mr Tusk) is doing a good job.”

Donald Tusk meets Mrs May in Downing Street in September 2016
Donald Tusk meets Mrs May in Downing Street in September 2016 CREDIT: PA

EU sources indicated that, in the best traditions of European political managements, ways could be found to avoid embarrassing Mrs May directly, perhaps by only seeking enough votes to make clear that Mr Tusk had the required majority.

“Once Tusk has enough votes, the contest can be declared over – that way states like the UK and Hungary who want to avoid making explicit choices don’t need to show their hand. That way everyone saves face,” the source concluded.

Watch | Theresa May: Lonely in Brussels


With the political drama out of the way, Mrs May will use the summit to lead calls for more action to counter “Russian disinformation” and “raise the visibility” of Western commitment in the Western Balkans, where Moscow faces allegations of helping to plot a coup attempt in Montenegro.

Officials said she will also back stronger EU action to deal with an expected rise in refugees and African migrants trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean as the weather improves.


Poland’s Donald Tusk May Have To Fight To Remain European Council President — Poland’s right-wing government desperately tries to block him

March 9, 2017


© AFP/File / by Danny KEMP | Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk is a football-loving self-confessed “hooligan” who has gradually won the respect of EU leaders as president of the council
BRUSSELS (AFP) – Once a self-confessed football “hooligan”, Poland’s Donald Tusk now faces a fight with his own country to remain European Council president.The 59-year-old former Polish premier took the top Brussels job in 2014, symbolising the former Soviet-ruled east’s rise to the heart of the new Europe.

A native of the port city of Gdansk where the Solidarity anti-communist trade union was born, he had to learn English from scratch when he took up the EU post.

His learning curve in the job was equally steep but he has gradually won the approval of EU leaders for his handling of crises ranging from migration to Greece to Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

Tusk’s job if he wins a second term as head of the European Council, which brings together the EU leaders, will be to maintain unity as they prepare for tough Brexit negotiations.

But ironically his own candidacy is proving a fresh cause for disunity, as Poland’s right-wing government desperately tries to block him.

The fact that his bitter enmity with Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party during his seven years as premier is now spilling onto the international stage has alarmed EU leaders.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and Europe’s most powerful leader, said it would be a “sign of stability” if he is re-elected at a summit on Thursday.

– ‘Only salt and vinegar’ –

With his direct manner and piercing blue eyes, Tusk was a contrast to his haiku-writing, consensus-building Belgian predecessor Herman Van Rompuy when he took office two and a half years ago.

But he initially seemed unwilling to get his hands dirty.

“In the first year you could realise how difficult it was for him. He did not really want to get involved in the Greek crisis,” analyst Janis Emmanouilidis told AFP.

“But eventually he had to take things in his hands. At the Euro summit in July 2015 he forced all sides to find a compromise and participated to prevent the worst.”

Since then, Tusk has won a reputation for plain speaking with a penchant for colourful and sometimes apocalyptic warnings about the existential crisis that Europe faces.

Of Brexit he warned for example that “there will be no cakes on the table for anyone, there will be only salt and vinegar.”

He has since taken a tough stance on Russia in particular, and also on migration, arguing for tougher control of the EU’s borders.

“In the refugee crisis he supported very fast the security faction and not the solidarity camp led by Chancellor Merkel. That annoyed Merkel,” Emmanouilidis said.

“But in the end Tusk backed the right horse, because Merkel had to recalibrate her policy.”

– ‘Cruising for a bruising’ –

Tusk’s roots as a fighter go back to his upbringing in Gdansk on the Baltic Sea.

“As a child, as a young man, I was a typical hooligan… We would roam the streets, you know, cruising for a bruising” after fights or football matches, he told the Financial Times in 2014.

Football has continued to be an obsession, with Tusk able to recite football results from major tournaments held decades ago off the top of his head.

Gdansk later became the cradle of the Solidarity movement and it was here that Tusk forged his credentials as something of a Cold War warrior.

First a trade unionist and journalist and historian, he became involved in liberal politics.

He took power in 2007 from the ultra-conservative Kaczynski twins until he left for Brussels.

He is married to historian Malgorzata Tusk and has two adult children, one of whom is a well-known fashion blogger in Poland.

But Tusk remains a hate figure for the Law and Justice party that the Kaczynskis founded, and from which Prime Minister Beata Szydlo hails.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski remains a bitter enemy, accusing Tusk of having “moral responsibility” for the death of his brother Lech, the then-president, in an air crash in Russia in 2010.


by Danny KEMP