Back in Poland, Tusk Blasts Government for Aiding Putin’s Agenda

Poland’s highest-ranking European official ever returned to domestic politics with guns blazing, branding the ruling party’s euroskeptic policies as a gift for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Donald Tusk, who served as president of the European Council until 2019, took the reins of the country’s biggest opposition party, Civic Platform, at the weekend after nearly seven years in Brussels. He’s pledging to reverse Poland’s drift alongside the likes of Hungary toward the European Union’s fringe.

At his first news conference Sunday, Tusk blasted the governing Law & Justice for endorsing a declaration calling for the EU to stay out of domestic issues and halt further integration. Among others, the pact was signed by former Italian deputy Premier Matteo Salvini, far-right French leader Marine Le Pen and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban -- all fans of the Russian president.

Back in Poland, Tusk Blasts Government for Aiding Putin’s Agenda

“This is another step toward Poland’s full isolation,” Tusk said. “The only person who’s popping champagne after this declaration is Putin” as Poland joined a “camp whose openly stated goal is to weaken the EU.”

Law & Justice’s spokeswoman, Anita Czerwinska, said Monday by phone that Tusk was the “last person” who should blame others for fulfilling Putin’s agenda.

Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, known for his vehement anti-Russian rhetoric, said earlier that the accord with fellow “center-right” political forces will save Europe from a cultural revolution that’s set to destroy traditional families and the continent’s Christian heritage. The EU’s executive has repeatedly sued his government for eroding the rule of law and may soon initiate disciplinary action over a crackdown on LGBTQ rights.

Law & Justice prides itself on being tough on Russia, which it blames for a 2010 jet crash that killed then-President Lech Kaczynski, the party leader’s twin brother. It’s accused Tusk, who was premier at the time, of selling out the country’s strategic interests to its historical nemeses -- Russia and Germany.

To win over voters before the next election in two years’ time, Tusk is offering a vision of Poland at peace with the EU and fully committed to ambitious climate goals. As global tensions between the U.S., China and Russia escalate, it’s better to be an integral part of a strong EU than on the margins of a weak bloc, he said.

As well as experience from the very top of European politics and personal relationships with three U.S. presidents, including Joe Biden, 64-year-old Tusk brings a different style. While the government only holds news conferences by video and mutes journalists whose questions it doesn’t want to answer, Tusk replied live in person to reporters for more than 90 minutes.

He criticized the ruling party’s fiscal-stimulus program, based mainly on EU transfers, for raising taxes on small businesses and failing to invest enough in coal-dependent Poland’s clean-energy future. He called high inflation and fast-growing public debt the economic hallmarks of Law & Justice’s rule.

Tusk’s path to potential electoral victory is far from certain. Even among opposition parties, Civic Platform has been overtaken in polls by an upstart formed by a TV celebrity.

To have a shot at beating Law & Justice, which is backed by public television and a growing batch of government-funded media outlets, he’ll need to rejuvenate his own party and create a wide coalition of Brussels-friendly politicians.

“I’m ready for all types of cooperation while respecting the autonomy and decisions” of potential “partners,” Tusk said about consolidating pro-EU forces.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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