Before he is even given the chance to secure an alliance with other parties and form the new Polish government, Donald Tusk has already shown what he is all about: that EU money.
In a somewhat unusual move, Tusk has flown to Brussels to kickstart negotiations – informal ones – on freeing the funds.
He stated that Poland ‘must use all possible methods’ to access the frozen European Union money, as he tries to work out the issues between Warsaw and the EU that have led to the cash being withheld.
Tusk is expected to become Poland’s next prime minister because a group of pro-European Union parties secured a majority in the mid October election.
“‘I am here as the leader of the opposition, not as the prime minister, but time is passing’, he told a televised news conference. ‘I had to take this initiative before final decisions were made, because all methods, including non-standard ones, had to be used to save the money that Poland deserves’.
At stake is Poland’s access to 35.4 billion euros ($37.41 billion) in grants and loans from the EU’s recovery fund. EU concerns over the Polish judicial reforms are also blocking Warsaw’s access to 76.5 billion euros of ‘cohesion funds’, which are meant to raise the standard of living in poorer regions of Europe.”
But the process is not so simple, and potentially long. President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the current Law and Justice (PiS) administration, will task them first with forming a government, since it was the most voted party.
While PiS came first in the election, they are unlikely to find a partner with enough seats to form a coalition government.
President Duda has nonetheless previously stated that the largest single party would get the first attempt at forming a government.
Tusk and a delegation from his Civic Coalition (KO) grouping met Duda this week.
“‘After meeting President Duda, I have reasons to be cautiously optimistic’, Tusk told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. ‘Everything indicates that cooperation should be as harmonious as possible’.
‘He assured us that he would respect the election results, that if it was confirmed that the opposition had a majority, he would not hesitate and would give it the mission of forming a government’.”
The three parties allied to Tusk have all ruled out working with PiS, and have urged Duda to give Tusk the job of forming a government right away.
But before any of that transpires, he went to ‘kiss the ring’ of European Commissioner Ursula Von der Leyen.
“‘I am here (today) at the headquarters of the European Commission to speed up the process of returning back to the European stage. We are fully convinced that this is the will of Polish voters’, the Polish opposition leader said on Wednesday morning.
‘The whole world has seen that democracy, the rule of law (and) freedom are back in fashion, and Poles contributed to it’.”
Tusk’s Civic Platform (KO), together with two other opposition parties, won more than 54% of the votes and secured a majority of 248 seats in Parliament.
Now, Brussels hopes relations will greatly improve over the eight years of conservative, Eurosceptic PiS-led governments.
“‘I am really proud of my compatriots. They have proved that the anti-democratic and anti-European mood doesn’t have to be a trend, that it’s just seasonal turbulence, I hope’, Tusk said, standing next to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. ‘We all have proved to ourselves, but also to the world, that if you believe in change, if you make an effort, it will pay off. And it did’.
Von der Leyen celebrated the ‘record turnout’ of the Polish elections – over 74%, the highest level registered since the fall of communism – as proof that ‘Poles are strongly attached to democracy’.”
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