How will Poland react to Tusk's re-election

Following Donald Tusk's all but unanimous re-election as president of the European Council against fierce opposition from Poland, commentators ask what consequences the scandal will have for the country. While some complain that Poland's opposition is failing to capitalise on the PiS's defeat, others voice their anger at Warsaw.

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Newsweek Polska (PL) /

Opposition not seizing the moment

Unfortunately the Polish opposition is too weak to take advantage of the opportunity the PiS has provided it with, journalist Renata Grochal writes in Newsweek Polska:

“The opposition has been given a gift by the PiS. Donald Tusk's re-election as EU Council president and the fact that the PiS candidate Saryusz-Wolski didn't stand a chance should actually give it a political boost. ... However the opposition simply doesn't know how to make that clear to voters. ... The danger that Poland will be pushed even further to the sidelines within the EU under the PiS's leadership continues to be real. Because the Polish government is deliberately seeking such isolation. Perhaps this is a new topic the opposition can capitalise on.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

EU must put Eastern members in their place

La Repubblica is infuriated by Warsaw's behaviour and sees the EU at a crossroads:

“Because a confrontation with the predominantly eastern European countries that have been boycotting every attempt to move forward with continental integration for some time now is inevitable. The wonderful dream of a united Europe has sadly turned into a nightmare. We must wake up as quickly as we can, return to reality and accept that to save the project of unity we must leave behind a few of our fellow travellers. The 'Bankomat' in Brussels can no longer be available to those who don't believe in the process of transnational integration. … To those who, on the contrary, think they can denigrate the EU with impunity, with domestic policies of an increasingly fascistic nature.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Warsaw could exact bitter revenge

The debacle will have far-reaching consequences for both Poland and the EU, Die Welt fears:

“It will further divide Polish society. It will create a new space for anti-European sentiment and allow strongman Jarosław Kaczyński to intensify his anti-EU campaign. ... One feels compelled to ask the scandalous question of whether the re-election of a mediocre president was worth all the trouble. And Warsaw - as a veto power - has the means to put the European Union under pressure. The expansion of the defence union and the Brexit negotiations both require mostly unanimous decisions. The exit negotiations with London alone will require discussions about 21,000 EU rules. This will give Kaczyński plenty of leeway to settle old scores.”

Polityka (PL) /

PiS will plunge the country into ruin

Adam Szostkiewicz paints an even darker picture of the future in his blog with Polityka:

“Poland can no longer compensate for the damage that the PiS has done to its image. It has become politically insignificant within the EU. The PiS has increased the propaganda against the Union, and is preparing the Polexit. It will then pay farmers compensation for EU funds to which they are no longer entitled, thus ruining the public finances. Perhaps it will start taxing the savings in people's bank accounts. Mass protests will take place and gain momentum. Representatives of the opposition will be arrested. The independence of the judiciary will be suspended. ... And those media not controlled by the PiS will be closed.”

Heti Válasz (HU) /

Orbán deserves credit for Tusk vote

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who maintains close ties with Kaczyński and the PiS, did well to avoid getting bogged down in the swamp of Poland's domestic politics, Heti Válasz comments:

“The 27 to 1 vote means that Hungary also gave its support to Donald Tusk. This is logical to the extent that Tusk was the only candidate of the European People's Party, of which the Hungarian governing party Fidesz is also a member. Although Kaczyński and the PiS expected Orbán, their closest ally and ideological kinsman, to vote against Tusk, the Hungarian leader refused to let himself be led astray. And rightly so. ... 'We will leave this debate to the Poles', Orbán stated prior to the vote. The prime minister deserves credit for remaining steadfast: Kaczyński and the PiS simply wanted to elevate a domestic skirmish to the EU level. Not to mention the fact that Tusk has done a good job so far.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

A slap in the face for the PiS

Donald Tusk's re-election is an embarassing defeat for Poland's national-conservative ruling party PiS, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza concludes:

“This isn't just a defeat for the government but also the start of a new chapter between Brussels and the EU partners. ... The Polish government's gambit was aimed solely at getting rid of Tusk, and not at electing a better candidate. So the whole affair is a diplomatic disaster. ... Instead of diplomacy, which demands skill, contacts and compromises, Warsaw tried to deploy a tactic it's used to employing in the Sejm: forcing its opponents to their knees. But it misjudged the situation here. We should remember this the next time we hear the propaganda maintaining that Polish sovereignty is being trodden underfoot and that Poland is being dictated to by stronger forces.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A predictable disgrace

Polish government has stumbled over its own incompetence with its attempt to prevent Tusk's re-election, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments:

“Not even Hungary or Britain - countries Poland sees as its closest allies - could understand the accusations. Viktor Orbán and Theresa May denied Poland's nominee Jacek Saryusz-Wolski their vote, turning Warsaw's defeat into a slap in the face. It must be said, however, that this disgrace was predictable. In its attempt to topple Tusk, Warsaw not only reckoned without the rest of Europe, it also failed to make any serious preparations or to present a persuasive alternative. Saryusz-Wolski is a respected MEP, but he's so clearly unfit for the office of EU Council president that he failed to spark even the hint of a debate. And that despite the fact that just a few weeks ago Tusk's re-election was by no means certain, given the current party-based distribution of key EU posts.”

Delo (SI) /

Poland is burning its bridges

Poland's blackmail tactics in the case of Donald Tusk won't do the country any good in the long term, Delo predicts:

“Poland, which doesn't want to engage in a serious discussion about distributing the burden in the refugee crisis, is burning the bridges it may yet need with its actions, as Donald Tusk warned following his re-election. And the debate about the future of the European Union in which a multi-speed Europe is currently the favoured option has clearly shown why stubbornness and nationalism in one member state won't stop all the others who want more Europe. As soon as those in charge in Poland realise that they have made a mistake they will have to rebuild the bridges they have demolished.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

EU takes a huge step forward

March 9 will go down in history as a milestone in Europe's history, Der Tagespiegel comments jubilantly:

“As the day the EU remembered its capacity to act - thanks to Jarosław Kaczyński! And thanks to Donald Trump! Neither Poland's strongman nor the US president think much of the EU. Yet each, in their own way, has helped Europe take a huge step forward. The EU is changing its recipe for success. It is putting its faith in majority decisions even if they lead to major disputes. … On Thursday historic events took place. The fight was fought out. A country that tried to use blackmail tactics for domestic reasons that had nothing to do with Europe's common interests. In this case it was Poland. But this will be a lesson to others, too.”