How do you read the effort of the Polish government to unseat EUCO President Donald Tusk? Is this more or less an internal issue for Jaroslaw Kaczynski to show he fights Tusk (and Brussels) or do you see also other motives? Read few comments.
Marcin Zaborowski, Former Executive Director, Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM)
The motivation is here strictly personal and it’s main driver is revenge – the chairman of Law and Justice would do anything to hurt Donald Tusk’s political fortune even if that means that his government would gain a reputation for pettiness
Dariusz Kalan, Analyst of International Affairs, Freelance Journalist
As for the government’s attempts to block Tusk, I see nothing but personal revenge, which is – quite clumsily – presented as a fight for Polish interests by the government. However, as I have no doubts PiS will do everything to unseat Kaczyński’s top nemesis, I must admit I’m not able to clearly comment on their move with Jacek Saryusz-Wolski. He is one of the most respected, well-prepared and politically moderate Polish MEP’s, so noone can accuse PiS of promoting some loyal apparatchik. Unusually, his candidature was submitted very late, so either PiS knows something we don’t know yet (for instance that support for Tusk isn’t so high as expected), or they simply consciously keep the suicidal track due to satisfy Kaczyński. I don’t know the answer for that, nor do I know why Saryusz-Wolski decided to join this game. The newest rumour is that Viktor Orban agreed to support Saryusz-Wolski.
The move was tricky, though, from the domestic perspective, which, as you know, is what really matters for PiS. If the main goal is to get rid of Tusk from both international and domestic scene, Kaczyński might succeed. To elect a head of the European Council without support of the candidate’s home-country, would be a dangerous precedence, I’m not sure the MS’s will go for that when anti-establishment moods dominate the scene. Domestically, the government’s narrative is that Saryusz-Wolski is the only one Polish candidate for the post, and all other are treated as his competitors. Tusk is presented as a German puppet and a traitor by government-friendly media and Kaczyński himself, who called him a “German candidate”. It’d be hard for him to come back to the country after a hate campaign of that level.
Konrad Hyży, Analyst, Project
Briefly, the move pulled off by the Polish government (meaning Jarosław Kaczyński) is deeply personal. After the Smolensk plane crash in 2010 Kaczynski blames Tusk personally and says he has a ‘moral responsibility’ for the death of his twin brother. During the last few months the little sneak-peaks on the stand of Polish government were issued to the press. Most of them indicated that Poland will not support the candidature of Tusk in the upcoming elections. What was the most surprising, though, was presenting Jacek Saryusz-Wolski as a contra-candidate. He is broadly perceived as a godfather of Poland’s membership in the EU, yet he never played any real role in the European institutions. It’s a last call for him (he’s 68 years old) to get the serious job and be remembered as someone important.
On the other hand, Kaczyński wants to show that he is completely resistant to the EU all the time. He wanted to play V4 against Brussels- with little effect so far. In my opinion it’s his major failure in the field of European policy.
Playing against Tusk has become a huge gambit- following the personal animosities whole Europe started to talk about it. I believe Kaczyński will lose greatly on that. Although, Angela Merkel started to indicate lately that she will need support of Poland during her plans to reform the EU. It can be a factor which encouraged Kaczyński to play the big game last week.
Aleks Szczerbiak, Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies, University of Sussex
The Polish government’s efforts are, indeed, primarily about domestic politics. The government does not believe that Donald Tusk has represented Polish interests effectively and argue that he has used his position as a platform to intervene in national political debates in order to undermine the ruling party; possibly with a view to returning to the political arena himself when his second term (if he gets one) expires in 2019 (the next presidential election is in 2020).
However, it is obviously much easier for the government to oppose a Polish nominee for a senior EU post (however little actual power it may have) if it can also propose an alternative, hence Jacek Saryusz-Wolski’s nomination. And Saryusz-Wolski is a serious EU political heavyweight with vast knowledge and experience of the Union’s institutions having both represented the Polish government in EU negotiations for many years and been a long-standing and senior MEP. (He was also rector of the College of Europe’s Warsaw Natolin campus.) Although he has virtually no chance of securing election to the post, Saryusz-Wolski’s defection is a propaganda could for Law and Justice, and he is a strong possible candidate for foreign minister or Polish EU Commissioner in the future.