PM Tusk Vows to Make Poland a Leader in Europe, Backs Ukraine 

WARSAW — New Prime Minister Donald Tusk set out a pro-European Union vision for Poland and pledged strong support for Ukraine on Tuesday, a day after his appointment ended eight years of nationalist rule that soured relations with the EU.  

Presenting his government’s plans to parliament, Tusk said Poland would be a loyal ally of the United States and a committed member of NATO, and signaled his determination to mend Warsaw’s ties with Brussels after years of feuding over issues ranging from judicial independence to LGBT rights.  

“Poland will regain its position as a leader in the European Union… Poland will build its strength, the position it deserves,” said Tusk, later promising to “bring back billions of euros” from Brussels. 

The European Commission, the EU executive, put significant funds earmarked for Poland on hold when the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party was in power because of concerns over the rule of law. 

Poland has gained approval to access $5.5 billion in advance payments as part of an EU program to encourage a shift from Russian fossil fuels. 

But the rest of a total of $64 billion  in green transition and COVID-19 recovery funds is frozen until Warsaw rolls back a judicial overhaul implemented by PiS which critics say undermined the independence of the courts. 

Despite his pro-EU line, Tusk, who was also prime minister form 2007 to 2014, said he would oppose any changes of EU treaties that would disadvantage Poland.  

“Any attempts to change treaties that are against our interests are out of the question … no one will outplay me in the European Union,” said Tusk, a former president of the European Council, which groups the leaders of EU member states. 

Tusk, 66, also promised his government would make defense a priority and honor previously signed arms contracts. 

PiS came first in an Oct. 15 election and had the first shot at forming a government, but lacked the necessary majority to do so after all other parties ruled out working with it. 

Tusk is expected to win a vote of confidence later on Tuesday, enabling his government to be sworn in by President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday morning. 

But, in a post on X, PiS lawmaker Mariusz Blaszczak called Tusk’s speech a “festival of lies,” criticized it for lacking specific policy details and said: “This is a bad time for Poland.” 

The final months of Mateusz Morawiecki’s PiS government were marked by a souring of relations with Kyiv, mainly over Warsaw’s extension of a ban on Ukrainian grain imports. 

With concerns growing in Kyiv about its Western allies’ commitment to funding its defense against Russia’s invasion, Tusk said Poland would advocate for continued support. 

“We will … loudly and decisively demand the full mobilization of the free world, the Western world, to help Ukraine in this war,” he said. 

Ukraine also faces the possibility that Hungary will not give the green light for it to start EU accession talks at a Brussels summit this week. 

Ties between Warsaw and Kyiv have been strained by a protest by Polish truckers who have blocked some border crossings in a dispute over Ukrainian trucking firms’ access to the EU. 

Tusk said he would quickly resolve issues behind the protest, and that Poland would ensure its eastern border — an external border of the EU — is secure. 

Poland has accused Belarus of orchestrating a migrant crisis on their mutual border. But human rights activists have accused Poland of mistreating migrants, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, who have sought access from Belarus. 

“You can protect the Polish border and be humane at the same time,” Tusk said. 

He said that after he returned from this week’s EU summit he would meet the leaders of the Baltic states in Estonia to discuss the Ukraine war and safe borders. 

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