Poland's diplomatic suicide
It does not matter if Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister, gets re-elected as the President of the EU. This week, the final nail in the coffin of Poland’s EU diplomacy has been hammered home by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).
Only the countries of the four in the Visegrad group (V4) can save the Central European candidate, along with Poland’s tarnished reputation.
It is almost impossible to explain why Poland will not support the only possible candidate from Central Europe; especially since Warsaw has made this region a pivot of its foreign policy. This move is self-contradictory and, at first sight, improbable, but nonetheless may effectively end Donald Tusk’s career as the President of the EU.
According to public opinion polls, the Polish people, who are by far the most EU-enthusiastic nation of the Visegrad group, prefer that Donald Tusk remains in his seat. But now they are starting to speculate on what else this government is capable of, while remembering the months-old announcement from Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which has just come true.
A verbal threat had been looming for many months but the general assumption was that Warsaw would not oppose the reelection if it came to a vote. What seemed to be just a diplomatic gamble before, has now become a dreadful reality.
For Kaczynski, the opportunity to damage his old political rival is more important than any loyalty he might have to the Central European alliance. Kaczynski is risking that, instead of Donald Tusk, the EU may choose someone indifferent to the special interests shared by the Visegrad Group.
So far, the V4 partners have been in favour of the current president of the European Council. All they need to do is stress that Central Europe stands firmly behind their man, and that might just save Poland from itself - for now.
Sadly, the twisted logic of Poland’s leader has revealed itself once again. Earlier he claimed that he can live with lower GDP growth as long as his ideological plan is able to be implemented.
However, the question remains on what will happen if Donald Tusk is not re-elected. Or perhaps more importantly, what he will be able to do without the domestic support of his presidency.
Europe should brace itself, because in each case the result will boost anti-EU sentiment - both in Poland and throughout the EU.
If the former becomes a reality, the initial effect will be felt by the moderate factions of the Polish political arena and society who will find themselves facing an even greater number of obstacles than at present.
Having a Polish president of the European Council is a symbolic anchor, helping everyone to believe that Poland is not all about Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Losing this post may strengthen anti-EU factions, which currently only hold a minority.
If anti-EU actors gain ground, nationalists, both in Poland and across Europe, will use the occasion to signal how the EU elites are lacking in democratic legitimacy. However false this may be, it should not be underestimated especially before the crucial elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Should the EU heads of state decide to prolong Donald Tusk mandate against the will of Polish government, they should alternatively present him as the representative of Central Europe - the V4 minus 1. Perhaps this would be the only way to save Europe from Poland’s latest dangerous stunt.
Wojciech Przybylski is editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight, a magazine on Central Europe published by Res Publica foundation in Warsaw