15th Nov 2018

New Polish leader vows to take pro-EU course

Just days before being sworn in as Poland's prime minister, Donald Tusk has outlined his cabinet's priorities: to improve problematic relations with other EU countries; to adopt the euro in 2012-2013; as well as to re-examine the US plan to place an anti-missile shield in Poland.

After outgoing prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski stepped down on Tuesday (6 November), Mr Tusk said he was set to place Poland back in the European mainstream.

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In addition, special attention will be paid to Polish-German relations.

"We will try to base our relations on a greater level of trust", Mr Tusk, the leader of the pro-business and pro-European Civic Platform (PO), said, according to Thomson Financial, adding he aims at "as good a level as they were in the 1990s".

The outgoing government, led by Mr Kaczynski' conservative Law and Justice party (PiS), had earned itself the reputation of a trouble-maker, often choosing isolation on European issues.

It blocked talks on a new EU partnership agreement with Moscow in 2005 and revived WWII rhetoric during the negotiations on the new EU treaty.

However, Polish-German ties will still be tested over plans by Russian gas giant Gazprom and German firms BASF and E.ON to build a pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea - something that should connect Russia and Germany, but bypass the traditional transit countries such as the Baltic states and Poland.

The Polish leading-in-waiting has expressed confidence that the plan will be examined once again in Berlin and Moscow.

According to Reuters, he said "this initiative, this project, has not been prepared well...I hope and I hear some signals that in the nearest future the sponsors of the project would be ready to seriously correct it".

Ties with Washington and the euro

Poland's new pro-European course may come at a price for the country's ties with Washington. Mr Tusk has indicated he will consult his EU counterparts before agreeing to the US plan to place an anti-missile shield in Poland.

"If we decide, jointly in talks with our partners in the European Union and NATO partners, that this isn't an unambiguous project, then we are definitely going to think it over", he was cited as saying by AP.

The statement was the first signal of a different approach compared to the one adopted by outgoing prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski as well as his twin brother, president Lech Kaczysnki.

"I am perhaps more sceptical, and the president a more declared supporter of missile defence", Mr Tusk said, AP reports, adding however that he is "almost certain that we will reach a common position on the issue".

In addition, Poland's prime minister elect has reiterated his plans to withdraw 900 Polish soldiers stationed in Iraq next year - a mission that he described as a burden to the country's budget.

"We will look, in consultation with our most important ally, the US, at a re-conception of our presence in Iraq. Our goal, however, is to end the army's mission in Iraq in 2008", Mr Tusk was cited as saying by Thomson Financial.

Speaking about the euro, he has vowed to prepare his country for "as fast as possible" decision on joining the euro, cautiously setting the target for 2012-2013.

"This caution is aimed at avoiding a potential rise in prices after adoption. If my government is to take a decision, we will accompany this decision with very precisely prepared simulations", he added.

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