17th Aug 2022

New Polish leader vows to repair EU and Russia ties

  • Polish-Russian relations have soured over meat exports (Photo: EUobserver)

Poland's prime minister elect Donald Tusk has indicated that improving relations with Russia will be among the top priorities of his cabinet, with Moscow also sending signals of hope for solving long-term disputes with Warsaw.

As official results confirmed the election victory in Poland of the Civic Platform (PO), the pro-business and pro-EU centre-right party, on Tuesday (23 October), its leader said Moscow will be one of his first destinations for a state visit, along with Washington and Brussels.

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"In fact, we may have to hurry up. Our crucial and most important task will be warming up of the Polish-Russian relations. It is crucial in the sense that it will be very difficult," Mr Tusk said, according to Polish media.

"I'm glad about the reaction in Russia to the victory of the Platform; it means such a warming up is indeed possible," he added.

Under the outgoing government led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) which came second in Sunday's poll, Warsaw in 2005 blocked talks for a new EU partnership agreement with Moscow due to a Russian embargo on Polish meat.

While Russia argues the ban was imposed on health safety grounds, Warsaw insisted it was politically motivated.

Poland threatened to veto Moscow's membership of the World Trade Organisation if the embargo continued.

Also on the list of problematic issues between Poland and Russia were plans for an undersea pipeline to bring Russian natural gas to Europe while bypassing Poland, as well as Warsaw's links with the pro-Western opposition leaders in Ukraine and Belarus.

But with the new leadership forming in Poland, some in Russia have also cautiously hinted there could be a shift in relations between the two countries.

Michail Margielow, in charge of the foreign policy committee in Russia's upper parliamentary chamber said on Tuesday that the likely upcoming normalisation of relations between Moscow and Warsaw would be beneficial for the whole EU.

He pointed out however that it will be a tough job to repair those ties. "There have been a lot of problems accumulated during Jaroslaw Kaczynski's rule and it will take time to get rid of them," the senator said, according to Polish PAP agency.

On a similar note, Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told German daily FT Deutschland: "We have signals that healthy common sense is getting the upper hand in Poland's attitude to Russia."

He added that the shift at Warsaw's helm could indeed also lead to solving of the "infamous meat quarrel", saying that it could not be resolved earlier "because in the past Poland politicised it in a fully exaggerated manner. "

"If experts deal with it, then the problem can be overcome in a very short time," Mr Chizhov said.

The EU and Russia are holding a regular bilateral summit on Friday (26 October) in the Portuguese town of Mafra where the Russian ban on Polish meat exports, as well as the future bilateral partnership agreement are set to dominate the talks.

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