Under-pressure Polish prime minister talks tough on Europe

Donald Tusk has warned EU leaders to deliver practical solutions to urgent problems

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk: criticised those who want to reduce Europe to “an exclusive club”. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/Reuters

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk: criticised those who want to reduce Europe to “an exclusive club”. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/Reuters

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 01:00


Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has warned EU leaders to set aside their dreams of a utopian Europe and instead deliver practical solutions to urgent problems.

Mr Tusk’s remarks to an audience in Warsaw yesterday, including European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, come amid growing challenges to his authority at home after seven years in power. The EU was a place of “peace and compromise” for many, said Mr Tusk, but one “where solidarity is an oft-stated if less-often practised principle”.

“Some want the big leap . . . to create quickly a unified European state . . . their good intentions . . . could lead to Europeans turning away for good from the European idea,” he said.


‘Exclusive club’
Mr Tusk also criticised those who want to reduce Europe to “an exclusive club” – an apparent nod to euro zone members. He called on EU citizens to “take responsibility for the Europe that we know, not the one we dream of”.

Mr Tusk’s remarks come days after he said Poles were unlikely to swap the zloty for the euro before the decade’s end – five months after a proposing a referendum on the matter. Some in Warsaw have attributed his tough talking on Europe as a reaction to domestic political difficulties.

After seven years of pragmatic political, and opinion poll, leadership, Mr Tusk’s ruling centrist Civic Platform (PO) has fallen behind the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party of Jaroslaw Kaczysnki.

Unrest is palpable in the PO and a leading party conservative, Jaroslaw Gowin, is to challenge the more liberal Mr Tusk for the party leadership and premiership. The result of that struggle is not due for several weeks, but already a poll of party rank-and-file gave Mr Gowin – fired as justice minister in April by Mr Tusk – an eight-point lead.

After a decade with Mr Tusk as party leader, PO conservatives say a leadership change is an essential part of regaining ground over PiS.

Already PO deputy leader Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz is facing a referendum to remove her as mayor of Warsaw. What is ostensibly a vote about serious infrastructural problems in the Polish capital is, the mayor claims, an attempt to undermine Mr Tusk, a close ally.

Two other PO mayors have been toppled in recent weeks.

Officially Mr Tusk, Poland’s only post-1989 leader to be re-elected, does not face election for a third term until 2015. He has dismissed the idea of succeeding Mr Barroso in the European Commission next year.

However, his speech in Warsaw had the distinct air of a job application.