Espreso. Global

Fiasco of Ukrainian government's 'Polish' policy

Mykola Knyazhytskyi
19 October, 2023 Thursday

On Tuesday, the Central Election Commission announced the final results of the parliamentary elections in Poland. The Law and Justice party took the first place, the Civic Coalition the second, the Third Way the third, the New Left the fourth, and the Confederation the fifth

7.5 million Poles voted for PiS, while more than 11 million voted for the three opposition forces. With a record 74.4% voter turnout, the opposition's result gave strong legitimacy to its claims to form a new government.

Political tug-of-war

Opposition leaders Donald Tusk, Szymon Hołownia and Włodzimierz Czarzasty called on President Andrzej Duda to convene the first session of the newly elected parliament as soon as possible and delegate the mission of forming a new Council of Ministers to a candidate from their coalition. Tusk is likely to be the candidate.

US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson congratulated Poles on their record turnout in the elections, emphasizing that the US "looks forward to working with the next Polish government."

The European press wrote that Brussels "breathed a sigh of relief" after the news of the Polish election results and the prospect of forming a new cabinet by Tusk. Tusk is a politician who is very well known and remembered in Europe as the head of the Polish government, the head of the European Council, and the head of the European People's Party.

Duda's entourage does not seem to want to hear these signals, as they say on the sidelines that the president will not rush. The president himself has emphasized that he will appoint a politician from the party that won the election as prime minister. This could mean that the candidate will be a representative of PiS. Its party members have already begun to say that "all is not lost" because the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, will have enough MPs to support their nominee. 

What will President Duda's decision be? We don't know yet, because he doesn't have to rush. The constitution gives the head of state 30 days from the date of the vote, that is, no later than November 15, to convene the first session of the new parliament. At the same time, the candidate for prime minister nominated by the president has 14 days to receive a vote of confidence in the Sejm. Thus, the opposition can start forming a government after December 1.

Smolensk was a catastrophe, not a terrorist attack  

I am writing about the intricacies of the Polish political and constitutional process in view of their direct relevance to Ukrainian politics and Ukrainian-Polish relations. 

Representatives of the Servant of the People party and some experts argue that it is in Ukraine's interest to keep PiS in power because it is pro-Ukrainian. Unlike Donald Tusk's party, whose position on Ukraine is still "in question," as are the approaches of other coalition parties. It is also noted that Tusk, when he was prime minister, implemented a "reset" policy in relations with Russia. So, he is almost an enemy of Ukraine.

I consider such accusations irresponsible and harmful to the interests of Ukraine and our policy towards Poland. By replicating them, government officials are pretending to be an innocent baby who has not yet done anything - neither good nor bad.

However, the Ukrainian government is definitely not a political baby. It must realize that its Polish policy has been a complete fiasco. After all, the bet on the personal relationship between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Andrzej Duda and the attempt to please Jarosław Kaczyński at all costs, completely ignoring the opposition and Tusk personally, ended in defeat. Right up to Zelenskyy's statement that the 2010 Smolensk disaster, in which President Lech Kaczyński and 95 other high-ranking officials died, was the result of a terrorist attack.

Not a single piece of evidence was found to support the version of the terrorist attack, even though PiS had been in power for 8 years and used the entire state apparatus to prove this assumption. Without a positive result. At the same time, a Polish government commission under Prime Minister Tusk determined that the Smolensk tragedy was an airplane crash, not a terrorist attack.   

Helping a Russian actor

The Ukrainian government was aware of this, just as it knew that its statement was taking sides in the internal conflict in Poland. That is, it spoke out in favor of Kaczyński and against Tusk, which also resulted in an embargo on any contacts with the opposition leader and the opposition media.

To some extent, Zelenskyy and our government can be understood, since in order to receive critical assistance from Poland during a full-scale war (especially in its first stage), it was still possible to sacrifice the truth and the requirements of a reasonable policy that dictates non-interference in the internal affairs of a neighboring country. However, historical issues, the grain crisis, and the Polish prime minister's statements about not supplying weapons to Ukraine put an end to this policy of the Ukrainian government. And Zelenskyy put a full stop to it with his words (in a speech at the UN General Assembly on September 23) about some European partners who are making a "thriller" with their actions regarding Ukrainian grain. Because they are acting together with Russia, playing in a "political theater" and "helping the Moscow actor to get on stage."

In Poland, these words were perceived very painfully. As a result, the two presidents no longer meet, and Polish officials have repeatedly threatened to block Ukraine's integration with the EU.

Who is to blame for the sharp cooling of Ukrainian-Polish relations? As the crisis was escalating, I repeatedly wrote and said that PiS politicians were to blame, because they sacrificed relations with Ukraine, which is desperately fighting Russian aggression, for the sake of additional points in the elections.

Tusk needs to be invited to Kyiv

The Ukrainian government is also to blame for the cooling of Ukrainian-Polish relations, as its unconditional reliance on PiS and neglect of the opposition created the impression that Ukrainian politics was completely dependent on PiS and the fluctuations in its political interests. And when this approach proved to be erroneous and contrary to the national interests of our country, a deep crisis arose.   

The way out of it cannot be a spell about the "pro-Ukrainian" PiS and the "anti-Ukrainian" Civic Coalition, because such a division of Polish politics is complete nonsense. Relations between states should be built as state relations, not party relations. 

The results of the Polish parliamentary elections have demonstrated that the key to ending the crisis in relations between our countries is the creation of a new government in Poland. Only it will be able to build bilateral relations from scratch. And in fact, from the "page of February 24, 2022," when Poles and Poland showed extraordinary solidarity with Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees.

We are extremely grateful to them for this. This is the foundation on which we must develop relations between our peoples and states.

I am convinced that today's Polish opposition will form a government, and Donald Tusk will lead it. Sooner or later.  

Tusk knows Ukraine very well, he is our friend, which he proved during the Revolution of Dignity, at the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war and in the process of our European integration, which was launched by the Association Agreement, the Free Trade Area and the visa-free regime between Ukraine and the EU.

The Polish media and expert community are discussing the first visits that Tusk should make as prime minister or even as the leader of a future government coalition. Among the capitals mentioned are Brussels and Kyiv.

Brussels, because Poland needs to receive EUR 30 billion from the European Economic Recovery Fund after the COVID-19 epidemic. Kyiv, because Poland needs to restore friendly relations with Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government should do the right thing and invite Donald Tusk to Kyiv, because he has such an invitation from his friends in the opposition.

About the author. Mykola Kniazhytskyi, journalist, member of the Ukrainian parliament.

The editors don't always share the opinions expressed by the authors of the blogs.

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