Polish Presidential Outcome Produces Warsaw Team Bent on Better EU Ties     Print

The prospect of more cooperative relations between Poland and the rest of the EU is a widely-noted highlight of the election of the country’s new president, Bronislaw Komorowski.

His victory creates a tandem at the top of Poland’s leadership since he and Prime Minister Donald Tusk are political allies. Both are leaders of the Civic Platform, a party that stands for center-right free-market economics and warmer relations with its EU partners, particularly neighboring Germany.

Often at odds with the previous president, Tusk shares much with Komorowski: “They are pragmatists rather than ideologues, reserved not blustering, and open to the world,’’ commented Spiegel, the magazine in Germany, which welcomes the outcome. Komorowski, 58, was an anti-communist dissident, imprisoned in the crackdown on Solidarity and subsequently a prominent member of parliament.

After several years of infighting at the top, "Poles are now waiting to see if Tusk and Komorowski will use their new complete hold on power to introduce domestic reforms. The state bureaucracy has to be cleared out, the pension and health systems need to be overhauled and an economy that has been doing well despite the crisis has to be kept going."

The new political set-up in Warsaw seems to promise economic reforms that could bring Poland closer into line with the prevailing European emphasis on cutting deficits, privatizing enterprises that are still government-operated and striving to make the Polish economy conform to the standards set for the eurozone (of which Poland is not a member). The Polish currency’s value rose on news of the electoral outcome.

This emphasis shared by Komorowski and Tusk on more harmonious ties with the EU – and with Russia – probably signals a decline in Warsaw’s eagerness to position itself as a singularly close European ally of the U.S. Poland has been a strong supporter, for example, of the controversial U.S. plan for missile defenses in Europe – a plan resisted by Moscow but seen by the previous Polish president as an asset for Polish security against its eastern neighbor.

Komorowski’s election, by nearly five percentage points, seems to give the new president a strong mandate. He defeated Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late president, Lech Kaczynski, who died in the April plane crash that also killed 94 other polish officials in Russia. The twins, as a team, were strongly committed to pro-U.S. policies.

Their party, Law and Justice, often adopted staunchly nationalistic policies that were at odds with the European mainstream and espoused conservative social policies reflecting the views of the party’s power base in rural areas. It will continue to have significant political weight, but the outcome of the sudden shift in the presidency seems to reflect an evolution in the overall electoral dynamics in Poland.

European Affairs