WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s European future is uncertain, European Council head Donald Tusk said on Thursday amid escalating rows with Brussels over the Polish government’s tightening grip on the judiciary, environment and state media.
The ruling conservatives drive to expand their powers has led to a crisis in relations with the European Commission and sparked one of the biggest internal political conflicts since Poland overthrew communism in 1989.
“There is a question mark over Poland’s European future today,” Tusk, Poland’s prime minister until 2014, told reporters after testifying in Warsaw in a case related to the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.
“I do understand emotions of Poles who are concerned about courts, or Poland’s future in the EU.”
Tusk’s centrist Civic Platform party was in power for eight years until the Law and Justice (PiS) party, headed by Lech Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw, won the 2015 elections and swiftly moved to introduce sweeping reforms.
Although some Poles view their judiciary as corrupt and dominated by communist-era ways of thinking, others see the PiS-driven reform efforts as a power grab inimical to democracy.
“There are plenty of issues where the Polish government’s actions seem very controversial from the point of view of the whole EU. Including Budapest, sometimes,” Tusk said.
Hungary, normally Poland’s ally, voted for Tusk’s re-election to the top EU post in March, disappointing the PiS.
Tusk also criticized Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s government over the logging in the primeval Bialowieza Forest.
The European Court of Justice ordered an immediate halt to the logging last week, saying that Warsaw’s attitude in the case hinted at “a prelude to an announcement that Poland does not need the European Union and the European Union does not need Poland.”
Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Louise Ireland