Donald Tusk, the value of experience to bridge the gap between Poland and the EU

Poland is going to begin a new political era and the captain of the new ship seems to be Donald Tusk (Gdansk, 1957). That Poland that entered the European Union in 2004 could precisely get closer to Brussels in this new era, after elections that have meant a turnaround in the face-to-face between PiS, which had been in power since 2015, and Civic Platform, which flatly rejects the Eurosceptic drift shown by Mateusz Morawiecki’s Executive in recent years. Tusk was clear about his assignment, and it seems that he is willing to fulfill it and put on the table his experience both as a former prime minister and his time in the presidency of the European Council.

The Civic Platform that heads is ‘a priori’ the one who has the most options to pilot the new Government of the country, thanks to the 28 percent that have already obtained potential alliances with Tercera Vía (14%) and Nueva Izquierda (8%). It has helped the center-right coalition to be second, precisely behind PiS, to be able to build a majority, especially thanks to the support it has obtained in large cities such as Warsaw, Krakow or Gdansk itself, which saw the birth of Tusk.

The former president of the European Council was seen from the beginning by many as the figure most capable of competing in the elections against PiS, and has also been in the spotlight in recent months due to a law approved precisely by the Government (even known as the Tusk law) that sought to persecute those who had “some link with Russia” in recent years. In the case of the conservative leader the key was in his role in Brussels precisely during Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Just as PiS is an openly radical right-wing party, Civic Platform is more nuanced. Initially positioned as a Christian Democratic party with strong economically liberal tendencies, soon embraced liberal conservatism throughout the 2000salthough during their time in power they aligned themselves with more pragmatic and centrist views, and were characterized as a wild card party.

In the 2010s, The Civic Platform adopted more socially liberal policies, already approaching conservative liberalism, and since then it has positioned itself in the center and leaning towards the center-right. In 2023, party leaders stoked patriotic, anti-immigration, and anti-communist sentiments ahead of these elections. He also strongly advocates Poland’s membership in the European Union and NATO. Despite having moved further to the right in recent months precisely to get votes from Law and Justice, it is the “European hope” in this passage through the polls.

Who, after all, is Donald Tusk? For now, a person with a very extensive political career. In 1991, Tusk founded (with Jan Krzysztof Bielecki) the Liberal Democratic Congress, and it was not until 10 years later that He became one of the founders of the party that brought him to power, Civic Platform. In fact, before becoming prime minister for the first time, he tried to become president of the country, but lost the elections in 2005. However, he did manage to win the position of prime minister in 2007, where he remained until 2014.

A key figure in the recent history of the EU

After the summer of that year he had to resign when he was elected president of the European Council for the 2014-2019 legislature, which is considered the first after the economic crisis of 2008; but in that position he had to deal precisely with the recovery and with issues such as the Russian annexation of Crimea. A firm anti-communist, he also remembered those young years when the EU received, in 2017, the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord. “I feel very proud that the same award – that of Literature – is also received today by a Pole, a great poet, Adam Zagajewski,” he began by saying.

“We both participated in the Solidarity mass movement, along with millions of our compatriots. We were beaten, thrown into prison and forced into exile. But we never give up a few simple principles: that violence solves nothing“added Tusk, then making clear – again – his pro-European vocation. “During all those years, we both dreamed of a united Europe, where concord and truth prevail,” he concluded.

They beat us, threw us in prison and forced us into exile. But we never give up a few simple principles: that violence solves nothing

Tusk wanted to launch himself again into the race for power in Poland precisely to return Poland to Europeanism and the political center, since he has also been president of the European People’s Party between 2019 and 2022, when he was replaced by Manfred Weber. If a new Government is formed, will have a lot of work at a national level, but also in the EU sphere. Civic Platform will have to consolidate the ‘approval’ of the traditional PiS voting sectors, such as farmers and ranchers, especially affected by the grain crisis in Ukraine.

The youth and women’s vote have served as a boost to the center-right, but beyond that Tusk must keep an eye on rural Poland, in addition to closing the gaps not only of gender but also those related to the LGTBI community. PiS’s policies in this regard even earned it fines from the European Commission. Something similar is happening with the ecological transition: Warsaw is now paying a daily penalty for not agreeing to the closure of mines. And in the relationship with Brussels Tusk has many duties, and almost all of them important. The most important, perhaps, is related to the rule of law: the “lack of judicial independence” keeps Poland’s recovery funds blocked.

Donald Tusk will change, on the other hand, the alliances planned so far by Morawiecki. The PiS was on its way to becoming the ideological ‘de facto partner’ of Giorgia Meloni’s Italy, with a line that was both Eurosceptic and at the same time Atlanticist, which ensured support for Ukraine. Tusk will continue to side with kyiv, but in a community key he will look towards France, Germany, Spain or Portugal as allies, in a centrist bloc that can also be decisive for the distribution of positions after the European elections of 2024. Things change for Poland and they can also do so for the Union.

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