Incoming PM Vows to Rebuild Ties with Germany, Russia

Incoming liberal prime minister, Donald Tusk, vowed early this week to heal rifts with neighbours Germany and Russia and restore trust in Warsaw dented by the defeated conservatives.

“Poland’s priorities in its relations with its neighbours and with the EU have remained stable since 1989. The past two years did not really change these priorities but the way of doing things was not very effective in achieving Poland’s goals,” Tusk told reporters.

Tusk’s Civic Platform beat the ruling Law and Justice party of identical twins President Lech Kaczynski and prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in a snap election on Oct. 21, ending two years of conservative rule.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski resigned on Monday and Lech Kaczynski, whose presidential term runs until 2010, is set to appoint Tusk as prime minister by the end of the week.

Tusk announced he would stick to his choice of foreign minister, despite public opposition from the president. Tusk has picked Radoslaw Sikorski, who was defence minister in the previous government but was axed earlier this year after falling out with the Kaczynskis. He later jumped ship to the opposition.

“I respect the views of the president and his subjective judgement on Sikorski’s capacities. My views on his capacities are different and I’m sticking to my choice,” said Tusk.
The Kaczynskis had a reputation for quarreling with fellow leaders of the 27-nation EU – notably Germany, as the twins revived the spectre of World War II to accuse Berlin of trying to dominate Europe. The brothers argued they were simply defending Poland’s interests in the EU, which Warsaw had joined in 2004.

Tusk said mending fences with Germany would be a key goal.
“I would like relations to get back to the level that we saw in the early 1990s, when the treaties were signed and symbolic meetings took place,” he said.

He was referring to accords which fixed the Polish-German frontier, and landmark talks between then German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who was Poland’s first prime minister after the fall of communism in 1989.

“Relations between Poland and Germany don’t need a radical breakthrough, but rather an increase in mutual trust,” said Tusk, a member of Poland’s Kashubian minority over whose Baltic coast territory Poles and Germans battled for centuries.
Fellow EU leaders barely disguised their relief last month at the conservatives’ defeat, and Tusk also reaffirmed he wants to repair relations with the rest of the bloc.

“We are the most pro-European party in Poland,” he said, underlining that he is poised to meet European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso who is scheduled to visit Warsaw Thursday. Tusk said he also wanted to repair ties with Russia, pledging “an effort to build trust on both sides.”

Differences between Warsaw and Moscow have caused “more tension than necessary” over the past two years, he said.

Warsaw, for example, has held up a key EU-Russia trade deal because Moscow has banned imports of Polish meat – an embargo that the Kaczynskis said was purely political.

But Tusk said Russia should still accept that Poland has friendly ties with the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia, whose pro-Western leaders have fallen foul of Moscow.
He also signalled a change of tone in relations with the United States, reaffirming that Warsaw plans next year to pull Polish troops out of Iraq and would drive a harder bargain in talks on placing a battery of missiles in Poland as part of a planned U.S. defence shield.

“If we are to increase U.S. security, we should expect a financial contribution to increase Polish security,” he said. Tusk spoke at a conference he organized specifically for Poland’s foreign press corps, which was itself a sign of how he wants to ring the changes: neither of the Kaczynskis has ever held such an event.

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