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Expert: Incoming Polish PM Tusk can be strong ally for Estonia in Brussels

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Source: Government Office

Poland's new government can be a strong ally for Estonia in the European Union. In Poland itself, the arrival of incoming Prime Minister Donald Tusk promises to bring liberal reforms, along with changes to state institutions that have been under the influence of previous ruling party Law and Justice (PiS).

The beginning of new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk's term may lead to much change in terms of the relationship between Estonia and Poland. Cooperation with the previous Polish government was already close and that is likely to continue, Dr. Stefano Braghiroli, associate professor of European Studies at the University of Tartu's Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, told ERR.

"I think the biggest plus is that Tusk and Kallas speak the same political language. They have similar political backgrounds and that makes it easier to discuss issues where there might not be a consensus, such as support for Ukraine and security."

This way, Estonia may also have a stronger ally inside the EU. Tusk was President of the European Council for five years (2014 – 2019), so he is well known and respected in Brussels. Poland's importance in Brussels could therefore increase, especially if, under Tusk's leadership, Poland is able to resolve its differences with the EU.

"Under the previous Polish ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), Poland has been, shall we say, a patient for the European Union to keep an eye on," said Braghiroli.

The EU has long been concerned about decisions made by Law and Justice, which have undermined democratic practices in Poland and the rights of its citizens.

What Tusk's election promises is a liberal response in Poland to the illiberal policies of Law and Justice. The Polish government is once again trying to strengthen rule of law in Poland and to reduce the power of a single party over the state," Braghiroli explained.

On Wednesday for instance, the new government replaced the management and boards of state television, radio and news channels media channels. This sparked a major political row, with Law and Justice Party politicians coming to the defense of the media chiefs who have up to now been their mouthpiece. Similar disputes and reforms can be expected in Poland in the near future, as Polish society is quite divided, said Braghiroli.

"Poland is still a society where the educated urban dwellers support liberal forces, while less educated people in rural areas and eastern Poland support non-liberal parties."

Poland's president (Andrzej Duda – ed.) , a large number of the country's rural municipalities and even the judiciary are heavily under the influence of the Law and Justice party. All this means that reforms will not be made easily.

When it comes to Ukraine, Braghiroli believes Poland's support will remain strong, especially if the new government no longer seeks to exploit transnational divisions in domestic politics. However, the incoming Polish government may no longer defend Hungary in the European Union if for instance the EU were to discuss moves to restrict Hungary's voting rights or the withholding of funds again.

"I would not rule out the possibility of Poland voting against Hungary in such important votes."

Restricting Hungary's voting rights within the EU however, is highly unlikely Braghiroli stressed. However, the most important thing is that the Polish government is no longer Eurosceptic unlike their Hungarian counterparts.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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