Wednesday, 07 April 2021 14:52

Kaczynski warns of threat to Polish coalition from EU recovery fund vote

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. Photograph: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images


Poland’s ruling conservative-nationalist coalition could collapse if its members fail to ratify the EU’s coronavirus recovery package, the country’s de facto leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has warned.

The EU last year set up a €750 billion fund to help member states cope with the economic ravages of the pandemic, but before the money can be disbursed, all member states have to ratify an expansion of the EU’s “own resources” which will be used to finance the fund.

Poland’s parliament is due to vote this month on the “own resources” expansion, increasing the EU’s ability to issue debt. However, United Poland, one of the junior groups in the three-party coalition led by Mr Kaczynski’s Law and Justice (PiS), has said it will not back the proposal.

Mr Kaczynski said that would mean the government losing the vote on the “own resources” increase – in effect blocking the recovery fund for the whole EU – and the coalition would not survive.

“Objections leading to defeats are dangerous. And you have to draw conclusions from them,” he said in an interview with Gazeta Polska, a rightwing newspaper.

“In the longer term, such testing of the coalition’s patience by our allies could prove an unsuccessful experiment ... The leaders of both our coalition partners are members of the government and should know very well that such outbursts simply make governing harder and maybe in future will paralyse it.”

The coalition has a majority of just three, so if United Poland’s 19 MPs refuse to back down, the government will need to rely on opposition votes to pass ratification.

Tensions

The biggest opposition grouping, Civic Coalition, has also said it could vote against the bill if the government does not provide guarantees the money Poland receives from the EU will be spent in a just and transparent way.

However, politicians from the leftwing grouping, the Left, have indicated they are more likely to vote in favour. Support from the Left’s 48 MPs would be enough to ensure the bill’s passage.

Mr Kaczynski’s salvo is the latest manifestation of the tensions in Poland’s ruling camp, which have become increasingly evident over the past year.

United Poland politicians say they will not back the increase in the EU’s own resources because they are opposed to the idea that member states should jointly repay the money borrowed to finance the recovery fund, and because they reject plans to tie access to funds to the rule of law.

However, the move is also widely seen as an attempt by United Poland to stake out a position to the right of PiS ahead of elections in 2023, as well as the latest instalment in a bitter power struggle between United Poland leader Zbigniew Ziobro and prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who backs the EU’s recovery package.

Mr Kaczynski, widely regarded as Poland’s de facto leader though nominally only deputy prime minister, said Mr Morawiecki still had his “support and trust” despite the tensions, adding that if that were not the case, Mr Morawiecki would not be prime minister.

However, Mr Kaczynski added that it was possible that in future “my voice won’t have such significance”. Asked by Gazeta Polska what this meant, he replied: “Only the commonly known truth that in politics anything can happen.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021