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Donald Tusk has likened the policies of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party to “a Kremlin plan”, in a blistering attack on the political situation in his home country.
Mr Tusk served as Polish prime minister before taking up his role in Brussels as president of the European Council. Speculation has been frequent in Poland that he could return to domestic politics when his term finishes to challenge Law and Justice, the party founded by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, his bitter rival.
Mr Tusk’s intervention comes at a time when relations between Warsaw and Brussels are at a low ebb. The former prime minister listed a series of points of contention between Law and Justice and the European Commission in a tweet on Sunday.
He also drew attention to deteriorating relations between Poland and Ukraine after Kiev summoned the Polish ambassador on Saturday, escalating a dispute over exhumations being blocked of Poles killed in Ukraine during the second world war.
“Alarm! Bitter dispute with Ukraine, isolation within the European Union, departure from the rule of law and independent courts, attack on the NGO sector and free media — the strategy of [Law and Justice] or a Kremlin plan?” Mr Tusk tweeted. “Too similar to sleep peacefully.”
Mr Tusk’s tweet drew an angry response from Beata Szydlo, Poland’s prime minister, who tweeted that Mr Tusk had done “nothing for Poland” in his role as president of the European Council. “Today, using his position to attack the Polish government, he is attacking Poland,” she tweeted.
Law and Justice and Mr Tusk — who previously headed Civic Platform, which is now Poland’s biggest opposition party — have had a number of high-profile clashes this year.
In March, Ms Szydlo’s government put forward Jacek Saryusz-Wolski as a candidate for European president in a vain attempt to block Mr Tusk’s reappointment.
In July, Mr Tusk accused Law and Justice of “a denial of European values and standards” over its planned overhaul of the judiciary. The Polish government claims that the system needs reform abecause s it is inefficient and has not been purged since the collapse of communism. The opposition says the changes will erode democracy.
Polish observers said that Mr Tusk’s intervention marked his re-entry into domestic politics.
“It would be hard to imagine a more explicit entry into Polish politics than to write down in 212 characters all the allegations which the opposition has for months levelled at the PiS government,” wrote Michal Szuldrzynski, a columnist at the centre-right newspaper, Rzeczpospolita.
“Tusk must realise that he has crossed a Rubicon. As head of the European Council, he is one of the most important officials in the Union.
“From now on, all his comments about Poland will be able to be treated as the moves of a potential leader of the opposition. And it will be easier for PiS politicians to present the Union as an institution which is guided by the interests of opponents of the current government.”