Election marks defeat for Polish Eurosceptics

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Oct. 10, 2011, 1:57 p.m. | World — by Reuters

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, center, shakes hands with a voter in front of a polling station as his wife Malgorzata, left, and daughter Katarzyna, right, look on during the parliamentary elections in Warsaw, Poland, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011.
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WARSAW - Prime Minister Donald Tusk's election victory gives a boost to Warsaw's drive to be at the heart of the European Union and is a defeat for Eurosceptics who want "to fight the whole of Europe", Poland's EU affairs minister said on Monday. Tusk's ruling, pro-European Civic Platform (PO) party won 39 percent of votes in Sunday's election, nearly complete results showed, compared with 30 percent for its main rival, the conservative, Eurosceptical Law and Justice (PiS) party.

"Jaroslaw Kaczynski lost the election precisely because he showed people he wants Poland to fight the whole of Europe and that just doesn't make sense," Mikolaj Dowgielewicz told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Kaczynski, known for his deep distrust of Germany and Russia and also his opposition to further EU integration, raised eyebrows in the election campaign by saying in a new book that German Chancellor Angela Merkel aimed to subdue Poland.

"I believe this election result is a confirmation of our foreign policy agenda," Dowgielewicz said, adding the victory also ensured continuity in Poland's presidency of the EU which runs until the end of the year.

"It means there will be no disruption in the further work of the Polish presidency and our European partners can expect stability and continuity from us in these turbulent times."

Financial markets took comfort from Tusk's win.

Since coming to power in late 2007, Tusk has sought to mend Poland's ties with Germany and the whole of the EU after they became strained under a right-wing coalition led by Kaczynski.

Tusk, who enjoys a good personal relation with Merkel, strongly backs deeper integration within the EU and believes it is the only way it can overcome the economic crisis.


Civic Platform also says joining the euro zone remains its strategic objective once the 17-nation area using the common currency overcomes its sovereign debt crisis.

Unlike Britain or Denmark, Poland and other ex-communist countries that have joined the EU since 2004 have no opt-out from joining the euro.

Kaczynski said earlier this year Poland should not join the euro zone for at least two decades, arguing it should first close the wealth gap with the richer west European countries.

In his drive to attract voters, Tusk argued that his party was best placed to defend Polish interests in looming negotiations on the EU's next multi-year budget because it seeks compromises and does not try to antagonise its partners.

"We face very difficult negotiations on the next long-term budget, but also on the EU's neighbourhood policy and the Eastern Partnership, so that's very important for Poland," Dowgielewicz said.

Poland will have received some 67 billion euros during the current EU budget period that ends in 2013 to upgrade its antiquated infrastructure, especially roads.

The influx of funds helped Poland to weather the global financial crisis of 2008-09 without going into recession.

Poland has also made forging closer ties between the EU and ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine a centrepiece of its six-month EU presidency.

It recently hosted a summit of EU and ex-Soviet leaders in Warsaw under the Eastern Partnership initiative that offers up to 1.9 billion euros in 2010-13 to Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
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