Good relations with Ukraine an existential issue for Poland, Tusk says
Donald Tusk, leader of Poland's main opposition party, Civic Platform (PO), has criticised the government's policy towards Ukraine, claiming that good relations with Kyiv are "an existential issue" for Poland.
Polish-Ukrainian relations came under strain earlier this month when Poland decided to uphold an embargo on some Ukrainian agri-products due to concerns that a glut of imports from its eastern neighbour could damage Polish farming.
Talking to private TV channel TVN24 on Friday, Tusk argued that Ukraine is "an absolutely key partner" for Poland.
"Good relations and support for Ukraine, Ukraine's independence, its presence in the defence and European community are perhaps an existential issue for us, our to be or not to be," he said.
Tusk admitted at the same time that "sometimes one has to be assertive" towards Ukraine, but added that Law and Justice (PiS), the governing party, should have talked "as partners" with the Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, from the very beginning.
While praising Poland's spontaneous support for its eastern neighbour, he said that despite accepting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, "the PiS government did not organise any infrastructure - health clinics or schools" for them.
"From the very start we should have seriously considered what we can afford when it comes to helping Ukrainian refugees," Tusk said.
In his opinion, it was necessary to help Ukraine, "but at the same time be sensitive about what is in Poland's interest and what is not."
Referring to the grain dispute, he said that PiS "in no way has protected Polish farmers." Tusk claimed that in order to win votes in the October 15 general elections it "started a surprising dispute with Ukraine at a time when the fate of the war may be being decided."
"There is no alternative to a pro-Ukrainian policy, but there must be measures that protect Polish interests in this policy... however, under no circumstances can we afford a sudden change of tack," he argued.