PM leading Poland towards Polexit opposition claims

During a parliamentary debate on Wednesday, Morawiecki had defended the decision to veto the budget, explaining it protected Poland from unequal treatment. Rafał Guz/PAP

Opposition politicians have accused the Polish prime minister of leading Poland towards “Polexit” and trading Polish security for his own political survival.

The accusations followed in the wake of a decision by the government to veto, along with Hungary, the EU’s budget for the next seven years owing to a clause that linked funding to upholding the principles of rule of law.

Included in the planned budget is a recovery fund to help EU countries battered by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The prime minister is trading the security of Poland and the funds for the recovery of the Polish economy and the money that will help develop Poland for his own political security and survival in the United Right camp," Borys Budka leader of the centrist and pro-European Civic Platform (PO), the main opposition party, told PAP.

"Morawiecki may go down in history like (British Prime Minister David) Cameron who perhaps unintentionally started the Brexit process, and likewise Morawiecki, by vetoing the budget, may start the Polexit process," he added.

Earlier, during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday, Morawiecki had defended the decision to veto the budget, explaining it protected Poland from unequal treatment.

The prime minister told the Sejm (lower house) that the EU could eventually "collapse" if it adopts a mechanism that would allow countries to be punished by bureaucrats in Brussels, based on their own interpretation of new rules.

"We say a loud 'yes' to the EU; however, we are saying a loud 'no' to mechanisms that allow for unequal treatment of Poland and other countries," Morawiecki told MPs.

He said that the EU should observe values such as the equality of all states before the law and respect for treaties, rather than create regulations "that de facto circumvent treaties."

The prime minister’s defence of the veto failed to quell speculation in opposition ranks that his hard line on the budget was prompted by a desire to ease tensions between Law and Justice (PiS) and its junior partners in the country’s United Right ruling bloc.

Budka told PAP that the prime minister "has been humiliated by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and started using his rhetoric: an anti-European rhetoric, a rhetoric of falsehood, and most of all a rhetoric that is contrary to our national interest," adding that "observing the rule of law is the duty of every government and of every citizen."

Ziobro is the leader of Solidary Poland, the right-wing ally of the ruling conservative party, the Law and Justice. Together with a third more liberal ally, the three partners make up the United Right coalition.

The justice minister recently said that if Morawiecki failed to veto the EU budget, this would mean "a total loss of trust in the prime minister with all its consequences."

Dariusz Wieczorek, secretary of the Left's parliamentary caucus, told PAP that the prime minister's speech was "very emotional, unequivocal and harsh."

"The truth is that it smelled of a Polexit,” he said. “I have the impression that in PiS there is some sort of approval for Poland leaving the European Union," he said.

He also said that Cameron had been "playing with the European Union" and that "it ended as it ended."

"It looks very bad and perhaps Polish diplomats will still have discussions on how to solve the problem because if Poland does veto the EU budget, I have the impression that we will not only lose out as a country, as society, but all EU countries will lose out as well," he added.

Milosz Motyka, spokesperson for the pro-agrarian Polish People's Party (PSL), said that "Morawiecki is a hostage” of the justice minister.

"Prime Minister Morawiecki was either cheated in July, or he did not realise what he had negotiated, as it was in July that he said that the budget was good for Poland and he was in fact an opponent of the veto option," he said.

EU leaders at a meeting in July agreed to tie the rule-of-law conditions to the EU budget payouts.

Jakub Kulesza, leader of the far-right Confederation parliamentary caucus, said Morawiecki was "lying to citizens (...) that Poland's veto will have any effect on the mechanism of tying European funds to the so-called rule of law."

"The prime minister agreed to this mechanism in July, he signed the conclusions of the EU summit,” he said. “We were saying at that time that it was a betrayal of Poland and it would have negative consequences for Poland."

PiS MP Marek Ast praised Morawiecki's speech, saying the prime minister had presented "a rationale that cannot be undermined."