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02/12/2016

‘Golden political couple’ to be missed in Warsaw

Central Europe

‘Golden political couple’ to be missed in Warsaw

El?bieta Bie?kowska and Donald Tusk. Poland, 2013. [Kancelaria Prezesa Rady Ministrów]

Poles appear content to have their Prime Minister Donald Tusk elected Council President. However, as he is to be accompanied by his deputy El?bieta Bie?kowska to take a Commissioner job in Brussels, Tusk’s government seem to be entering the period of interregnum. EurActiv Poland reports.

On 3 September, Poland confirmed Deputy Prime Minister El?bieta Bie?kowska as the country’s new commissioner nominee, just days after Tusk was elected Council President at the 30-31 August summit.

The choice of a woman was not a surprise, as Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker had promised prestigious jobs for countries putting forward female commissioners. But many voices in Poland asked, “Why not Danuta Hübner?”, referring to the MEP and former Commissioner for Regional Policy (2004-2009).

Some said that Hübner was not chosen because she had already been a Commissioner. But insiders claim that Tusk wanted to keep Bie?kowska by his side.

Bie?kowska was not only Deputy Prime Minister, but also the head of a “super-ministry”, following a cabinet restructuring nine months ago. Before, she served as Minister for Regional Development, but became Minister for Infrastructure and Development, taking over the portfolio of Infrastructure (after “Watch-Gate” with ex-minister S?awomir Nowak, who left the helm of the Ministry of Transport, Construction, and Maritime Economy after failing to disclose his assets). Then, she also become Vice-Prime Minister.

After Tusk was appointed to succeed Herman Van Rompuy, well-informed people in Warsaw already knew Bie?kowska would be Poland’s candidate for the Commission. The two of them had made up an effective do in Poland, so logically they would try to replay their success in Brussels.

What was unexpected was Tusk’s decision to leave domestic politics. Until the very last minute, he was telling his closest collaborators that he had not intended to compete for EU jobs. It was also unexpected that Bie?kowska would so suddenly decide to change her circumstances, leaving behind a super-office that had been built on her behalf.

It was also unexpected that Tusk, who started his premiership with a “love policy” strategy, has abandoned Poland, taking with him his right hand, depriving the country of continuity and coherence.

According to critics, such a step is inconsistent with previously declared commitments for political responsibility. Yes, Tusk and Bie?skowska have been an effective, charismatic, trusted, respected and liked pair. Yet now they are leaving the country, to the amazement of many.

But Poland wants to make the best out of it. And thus, Tusk and Bie?kowska’s ruling party, Civic Platform, has actually jumped in popularity polls. However the successors of the golden political couple are nowhere to be seen, yet.