Defiant Kaczynski says Poland must avoid EU’s ‘social diseases’

Leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczynski speaks after the ceremony of the unveiling of a monument to the victims of the plane crash among the ceremonies commemorating the eighth anniversary of the presidential plane crash near Smolensk at the Pilsudski Square in Warsaw, Poland, 10 April 2018. [EPA-EFE/Jacek Turczyk]

Poland belongs in the European Union but should be careful not to be “infected by social diseases” that dominate the bloc, ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński said on Sunday (2 September).

Speaking at a party convention ahead of local elections in October, Poland’s most influential decision-maker laid out the broad campaign priorities of the PiS.

He defended his party’s democratic record and accused critics of serving “powerful interests and making deals with the mighty of the world”, in an apparent jab at the close ties between the liberal opposition in Poland and Brussels.

“I had said we would face an uphill battle and that stones would be thrown,” Kaczyński said.

“We are being attacked internally and from the outside … in ways that discount the reality and aim to demean … Poland,” he said.

“It’s easy to serve the interests of the most powerful. If you want to serve the society, the nation, it’s much more difficult.”

Tusk denounces Polish witch hunt

European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday (3 August) said he was being targeted in a Polish probe into the 2010 jet crash in Russia that killed Poland’s then president and 95 others, following a marathon eight hours of questioning by prosecutors in Warsaw.

Avoiding “the mistakes of the West”

While underlining the need for Poland to remain inside the bloc, his party says the EU is forcing member states to conform to standards that contravene Poland’s traditional family values.

On Sunday, Kaczyński said EU membership was “the shortest way for Poland to achieve parity when it comes to living standards” with its western allies.

“But that doesn’t mean we should repeat the mistakes of the West and become infected with social diseases that dominate there,” he added.

The 69-year-old member of parliament has masterminded the country’s turn towards euroscepticism, traditional social values and protectionist economic policy.

Under Kaczyński’s leadership, Poland has grown increasingly isolated within the European Union, with the PiS government accused by opponents of a tilt towards authoritarianism.

Commission starts procedure against Poland over Supreme Court overhaul

The European Commission formally notified Poland on Monday (July 2) that it had initiated infringement proceedings against the country because of the controversial Supreme Court Act, but gave the Polish authorities one month to answer.

PiS popularity high ahead of elections

Despite the criticism, PiS remains largely popular in Poland, ahead of the local elections, a European Parliament vote in May and a general ballot due late in 2019.

A strong result in the local elections would give PiS a better foothold in regional government and more say in how public funds are spent ahead of next year’s general election.

Kaczyński has been largely absent from the public eye in recent months, following knee surgery in May that kept him in hospital for weeks, fuelling speculation of tensions within PiS over who could succeed him at the party’s helm.

Poland faces turbulent months at home and in EU

Will the European Union continue to allow the Polish government to deceive it over violations of the rule of law? Will the opposition manage to consolidate? Will Jarosław Kaczyński return to Polish politics? The fate of Polish democracy could be decided over the coming months. EURACTIV’S media partner Gazeta Wyborcza reports.

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