Responsibility for the 2010 plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczyński, along with 95 other people, lay with the then government of Donald Tusk, the late president’s twin brother and leader of the current ruling party said yesterday (10 April) at an event to commemorate the disaster.
The plane crash in Russia, which also killed the president’s wife, the central bank chief and several military top brass, led to bitter political divisions in Poland, after initially uniting the nation in grief.
Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and a former prime minister himself, took aim at Tusk, who is now president of the European Council which is the summit of EU leaders, saying guilt and punishment needed to be apportioned before forgiveness could be offered.
“One wanted to kill our memory, as one was afraid of it. Because someone was responsible for the tragedy, at least in moral terms, irrespectively of what were its reasons,” Kaczyński said in a speech marking the sixth anniversary of the crash.
“The former government was responsible for that. Not Ms Kopacz government of course, but Donald Tusk’s government”.
Tusk was Poland’s prime minister when the crash happened, and he was succeeded by his protégé protege, Ewa Kopacz.
A government inquiry into the crash had blamed pilot error.
But the new government, led by Kaczyński’s party, which came to power in October, has said an onboard explosion could have caused the crash.
Jaroslaw Kaczyński has long accused Tusk of being indirectly responsible for the crash, which, in his view, was at least partially a result of the government’s negligence.
Earlier in the day, President Andrzej Duda addressed thousands of Poles gathered in front of the presidency to commemorate the crash.
Duda appealed to Poles to forgive each other and reconcile over political divisions, but speaking later in the evening at the same venue, Kaczyński gave a stern response.
“Forgiveness is necessary but, but forgiveness after admitting guilt and administering proper punishment. This is what we need,” Kaczyński said.
Could Tusk be re-elected?
It is difficult to say to what extent the statements by the leader of the PiS party would impact on the chances of Tusk to be re-elected as Council President.
Tusk was elected Council President for a two-and-a-half year mandate which started on 1 December 2014. This means that his mandate expires by June 2017 and that a decision to keep him on this position or to replace him should be made by the end of this year.
The President of the European Council is elected by a qualified majority for a term of two and a half years, which is renewable once. The former Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, was the first President of the European Council between 2009 and 2012, and was then re-elected for a second term until 30 November 2014.
Although treaties say nothing on the matter, it is assumed that the candidate for President of the European Council is strongly supported by his, or hers, own country.
Polish analyst Piotr Maciej Kaczyński (unrelated to the twin brothers) recently commented that if he is unable to have his country’s support for a second term as Council President, Tusk would run for President in 2020.