March 9, 2017 / 9:41 PM / 3 years ago

Poland's Kaczynski says EU on path towards disintegration

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland warned fellow European Union leaders on Thursday that their decision to reappoint former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk to chair their summits was a step towards disintegration of the 28-member bloc.

Tusk, a centrist, won his second 30-month term as president of the European Council of EU leaders on Thursday with the backing of all EU member states but Poland.

Warsaw’s ruling conservatives, long at loggerheads with Tusk’s centrists, had argued the 59-year-old Pole was unfit for the job because of his criticism of their government.

The Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the wide backing for Tusk - even from Poland’s allies in central Europe - was a result of pressure from the German government.

“The (EU) is an organisation dominated by one country. We cannot hide this, this country is Germany,” Kaczynski told reporters in Warsaw.

“(The EU) is dominated so extensively that the pressure on individual politicians is huge,” he said.

“If the EU does not abandon this road, it will be consigned to history.”

Since ousting Tusk’s centrists from power in 2015, Poland’s conservatives have faced accusations of authoritarian tendencies over their efforts to exert more control over state institutions.

Their relationship with Germany, Poland’s biggest neighbour to the West and its main trade partner, appeared to improve over the last year, however, compared to its frostiness when Kaczynski’s PiS party last ruled Poland in 2005-07.

The PiS is mindful of the broad support for the European Union among Polish voters, driven in part by generous EU financial aid, but it uses anti-EU and anti-German rhetoric to bolster its nationalist message at home.

Kaczynski has long said member states should be given more power within the bloc at the expense of EU institutions.

“We are steadfast supporters of the European Union,” he said on Thursday. “But it has to be an EU where it isn’t possible to appoint someone to a top-level office without the backing of the national government.”

“The rule that high-ranking officials should have the backing of their country was broken,” he told reporters.

But, he said, any talk of Poland wanting to leave the EU was “nonsense”.

Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Andrew Roche

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