The Irish Times view on Donald Tusk’s first 100 days: a good start

After eight years of illiberal rule, the former president of the European Council has returned to sweep away the vestiges of PiS state capture, reversing course will be difficult

One hundred days into the government of Donald Tusk, and the mood in Warsaw is changing. Poland’s rejuvenating politics are perhaps best expressed by Beethoven’s Ode to Joy rather than Chopin’s nationalist sonatas, once spoken of by Robert Schuman as “cannons concealed amid blossoms”.

After eight years’ rule by the illiberal, anti-European Law and Justice party (PiS), Tusk, a former president of the European Council, has returned to sweep away the vestiges of PiS state capture, not least of the judiciary, legal system, and media – packed with PiS loyalists – a legacy which bitterly divided the country and pitched it against fellow EU member states.

Crucially, his government has already unblocked ¤57billion from the EU’s post-Covid recovery and resilience fund which the commission had withheld for two years over violations of the EU’s rule of law standards, acknowledgment of his efforts to restore judicial independence, respect EU law and observe the Polish constitution.

But reversing course will be difficult, with legislative attempts to unpick abortion restrictions, for example, likely to be vetoed by PiS-sympathetic president Andrzej Duda.

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And replacing PiS appointees like central bank chief Adam Glapinski, accused of abuse of power to facilitate PiS, likely to end up in the courts, even, ironically, the European Court of Justice which PIS repeatedly insisted had no jurisdiction over internal matters.

Poles remain divided, however, over the new government’s work. According to a recent poll, 45 per cent hold a positive view of its record so far, and 41 per cent a negative one.

Tusk, a trusted senior figure in the centre-right European People’s Party, has already also gone a long way to restoring Poland’s place in the EU’s mainstream and leadership, and has injected a welcome new dynamic into EU support for Ukraine. He still faces a challenge averting a PiS comeback in local polls in April and European parliament elections in June. But he seems to have the wind at his back.

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