European Council chief says he’ll enter race to be Polish president if Jarosław Kaczyński does.
European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday criticized Donald Trump’s behavior during his European trip, and his willingness to engage with authoritarian leaders.
Interviewed in his office in Brussels, Tusk spoke for more than half an hour on the Polish news channel TVN 24, and had harsh words for the judicial reforms brought in by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).
“President Trump proposes to reconstruct the world’s order,” Tusk said, adding that would mean “America has no friends, just movable alliances.”
Tusk said he had spoken “eye to eye” with Trump on several occasions and the U.S. president has “an aversion towards the EU and NATO” but an “openness towards such people as the North Korean dictator and President Putin.”
“I won’t be breaking any secrets when I say that he called me after the [U.S.] election and asked ‘how is Europe, how is Brexit, are there any more to follow?’ and frankly speaking there was something like hope in his voice.”
Tusk spent a sizeable part of the interview talking about Polish politics and his rivals in PiS.
“Simply speaking, the authority which fully subordinates courts, prosecutors and police as well as the independent media … will very quickly transform democracy into kleptocracy or, speaking more clearly, into a reign of thieves,” he said in reference to the government’s changes to the judicial system.
The European Commission took the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 — the so-called nuclear option — against Poland in December, following countless warnings, requests for dialogue and demands for clarifications about changes that it says risk undermining judicial independence in the country.
Earlier this month Brussels initiated infringement proceedings over a controversial law that allows for the removal of many Supreme Court judges. It could result in the case being referred to the European Court of Justice.
“The key question is why the executive power in Poland today is so obsessed in taking over the independence of prosecutors, police and now courts,” Tusk said.
Asked if he was planning to return to politics in Poland after his term as Council president ends in 2019, Tusk issued a challenge to Jarosław Kaczyński, PiS president and the most powerful politician in the country.
“If Jarosław Kaczyński decided to run [for president], I would not hesitate a moment and I would stand for such a duel,” Tusk said but immediately added: “It is too early to speculate.”
Tusk, an avid football player and fan, was also asked who he will be supporting in the World Cup final between France and Croatia on Sunday in Moscow.
“I’ll cross my fingers for Croatia because it is a small country,” he said. “They play beautiful and ambitious football.”