EU leaders are set to meet this week in attempts to strengthen relations in the council before the departure of Britain from the bloc, but Warsaw’s concerns over EU leadership could potentially dampen the gathering.
Prime Minister Beata Szydlo wrote a letter encouraging EU leadership to consider European Parliament-member Jacek Saryusz-Wolski as a replacement for Tusk, whose term ends in May.
She wrote, "An extension of the mandate of the European Council President against the position of the government of the country of (his) origin is at odds with the intergovernmental nature of the work of our Council."
Poland’s issues with Tusk, the centrist former prime minister, stems from a fierce rivalry between him and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, one of the country’s most powerful political figures, and a cofounder of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS).
Kaczynski maintains that Tusk took liberties with his position in the EU by interfering with Warsaw’s national affairs, particularly in December 2016, after Tusk criticized PiS when the opposition raised issues in Parliament.
Attending a cultural event at the time, Tusk said, "I appeal to those who hold real power in our country to respect the people, the principles and values of the constitution, the standing procedures and good practices," claiming that PiS was undermining the “European model of democracy."
Szydlo noted the broad support that Tusk enjoys from EU leaders, writing that, "The pronounced support of such actions (the stand-off) on behalf of an EC president was unheard of."
One unnamed German official said that Chancellor Angela Merkel appreciates Tusk’s work, and believes he will be re-elected with "overwhelming support."
French President Francois Hollande also said he would continue backing Tusk, "even if, with a view to political balance, it would be the turn of a socialist — I try to have a vision that is more European than partisan or national,” adding, "I will not participate in this eviction."
Although Saryusz-Wolski is not well known, it is common for a leader in Poland to be chosen without unanimity. The most recent example is when Jean-Claude Juncker was nominated as head of the Executive Commission in 2014, despite opposition from Hungary and Britain.
The hostilities between Kaczynski and Tusk are said ot be personal, as Kaczynski holds Tusk "morally responsible" for his twin brother’s death in a 2010 plane crash over Russia. The crash was blamed on pilot error.