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Kaczynski's Battle with EU Finds Little Support Among Poles


Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party speaks at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, March 13, 2017.

Most Poles disagree with their conservative government's attempt to block the reappointment of fellow-countryman Donald Tusk as chairman of European Union summits, according to two opinion polls this week.

The right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) government failed last week in a bid to remove Tusk, a longstanding political opponent of PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, as the remaining 27 EU members overrode Warsaw's objections.

The government put a positive gloss on the defeat, saying Poland had shown itself to be bold in standing up to the rest of the bloc, especially Germany.

But a survey for the Onet.pl website showed 68 percent of Poles had a negative view of the country's foreign policy in the light of the events in Brussels.

Another poll, by Millward Brown for the 300polityka website, showed 60 percent were in favor of Tusk's reappointment, compared to 25 percent who saw it negatively.

"It has been a long time since the narrative of PiS has been so distant from the common perception of the general public," the website said on Friday.

Europe-wide polls show Poles are one of the most pro-EU societies, even though they overwhelmingly oppose adopting the euro currency.

Political analysts said the gap between public perceptions and PiS rhetoric suggested Kaczynski, the country's de facto leader, risked alienating some of the more centrist supporters who helped the party win the last election in 2015.

"The hardline supporters will not abandon the party," said Andrzej Rychard, a sociologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences. "But the remaining voters may be on a divergent path."

The nationalist-minded PiS had argued that Tusk was in fact Germany's candidate and the struggle to oust him was a fight against German dominance.

But just 12 percent of Poles saw Tusk that way, compared to 67 percent who said he was the candidate of either the whole of EU or Poland, the Millward poll showed.

Kaczynski acknowledged in comments published by Onet on Thursday he expected some short-term losses in public support, but said it was worth it as Warsaw gained international stature.

Poland's foreign minister has said it will start obstructing EU business and "play a rough game" in Brussels after the dispute over Tusk.

Poland - by far the biggest recipient of EU aid - has much to lose if its relations with the bloc worsen significantly. In the six years to 2022, Warsaw is set to receive over 80 billion euros ($86 billion), equivalent to nearly 20 percent of its 2016 economic output.

(1 Polish zloty = 0.2329 euros)

($1 = 0.9307 euros)

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