“Please stop trying to violate the law,” President Duda tells PM Tusk

President Andrzej Duda today met with Prime Minister Donald Tusk amid escalating conflict between the new government and the head of state.

Duda said he had called on Tusk to “please stop trying to violate the law”. The prime minister said he had assured the president that his government was obeying the law, but admitted that the pair had different views on this.

Prezydent @AndrzejDuda w #PałacPrezydencki: Prezes Rady Ministrów @donaldtusk poprosił o to spotkanie zapowiadając, że będzie chciał rozmawiać o kwestiach międzynarodowych.

Rozpocząłem rozmowę od tematów bardzo ważnych, które dziś dzieją się w Polsce. Poinformowałem o… pic.twitter.com/QOQauuJUrd

— Kancelaria Prezydenta (@prezydentpl) January 15, 2024

Tusk announced on Friday that he would today be visiting Duda at the presidential palace. The prime minister billed the meeting as an opportunity to discuss security issues ahead of his visit to Ukraine this week.

However, the primary focus of the meeting turned out to be the growing tensions between the president – an ally of the former ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party – and the government over issues relating to the justice system.

Speaking afterwards, Duda said he had raised the issue of Tusk and justice minister Adam Bodnar’s decision on Friday to annul the appointment of a national prosecutor in 2022 under PiS and to put a new figure in his place.

Senior prosecutors appointed under the former government are protesting against the new administration’s move to replace the national prosecutor, which they say was done illegally.

One of them has announced a blockade of the national prosecutor’s office https://t.co/gebDrUk6A7

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 15, 2024

Duda noted that the appointment of a new national prosecutor requires the president to issue an opinion, which was not done in this case. That means “the law has been violated” and “I appealed to the prime minister to restore the situation…[and] refrain from trying to violate the law”.

However, Bodnar argues – supported by three opinions obtained from legal scholars – that the former national prosecutor was appointed unlawfully. He says that his decision simply acknowledged this fact and that he appointed an acting figure to the position while a permanent replacement is found.

The president, however, said today that Bodnar must “step back from the path of lawlessness and stop these deplorable actions”.

🗨️ Prezydent @AndrzejDuda: Nie odbyto ze mną żadnych konsultacji w kwestii zmian w Prokuraturze Krajowej. Nie otrzymałem w tej sprawie jako Prezydent żadnego wniosku pisemnego i sam żadnego pisemnego stanowiska nie wyrażałem. Uważam więc, że do żadnych czynności prawnych nie… pic.twitter.com/xVSdfhx012

— Kancelaria Prezydenta (@prezydentpl) January 15, 2024

In his own remarks after the meeting, Tusk confirmed that “Bodnar’s opinion is different from the one expressed by the president” but he said that all disputes “should be subject to legal verification”.

“If someone believes that there is a conflict with the regulations, they can seek legal review,” said Tusk. “We will respect this right of the opposition, as well as the decisions of the courts.”

But the prime minister also pledged that his government would continue with its efforts to “restore the legal order, whether someone likes it or not”. This would involve “some very tough decisions” but there is “no other way to clear up the situation in Poland”.

The new ruling coalition notes that the former PiS government was found by multiple court rulings and expert opinions to have violated the rule of law. It has pledged to “repair” what was broken by PiS.

Justice minister @Adbodnar says that the US ambassador to Poland „positively assessed the [new government’s] activities aimed at the restoration of the rule of law in Poland” during a meeting between the pair https://t.co/xxwUkvrOzJ

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 12, 2024

Duda said that during his meeting with Tusk he had also called on Bodnar “comply with my request to start the pardon procedure in the case of Mariusz Kaminski and Maciej Wąsik”, two convicted former PiS government ministers who were last week arrested in the presidential palace and jailed.

The president has expressed support for the pair, and last week, at the request of their wives, launched proceedings to issue them with pardon, even though Duda has long insisted that he already pardoned them in 2015.

Speaking afterwards, Tusk said that “if the president decides to pardon them, the prisoners should be released immediately”.But he also added that “everyone, without exception, whether a president, a minister, an MP, but also a retiree or a high school student, should be subject to exactly the same legal rigours”.

“Courts, not politicians, should decide if someone is guilty or innocent,” said the prime minister. “I don’t think I can convince the president of that.”

President Duda has announced that he will begin new pardon proceedings for the two former PiS government ministers jailed this week.

His office had previously insisted that Duda would not pardon the pair because he believes he already did so in 2015 https://t.co/Gb2MbiOYVV

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 11, 2024

Among the other topics discussed by the president and the prime minister were changes to the public media, which, in the president’s view, also violated the constitution. Last week, a court in Warsaw ruled that the changes had been done illegitimately.

Duda said today that he believes it is possible for him and the government to work out “legislative solutions on the future of public media”.

The president also stated that he was open to cooperation and consultation with the government on the appointment of a Polish candidate to the next European Commission. Duda added that, in foreign policy, including regarding the war in Ukraine, he and the government have similar positions.

Tusk likewise said after the meeting that he had “told the president that I cannot imagine a lack of cooperation on Poland’s internal and external security”.

„I really want Ukrainian issues, the war and, more broadly, security, as well as policy towards Russia, to be common [areas of policy]. For not only the president and the prime minister, but also the Polish state as a whole to act in solidarity on these issues,” says Tusk

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 12, 2024

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Main image credit: Marke Borawski/KPRP

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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