State of the Union: Polish election victory amid Middle East chaos

Donald Tusk speaking in Poland.
Donald Tusk speaking in Poland. Copyright AP Photo
By Stefan Grobe
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The sudden eruption of violence in the Middle East has once again laid bare the divisions within the European Union over this decades-long conflict.


Though the EU universally condemned the attacks by Hamas on Israeli towns and kibbutzim two weeks ago, Israeli retaliatory strikes against the Gaza Strip did not get unconditional support.

This week, EU governments tried to patch things up by finding common ground and – finally – speak with one voice.

Not a small feat, given the ongoing reconciliation between the most pro-Israeli member states, such as Germany and Austria, with the most critical, like Spain and Ireland.

"Israel has the right to self-defense in line with international law. Hamas are terrorists, and the Palestinian people are also suffering from that terror. And we have to support them," Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President said this week. 

"There is no contradiction in standing in solidarity with Israel and acting on the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people."

On a brighter note, EU leaders had reason to celebrate this week – or most of them.

The right-wing nationalist government in Poland, a long-time Brussels nemesis, which time and again had antagonised and frustrated EU leaders over basic democratic freedoms, is about to be removed from the political chessboard.

Sunday’s elections brought about heavy losses for the ruling Law and Justice Party and big gains for the pro-European opposition.

Three parties under the stewardship of former Prime Minister and EU Council president Donald Tusk now have a majority to form a coalition government.

"This result speaks for itself. No one can distort it, no one can take it away from us. We have won democracy, we have won freedom, we have won back our beloved Poland," Tusk said.

A change of government in Poland could have important consequences for Europe, according to Katarina Barley, vice-president of the European Parliament, and a former justice minister of Germany.

"The former government was going down a path of autocracy in abolishing the independence of the judiciary, in concentrating media in its own hands," she told Euronews.

"It was sort of following the path of Viktor Orbán in Hungary and it is very, very good and relieving to see that the Polish people chose another path."

The aforementioned Viktor Orbán also had an interesting week.

Instead of joining a virtual EU summit on the Middle East, he preferred talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in China, something remarkable, as leaders of European countries have largely been giving Putin the cold shoulder since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

"The Prime Minister of Hungary belongs to a small cohort of European politicians who know how to defend their interests, do it persistently, in my opinion, quite tactfully," Putin said following their meeting.

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