Poland’s former ruling Conservatives (PiS) is pushing for the European Conservative Reformers (ECR) to adopt senior MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski as its candidate for the post of President of the European Commission.
According to PiS-affiliated portal wPoityce, the party wants Saryusz-Wolski to be the ECR candidate in recognition of the fact that it makes up the majority of the ECR.
In the last process of electing the EC president, PiS MPs in the European Parliament backed current President Ursula von der Leyen.
This time round, PiS seem adamant that neither it or the ECR as a whole should back her because she has, according to them, broken all her “promises” regarding the group.
Saryusz-Wolski has been an MEP since 2004. He sat with the European People’s Party for most of that time before defecting to the ECR in 2016.
He was the chief negotiator and minister inside the Polish government at the time, which in the 1990s negotiated Poland’s accession to the European Union and in 2017 he stood as Poland’s candidate for the post of President of the EC against his compatriot, now the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk.
Wolski is an outspoken supporter of the idea of a Europe of nation states, which he believes is more “in line with” the intentions of the founders of the community back in the 1950s and 1960s.
He has also long been a staunch opponent within the Parliament of attempts to push forward the “federalisation” of the EU.
While Wolski is regarded as a formidable candidate, it is not a given that he will be selected an ECR candidate. That is because, say observers, the PiS may be heading for a substantial loss of seats in the June European Parliament elections.
According to an opinion poll taken in several European states by the UK-based Portland agency, PiS enjoy the support of 29 per cent of the voters compared with the 45 per cent it managed in the Parliament elections in 2019.
That means the number of seats it may hold could be down from the 27 now to just 16 and, as a result, it may no longer be the largest party within the ECR.
Even if Saryusz-Wolski is selected, his and the ECR’s chances of success inside the Parliament are remote, say many, since the actual decision is still more likely to be taken inside the European Council. That is what happened previously, despite considerable pressure from the Parliament to have such wishes considered.
The Pole best positioned to be a serious challenger for the top job of EC president is Tusk, as he is an experienced politician from a major European Member State.
In addition he has been a European Council president, 2014-2019 and leader of the EPP – from 2020-2022 – the largest group in the Parliament.
If Von der Leyen was to fall by the wayside, Tusk would be a strong candidate for the EPP; he would attract Renew Europe, the Socialists and Democrats and the Greens, all parties represented in his coalition government in Europe.
The Polish Prime Minister has not, so far, publicly indicated he is interested in the EC presidency. He is also reported to be a potential candidate for Poland’s presidency in the elections due in 2025.