Jacek Saryusz Wolski speaks during Conservatives (PiS) election campaign to the European Parliament. Saryusz-Wolski lost his MEP seat in the European parliamentary elections held on June 9. EPA-EFE/Rafal Guz


Downfall of big-hitter Saryusz-Wolski raises questions in Poland


Polish political veteran Jacek Saryusz-Wolski has failed in his re-election attempt to the European Parliament for his country’s Conservatives (PiS).

Saryusz-Wolski’s 20-year stint in the European Parliament came to a close on June 9 as he failed to secure a seat in the Southeast of Poland for the PiS.

For many, it was surprising that Saryusz-Wolski stood in the Southeast, a region with which he had no connections.

He garnered just over 56,000 votes, some 50,000-plus behind former PiS interior minister Mariusz Kamiński, falling well short of winning a seat.

“I think it was a big mistake not to field Saryusz-Wolski in Warsaw [where he stood in 2019] because he would have added value for the PiS in the capital city,” Tomasz Sakiewicz, editor of Conservative-leaning newspaper Gazeta Polska, argued on independent channel TV Republika. 

The fact that Saryusz-Wolski was seemingly shunted away to the Southeastern corner of Poland and was only second on the slate seemed to many to be questionable given his record in the European Parliament and Polish public life in general.

His party had put him forward as a potential candidate for the post of President of the European Commission.

He was a minister in Polish governments of the 1990s, responsible for the preparation of Poland’s bid for entry into the European Union and the setting up of a government department dealing with co-ordination of the application.

In 2004 he was first elected to the EP for Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform (KO) party, but they went their separate ways after the PiS came to power in 2015. Saryusz-Wolski opposed Tusk’s policy of demanding sanctions against the then-PiS government for alleged violations of the rule of law.

In 2017, Saryusz-Wolski was proposed by the former PiS government for the post of President of the European Council, a position which was at the time held by Tusk.

That bid was spectacularly unsuccessful as the Member States voted 27-1 for Tusk with only his own government backing Saryusz-Wolski.

He has since then been active in the EP’s European Conservative Reformers (ECR) group, whom he represented in the working party on EU treaty changes. In that position, he argued strongly against the proposed radical increase in the powers of EU central institutions.

This year, the PiS declared it would put Saryusz-Wolski’s name forward as potential ECR Spitzenkandidaten (lead candidate) for the post of President of the European Commission. The ECR, as with the Identity and Democracy Group, did not officially declare a preference.

Saryusz-Wolski is one of several senior PiS MEPs who either did not stand for re-election or failed to be re-elected.

Former Polish foreign ministers Anna Fotyga and Witold Waszczykowski lost their seats and professors Ryszard Legutko and Zdzisław Krasnodębski did not stand, having been criticised by the PiS leadership earlier in the year.

The leader of the party, Jarosław Kaczyński, had removed both from their positions within the ECR. The European elections of June 9 saw a raft of younger PiS candidates taking over from older stalwarts.

Sarysz-Wolski remains PiS’s most prominent expert on EU affairs. Sources close to Polish President Andrzej Duda’s Chancellery indicated that the Head of State may want to reach out to the defeated MEP, even though Duda has only just over a year left of his second and final term in office.