EU's Tusk raps Polish government on constitution

Warsaw (AFP) –


EU Council President Donald Tusk accused Poland's government on Friday of failing to respect the country's fundamental law as it marked its Constitution Day amid speculation that he could return home to run for president next year.

"Authorities can't celebrate the Constitution Day once a year and obviate the Constitution on a daily basis," Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, told supporters during a speech at Warsaw University.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, allied with the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government, had suggested the constitution be amended to guarantee membership of the EU and NATO.

"Why change the constitution, why improve it, if you're incapable of respecting its basic principles?", Tusk shot back in his speech after he attended official Constitution Day ceremonies.

The Polish government has been at loggerheads with the European Union over sweeping judicial reforms which the EU insists pose a threat to the rule of law.

The PiS argues that reforms are needed to tackle corruption and overhaul a judicial system still haunted by the communist era.

Duda and Tusk had attended a ceremony together earlier in the day, and are considered likely frontrunners should they both decide to run in Poland's 2020 presidential election.

Tusk, whose term as EU president ends in November, did not rule out throwing his hat into the ring.

"That election is still far off in the future," Tusk said in response to a question by a supporter.

Recent opinion polls suggest Tusk trailing Duda by around ten percent in support.

Although he once led Poland's liberal Civic Platform (PO), he also declined to publicly support the opposition party ahead of European Parliament elections on May 26.

Opinion surveys show the PiS slightly ahead of the opposition European Coalition, a group of parties led by the PO, ahead of the vote.

Constitution Day marked the 228th anniversary of the adoption of Poland's May 3 constitution, the world's second oldest after the United States.

In his speech, Tusk also warned against China's increasingly digital-savvy policies that use facial recognition software and a "social credit" system for good behaviour.

He cautioned as well against the influence that Western internet giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple exert on young people.

"The GAFA, is it any different" from the Chinese model, Tusk asked before comparing Internet addiction to drug and alcohol dependence.