Poland’s Tusk to meet EU Commission head over frozen EU funds

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Poland’s likely next prime minister Donald Tusk will meet top EU officials in Brussels this week in a bid to rebuild ties and unblock EU funds frozen because of rule-of-law concerns under Poland’s outgoing Eurosceptic government, EU officials said.

Tusk is to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Wednesday and take part in a meeting of leaders of European centre-right parties on Thursday morning, the officials said.

At stake is Poland’s access to 35.4 billion euros ($37.5 billion) in grants and loans from the European Union’s recovery fund, which the EU has suspended until Warsaw restores the independence of its judiciary system.

The same concerns are blocking Poland’s access to 76.5 billion euros of EU cohesion funds, meant to raise the standard of living in the EU’s poorer regions.

Tusk, a former European Council president and twice Poland’s prime minister, has been put forward as a candidate for prime minister again after the Oct. 15 elections by three opposition groups that together have a clear majority in parliament.

But his government may not be formed until December under the formal steps envisaged by the constitution.

The eurosceptic and nationalist PiS party of current prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki won the most seats in the election, but fell well short of an overall majority and therefore is unlikely to be able to continue in power.

During its eight years in power, the PiS has feuded with Brussels over issues ranging from judicial independence to LGBT rights, leading to a suspension of most EU funding for Warsaw.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Sharon Singleton)