WARSAW, Dec 13: The new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his Cabinet were sworn in by the president on Wednesday morning, in a ceremony which marked the end of eight tumultuous years of rule by a national conservative party, Law and Justice.
The swearing-in ceremony of the pro-European Union government, the final step in a transition of power, was taking place in the presidential palace in Warsaw.
The change of government follows a national election on Oct. 15 which was won by a group of parties that ran on separate tickets vowing to work together under Tusk’s leadership to restore democratic norms eroded by Law and Justice and mend relations with foreign allies that were also strained.
Tusk and his ministers arrived at the presidential palace in a bus in the white and red colors of Poland’s flag and the words: “We thank you, Poland!” They were greeted by cheering supporters.
Donald Tusk becomes Poland’s prime minister with the mission of improving European Union ties
Tusk’s government won a vote of confidence in parliament on Tuesday evening after an inaugural speech in which he vowed to demand that the West keep up its support for Ukraine. The confidence vote was delayed when a far-right lawmaker used a fire extinguisher to put out candles of a menorah during a Hanukkah celebration in the halls of parliament. Tusk and most other leaders sharply condemned the antisemitic provocation.
In his speech, Tusk called on Poland’s fractious political class to unite, saying it cannot afford divisions while Russia is waging a war of aggression across the border, a conflict many fear could spread if Moscow prevails.
President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the previous administration, swore in the government after having delayed the power transition as long as he could.
A centrist leader who was prime minister from 2007-2014, Tusk’s challenges include restoring democratic standards in Poland, working for the release of European Union funding that was frozen due to democratic backsliding by his predecessors, and seeking to manage the migration that is causing political upheaval in Europe.
The 67-year-old Tusk has vowed to restore foreign ties strained by the Law and Justice-led government, which bickered even with allies such as Germany and Ukraine and was at odds with the EU over legal changes that eroded the independence of the judicial branch.
Tusk’s Cabinet includes a former foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, taking up that role again. Adam Bodnar, a respected human rights lawyer and former ombudsman, was tapped as justice minister.
Tusk named Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, an experienced politician and agrarian party leader as his defense minister. For Kosiniak-Kamysz, 42, Poland’s security is safeguarded by its membership in NATO and the EU. In the face of war across Poland’s border, he has vowed to focus on strengthening the defense potential of the armed forces.
The new culture minister is Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, a former interior minister under Tusk in the past who happens to be the great grandson of “Quo Vadis” author Henryk Sienkiewicz, a winner of the Nobel prize for literature. (AP)