Lithuania may have to choose between Brussels and Warsaw after Duda's victory

  • 2020-07-13
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Lithuania may have to maneuver between Brussels and Warsaw in their row over Poland's controversial legal reforms after Polish President Andrzej Duda was re-elected for a second term, but similar views on Russia's threat mean that defense and energy cooperation between the two neighboring countries will likely remain close, analysts said on Monday.  

"There remains intrigue over relations with Brussels," Andzej Puksto, an associate professor at Vytautas Magnus University, told BNS. "If the European Commission or the European Council initiated a vote on the rule of law in Poland or there was discussion on linking budget payments to (countries' respect for) the rule of law, Lithuania would once again find itself in a rather difficult situation." 

"Lithuania has so far backed Poland, despite the prevailing support in Lithuania for an accelerated and stronger EU integration," he added.

Duda won 51.21 percent in Sunday's runoff against 48.79 percent for Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.

The results show that the nation is highly polarized and this division may even deepen, Puksto said. 

In his opinion, Warsaw could only be forced to review its foreign and security policy if Donald Trump were not re-elected US president.

"No doubt, both Duda and all those in power would lose a very important ally and if the US ceased to be such a key and unconditional partner, maybe then Poland would try to carry out a foreign and security policy reset," the political scientist said.

"For now, it appears that the confrontation with Brussels is unlikely to get any weaker in the coming months," he added.  

Puksto expects that Lithuania and Poland will maintain similar positions in the field of military and energy security. 

"The countries share common military and energy security interests and joint projects – power lines, Via Baltica and Rail Baltica," he said. "All these projects and security cooperation are likely to continue as the enemy remains the same: the Kremlin and Putin's Russia is the main source of threat." 

Vytis Jurkonis, a political scientist at Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Science Institute, says the key question after the election is whether Duda will try to bring the nation together or will follow a "more divisive course".

"The health of democracy in the neighboring country and Warsaw's relations with Brussels and its neighbors will depend on this," he told BNS.

The health of democracy in Poland is a very important issue at the European level, according to Jurkonis.

"If we believe that the EU is a unique entity in the world where respect for democracy and human rights and freedoms is a distinctive feature, it's very important that we have no great deviations from international standards," the analyst said 

"The human rights agenda will probably not be a priority, but the most important thing is that human rights standards are not trampled on (...) and that Poland doesn't go the way of Hungary," he said.