October 17, 2018 / 3:49 PM / 8 months ago

'Don't unscrew Poland from the EU,' Tusk tells Warsaw

FILE PHOTO: European Council President Donald Tusk attends a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The EU’s top official, Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, joked on Wednesday about the removal by Polish authorities of a plaque bearing his name, saying it was more important they did not “unscrew” Poland from the European Union.

The EU and Tusk, a centrist who served as Polish premier from 2007 to 2014, have often clashed with the eurosceptic, nationalist government that took power in Poland in late 2015.

Poland’s embassy to the EU in Brussels has recently removed from its premises a plastic plaque that commemorates the 2011 opening of the building and names Tusk - then prime minister - as one of the officials present.

“Never mind the plaque. It’s important that they don’t unscrew Poland from the European Union,” Tusk tweeted, with his trademark irony, in a swipe at the Warsaw government’s stance.

Poland’s foreign ministry said the plaque had only been removed temporarily as part of broader refurbishment work.

Tusk and the leaders of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) share common roots in the pro-democracy struggle that managed to bring communist rule to an end in 1989, but they fell out during the complex transition to democracy.

Poland was the only country in the 28-member EU last year to oppose extending Tusk’s mandate as president of the European Council, which groups national leaders. In that role, Tusk prepares EU summits and helps set the bloc’s agenda.

PiS has clashed with the EU on issues from migration to climate change to the rule of law. Formerly a poster-child of successful democratic transition, Poland, the largest ex-communist state in the EU, now finds itself increasingly isolated in the bloc.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Gareth Jones

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