WARSAW (Reuters) -Donald Tusk, the leader of Poland's largest liberal opposition grouping Civic Coalition (KO) and a potential candidate to become prime minister, will likely travel to Brussels next week, a senior lawmaker from his party said on Thursday, as he tries to unblock funds frozen over rule-of-law concerns.
Pro-European Union (EU) opposition parties won a majority in Sunday's election, a huge shift for Poland after eight years of feuding with Brussels over issues ranging from judicial independence to LGBT rights. It also represents a setback for right-wing populism in the EU.
The new government has not yet formed but Tusk is a strong potential candidate to lead it, with the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party unlikely to find a coalition partner.
"Donald Tusk will be in Brussels next week, meeting with the leaders of European countries," KO lawmaker Borys Budka told reporters. "It is normal that from day one we are doing everything to return Poland's position in the international arena to its rightful place."
Budka said the visit would likely take place on Wednesday and Thursday, coinciding with an EU summit.
The EU believes the changes made since 2015 by PiS undermine the independence of courts and go against democratic standards, such as changes to how judges are appointed.
These 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, and to 35.4 billion euros of COVID-19 recovery funds.
PRESIDENT TO MEET PARTY LEADERS
The office of Poland's president Andrzej Duda said he will meet parliamentary party leaders next week as the nation waits to see who he will task with forming government.
Duda said before the vote that he would give the first shot at forming a cabinet to the group or party that won most ballots.
PiS came first in the election but is unlikely to secure a third term in government for want of a coalition ally.
The leaders of the three parties that are seeking to form a coalition have called on Duda not to delay making a decision.
"The president knows his responsibilities and will not give in to pressure," aide Malgorzata Paprocka told Rzeczpospolita daily.
"A government will be formed within the time frame laid out in the constitution."
This means the process of forming a new government in Poland, the largest country in the EU's eastern wing, could take weeks or even months.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel FlorkiewiczEditing by Gareth Jones and Rod Nickel)