French presidential candidate Francois Hollande is visiting Warsaw, Poland as part of a whirlwind political tour ahead of next month's elections, but Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has refused to meet the Socialist party leader.
European critics are saying that Tusk, who is part of the center-right Civic Platform party, snubbed Hollande as a sign of solidarity with the incumbent French president Nicolas Sarkozy, also a center-right politician.
On issues involving elections in other countries, I have the custom of behaving with restraint, Tusk said, denying that he boycotted the French candidate.
With Hollande currently poised to beat Sarkozy, many Polish lawmakers are criticizing Tusk's decision.
“I am surprised at the Prime Minister's decision,” Democratic Left Alliance MP Tadeusz Iwinski told the Rzeczpospolita daily.
“This is a short-sighted policy. All the polls show that there will be a Socialist president of France. Instead of immediately [preparing] a good relationship with him, the Prime Minister has made some strange boycott.”
“Although the views of Mr. Hollande are in many places far removed from ours, he is a serious politician and so should be treated as such,” conservative Polish MP Krzysztof Szczerski told Polskie Radio.
Hollande will also meet with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.
The Socialist candidate has been busy trying to build name recognition across Europe, as well as to win expatriate votes. Before arriving in Warsaw on Friday, Hollande traveled to Madrid, Berlin, Rome and London.
However, Tusk's decision not to meet with Hollande was not an isolated incident; the prime ministers of Spain, Italy and Britain did not meet with him, nor did German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has a strong relationship with Sarkozy.
The trend made European newspapers speculate that center-right leaders made a pact to shun Hollande, although Tusk said on Friday that he wasn't involved in any such agreement.
Hollande's problem is not that there is a pact against him. It's that he hasn't traveled, so he doesn't realize that we are in an open world, said Sarkozy.
France's election will take place on April 22, and, if needed, a run-off vote will be held on May 6.