Poland's Tusk says EU vote crucial for keeping war outside the bloc

FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk

WARSAW (Reuters) - Thousands of supporters of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk gathered in the capital Warsaw on Tuesday ahead of European elections that the head of government says are crucial for Poland's security as it faces increased tensions on its eastern border.

With war raging in Ukraine and a migrant crisis on the Belarus border, Tusk has framed the June 9 vote in Poland as a choice between a safe future in a country at the heart of the European Union (EU) or a more perilous one if the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, known for its conflicts with Brussels, wins.

"We are all focused every day ... on making Poland strong, making Europe strong, Poles being united and Europe being united, because this is the only way to avoid the drama of war here on our lands," Tusk told the crowd in Warsaw's Castle Square.

The rally took place on the 35th anniversary of Poland's first postwar democratic election.

Tusk's Civic Coalition (KO) grouping is the largest in the pro-European alliance that took power in December. PiS remained, however, the single party with the largest number of seats in Poland's parliament after the 2023 general election, extending a roughly decade-long run of first-place finishes.

Analysts say that if KO wins the most EU seats for Poland the result would boost Tusk's hopes of establishing the coalition as the single dominant force in Polish politics.

PiS says Tusk, a former European Council president, is subservient to Poland's larger neighbour Germany and accuses him of hypocrisy for criticising the PiS' tough policies towards migrants on the Belarus border while in opposition before implementing similar measures in government.

"Propaganda rallies, vindictiveness, blunt manipulation as the only fuel. It's Tusk's June 4th," said PiS legislator Jacek Sasin in a post on social media platform X about the Warsaw rally.

European Union citizens will vote June 6-9 to choose the 720 members of the next European Parliament, who will serve for five years.

Polls suggest the main pro-EU groups around the political centre will win a smaller majority than they currently hold.

(Reporting by Anna Koper, Writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Rod Nickel)