Preparations continued at Krasinski Square in Warsaw ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday. PHOTO: RAFAL GUZ/EUROPEAN PRESS PHOTO AGENCY

Like many of his fellow Polish pro-government lawmakers, Dominik Tarczynski is sending a busload of constituents to Warsaw on Thursday to cheer for President Donald Trump. The buses are being provided by a foundation close to the governing party.

“It’s going to be huge—absolutely huge,” Mr. Tarczynski said of the coming welcome for Mr. Trump. “They just love him, the people in Poland—they just really love him.”

Poland is working to put on a hero’s welcome for Mr. Trump as he prepares to give a major speech to thousands of Poles in a Warsaw square. Behind that effort is a recognition across the continent that Mr. Trump has the potential to change the balance of power in Europe.

President Barack Obama formed a close bond with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and backed her liberal worldview, her acceptance of immigrants, and her support for a deeply integrated European Union. Now it is nationalist governments such as Poland’s that hope Mr. Trump will see them as ideological kindred spirits and back their push to loosen the European Union and rebalance it away from Berlin.

“There’s this new success—Trump’s visit,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, said at a party congress over the weekend. Tweaking European officials who are nervous that Mr. Trump’s visit could deepen the divide on the continent, Mr. Kaczynski went on: “They’re envious of it!”

Poland, where the conservative Law and Justice government took over in 2015, is locked in an escalating feud with the EU’s executive body in Brussels and with Western European capitals. The European Commission has said the government’s changes to the Polish judicial system, including appointing its own judges to the Constitutional Court, undermine the rule of law.

French President Emmanuel Macron suggested Poland was rejecting European democratic principles and treating the bloc like “a supermarket,” implying it is taking advantage of the EU without following all of its norms.

German politicians often slam Poland for failing to take in refugees and for reducing press freedoms.

In Mr. Trump, some Polish politicians and commentators see a leader who has campaigned against accepting refugees and criticized the EU and Germany’s influence in the bloc.

“Regarding refugees, the Polish government has the same position as Americans—we want strict restrictions on refugees,” said Krzysztof Mróz, a Law and Justice lawmaker who plans to dispatch two buses full of Trump fans—98 people—from his district at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning for the 300-mile drive to Warsaw.

In lobbying for Mr. Trump’s visit in recent months, Polish officials made a promise of a positive reception for the president part of their pitch. Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said in an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal that he told Mr. Trump, on the sidelines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Brussels in May: “Please visit us, your soldiers are already here, you can follow, and you can visit a country which is friendly.”

Mr. Trump responded, according to Mr. Waszczykowski, that “Polish Americans helped him win” the presidential election.

“I said, ‘Well, we can help you once again… if you visit us and cooperate with us,’” Mr. Waszczykowski recalled.

But some critics of Poland’s government are wary of Mr. Trump’s trip. Bartosz Wieliński, foreign editor of the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, said the government appeared to be turning Mr. Trump’s speech into a “partisan spectacle” and that his public reception would amount to a “Potemkin village.”

“This visit, I think, is a kind of opportunity for the ruling government party to show that Poland is not completely isolated internationally,” said Rafal Pankowski, a Warsaw political scientist.

In Western Europe, some officials worry that Mr. Trump will fan the flames of anti-immigrant, anti-European Union sentiment just like he endorsed Brexit ahead of the British referendum on leaving the EU last summer.

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SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal – Anton Troianovski

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