Monday

11th Nov 2019

Tusk praised for 'short, concise' EU summit

  • Tusk has polished his English for the new job (Photo: European Council)

New EU council chief Donald Tusk has broken with the two-day summit tradition, making leaders and journalists happy by wrapping up before midnight.

The meeting was the Polish former prime minister's first top-level appearance since he began the job on 1 December.

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Going into the event he admitted he "felt like a debutant" and had "stage fright".

It was also the first formal occasion to showcase his English, after three months of intense lessons to prepare for the job.

Speaking in careful, precise sentences it was only when asked about Ukraine and Russia that he sometimes struggled to find the right words.

But the content of the summit decisions aside - primarily on European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker's investment plan - both journalists and EU leaders were enthusiastic about the brevity of the meeting.

Normally summits start on Thursday evenings, run late into the night and continue - with bleary-eyed participants - until Friday afternoon.

"Thank you Donald and congratulations, this is the first time we sleep at home and I'm really really happy, because the conclusion of the council in only one afternoon and evening is great news," said Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.

French leader Francois Hollande used the term "exceptional EU council" - both for its short length and for Tusk's first efforts.

German chancellor Angela Merkel also praised the "short, concise and well-organised council" under the Pole's leadership.

She noted that he was the leader of a country which "contributed to the end of the Cold War and to European reunification."

"We felt very well under his leadership and even more so, that we finished before midnight," Merkel said after the meeting.

Her Austrian counterpart, Werner Faymann, recalled several past two-day summits "where I didn't have the feeling that the length of the discussion was improving its quality".

Faymann said Tusk had promised to introduce the habit of making summits as short, but also as efficient and detailed as possible.

Further east, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban said this had been a "big day for central Europe, as the EU council was led by a central European and friend of Hungary."

With the council conclusions kept to four pages, compared to the 26 pages at the December 2013 summit, Orban said "the document reflects concise, true central European thinking, and it is easier to sum it up for me too."

However, Tusk managed to hold a short summit because difficult discussions were avoided.

Leaders endorsed the creation of a new investment fund, but steered clear of any contentious issues, such as which projects will be funded or whether the money spent will be counted when Brussels assesses whether debt and deficit rules are being breached.

The "strategic" discussion on Russia, for its part, merely repeated the status quo: that Europe doesn't trust Russian leader Vladimir Putin and that sanctions can only be rolled back if he rolls back his incursion into Ukraine.

"It was safe and careful. But Tusk will need to go for real decisions one day," a senior EU official told this website.

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