Monday

19th Nov 2018

Balkan summit highlights Juncker-Tusk leadership gap

  • 'We have a Tusk problem,' an EPP MEP said (Photo: Consillium)

By calling a mini summit on Sunday (25 October), European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has decided to push forward the Commission's role in addressing the migrant crisis.

By doing so, he has also highlighted an apparently widening gap with the president of the European Council Donald Tusk, a fellow member of the centre-right EPP party.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The Commission announced on Wednesday that "Jean-Claude Juncker has called a leaders' meeting to discuss the refugee flows along the Western Balkans route."

"The objective of the meeting will be to agree common operational conclusions which could be immediately implemented," the Commission's statement said.

Leaders from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia will participate in the meeting. They should be joined by Tusk and Luxembourg's foreign affairs and migration minister Jean Asselborn, who holds the EU Council rotating chair.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, and the heads of the EU Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Frontex, the EU border agency, are also invited.

"We have been in contact with leaders of the Balkan route countries for days and we thought we had to meet and try to go further," an EU official told EUobserver. "We wanted a smaller, more operational format."

Protocol

In Madrid, where Juncker and Tusk arrived on Wednesday evening to participate in the EPP congress with EU leaders such as Germany's Angela Merkel, party members pointed out that such a summit should have been organised by Tusk.

As president of the European Council, Tusk convenes regular EU summit and "special meetings of the European Council when the situation so requires", the EU treaty says.

Juncker's summit will gather only 8 out of 28 EU member states and 2 non-EU countries, an unusual formal which is, of course, not anticipated by the texts.

But Juncker's initiative demonstrates the high political profile he has maintained since taking office last year, during the Greek crisis in the spring and in the migrant crisis since the summer, sometimes at the detriment of the more discreet Tusk.

For some in the EPP, the urgency of the situation can justify Juncker's initiative.

"Juncker is sincere, he certainly has been touched by the images of thousands of refugees stranded in Slovenia," former commissioner Michel Barnier told EUobserver.

"The protocol is not important in these moments, there is an emergency to address".

But the differences between Juncker and Tusk on style and often on substance is now resented within their own EPP party.

"Tusk is too floppy," a top party MEP told EUobserver.

"The European Council doesn't work well. We have a real problem in decision-making," the MEP said. "Juncker is right to take the bull by the horns"

'Not an export product'

An EPP official admitted it would not be the first issue between the two institution presidents.

Since he took his position almost a year ago, Tusk has been criticised for being too remote, compared with Juncker and some EU national leaders.

His uncertain command of English has sometimes been cited as a reason for this low profile position. Others say he is too focused on issues which are of interest to Poland, his home country, like energy union or the war in Ukraine, and that there is not enough focus on other major issues such as Greece or the migrant crisis.

But some in the EPP see the problem as a more personal one.

Although Tusk was a strong Polish PM before becoming Council president, "he's not an export product," the MEP said. "We had the same problem with Prodi. He was a great Italian PM but a weak Commission president."

Tusk's two-and-a-half-year mandate runs until 31 May 2017. The question of whether to give him a new mandate has not yet been raised. But "seen from the European Parliament, there a general feeling inside the EPP... We think we have a Tusk problem," the MEP told this website.

In a speech at the congress on Wednesday evening, Tusk's predecessor Herman Van Rompuy tried to put on a display of party unity.

Juncker and Tusk are "both strong men of action", he said.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland extradites Polish man despite rule of law concerns
  2. Germany and France agree eurozone budget framework
  3. Austrian foreign minister: EU's Israel policy 'too strict'
  4. Soros and Kurz discuss Central European University move
  5. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  6. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  7. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  8. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem

Opinion

Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar

In Brussels, PR professionals and lobbying consultants are working for some of the world's most autocratic regimes. And we have no way of knowing for sure who they are, how much they are paid, or what they are up to.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  2. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  3. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine
  4. EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation
  5. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  6. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  7. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  8. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us