Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Poland isolated in bid to remove Tusk

  • Tusk (c) remains a clear preference among EU leaders despite Poland's objections (Photo: European Commission)

Poland has so far failed to secure wider support among EU states in its bid to dethrone Donald Tusk as president of the European Council.

EU foreign and defence ministers in Brussels on Monday (6 March) discussed the issue but deferred decisions to a meeting of EU leaders at a summit later in the week.

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

Poland’s ruling PiS party has put forward an MEP, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, as its man to replace Tusk amid long-standing and personal animosity between Tusk and PiS chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The Polish politicking has been badly received in Brussels, with the centre-right EPP group, Tusk’s allies, sacking Saryusz-Wolski from his post as EPP vice-president over his disloyalty.

Poland's foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski told his counterparts on Monday that Saryusz-Wolski was the only legitimate candidate in play, however.

“I underlined that that [Saryusz-Wolski] was the only Polish candidate … The ministers took note of that, but ministers don’t decide on this, this will be decided by heads of state or government either on Thursday or later,” he said.

Waszczykowski had lobbied his peers from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovakia over dinner in Brussels on Sunday.

He said the Hungarian foreign minister “said very firmly that the national preference for a candidate should overrule all other concerns.”

“If he [Tusk] isn’t nominated by any member state then he shouldn’t be taken into consideration”, he added.

The Dutch foreign minister, Bert Koenders, belittled Saryusz-Wolski, however.

He said on Monday that he had “never heard of him”.

"It’s very important we have a very good president at the moment. Also, I think we should give precedence to the European interest, not domestic politics," Koenders told press.

'Disloyalty' and personal grievances

Tusk's first term as Council president ends in late May.

A former prime minister of Poland and leader of the opposition party Civic Platform, Tusk has said he wanted a second EU term.

Meanwhile, Saryusz-Wolski's candidacy for the post has riled his EPP political faction at the European Parliament.

A member of the Civic Platform, EPP leader Joseph Daul, accused Saryusz-Wolski of "disloyalty and disrespect" towards the party and then stripped him of the EPP vice-president title.

Even the centre-left social democrats, who had earlier wanted to put someone from their own party in the EU presidency chair, are backing Tusk.

In an interview with several newspapers on Monday, socialist French president Francois Hollande said he would support Tusk over any other candidate.

“I have no reason to question his candidacy, even if regarding the political balance it should be the turn of a socialist," he said.

The dispute risks overshadowing an EU summit in Brussels later this week.

Poland's eurosceptic government appears intransigent on the issue given the personal grievances between Tusk and Kaczynski.

Kaczynski has called Tusk a "German candidate" and also blames him for the Smolensk air disaster in 2010.

Kaczynski's twin brother and the then president, Lech Kaczynski, died in the wreckage, which the PiS leader has said was a Russian plot that Tusk helped to abet.

Desire for stability

The Polish push comes at a time when the EU is seeking greater stability following an upsurge of populist movements, the UK's departure from the bloc, and wider questions over the future of the remaining 27 member states.

One senior diplomat said Poland was trying to drag out the talks for as long as possible, in an effort to weaken Tusk's position.

But Poland may find itself in a bind should other EU states such as Germany or France call for a vote, given that a qualified majority is enough to re-elect Tusk for another 30 month term.

The same diplomat noted that another EU summit may be scheduled, if needed, should the issue not be resolved later this week.

Poland at war against Tusk's EU job

Poland's Law and Justice Party has put a little-known MEP, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, against Donald Tusk in the race for the European Council presidency.

Opinion

Poland's diplomatic suicide

Only the three other Visegrad states can contain Poland's suicide attempt by saying that Tusk is still central Europe's candidate.

EU re-elects Tusk, Poland isolated

EU leaders took just 30 minutes to vote Donald Tusk back into office, in a diplomatic fiasco for Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us