News / Europe

Polish PM Tusk Favorite for Top EU Job

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk gestures as he delivers a speech at parliament in Warsaw, August 27, 2014.
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk gestures as he delivers a speech at parliament in Warsaw, August 27, 2014.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has emerged as clear favorite for the key post of president of the European Council when EU leaders meet for a special summit on Saturday, several sources familiar with the selection process said.

If confirmed, his appointment to chair and steer policymaking meetings of EU leaders, would be a victory for the 10 ex-communist central and eastern European countries that joined the European Union a decade ago which have demanded that one of the top jobs go to a candidate from their region. It would also consecrate Poland's rise as a major player in the 28-nation bloc alongside EU founders France and Germany.

The pro-European, center-right Tusk, 57, has not acknowledged in public that he is a contender. He avoided discussing his own future when he announced a giveaway program of increased benefits for Poles in parliament on Wednesday ahead of a general election next year.

However, two Brussels sources said current council president Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs and prepares EU summits, will put Tusk's name to fellow leaders as part of a package deal in a round of telephone calls on Thursday and Friday.

“Van Rompuy is to call EU leaders today and if no one is opposed to Tusk there is a deal,” a person involved in the process said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the consultations.

A senior source in Tusk's Civic Platform party told Reuters for the first time on Wednesday there were “different outcomes” possible for the prime minister, “including the option that Tusk takes one of the most important posts in Europe”.

Another source said Van Rompuy hoped to wrap up agreement in a three-way telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Friday morning.

Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, a center-left socialist, would become EU foreign policy chief and Spanish Economy Minister Luis De Guindos would succeed Jeroen Dijsselbloem as chairman of euro zone finance ministers next year when the Dutchman's term expires, the sources said.

Britan, Germany, France on board

Britain was first to endorse Tusk publicly as a candidate on Tuesday, hoping to balance out former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker, a veteran advocate of deeper EU integration, who was chosen in June to head the executive European Commission against fierce British objections.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman said Tusk shared Britain's desire to reform the European Union.

Diplomatic sources said Merkel has been trying to persuade Tusk to take one of the top EU jobs but the Pole initially rebuffed her, saying he wanted to lead his Civil Platform party to an unprecedented third term in power next year.

An economic liberal and advocate of free trade, Tusk's weak point is that he speaks little English and no French, making it harder for him to communicate on behalf of the EU to a wide audience.

The new leadership team will have to shape Europe's response to issues including an economic slowdown in the euro zone to the Ukraine crisis and Britain's uncertain future in the bloc.

In what one official described as “a subtle game where no candidates campaign”, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a reformist social democrat, was the initial front-runner for the presidency at an inconclusive July 16 summit.

But her chances were stymied partly by eastern revolt against Mogherini, criticized as inexperienced and too “soft” on Russia, but also because Hollande failed to support her for reasons which diplomats said remain obscure.

She said on Thursday she was not putting herself forwards as a candidate.

Diplomats said eastern objections to Mogherini would subside if Tusk, whose country has led the drive for tougher sanctions against Moscow alongside Britain, got the senior job.

The sense of broad support for a Tusk-Mogherini ticket is based on telephone conversations between officials in Brussels and EU leaders, potentially allowing Van Rompuy to propose the pair on Saturday, officials and diplomats said.

Former Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was the likely fallback candidate if Tusk stumbles or pulls out, the sources said. Former Estonian premier Andrus Ansip was also on the shortlist if the leaders want to give one of the posts to a member of the small liberal political family, they said.

Gender balance

Getting a balance of representation among the 28 EU countries, between male and female and among political groups is a delicate business that proved too much for leaders in July.

Another failure would delay allocating key posts in the European Commission, the EU executive, and send a bad signal at a time when the euro zone is facing economic stagnation and the crisis in Ukraine has severely strained relations with Russia, the EU's main energy supplier.

A source familiar with French government thinking said Hollande had dropped traditional French objections to giving the council presidency to a candidate from a country that is not a member of the euro zone. Indeed, having Tusk at the helm could help hasten Poland's entry into the currency area.

“France will not block Tusk,” the source said. “Hollande has build good relations with him and they have done several deals together.”

Opponents of the 41-year-old Mogherini have not found a consensus figure to challenge her as the front-runner, while as a woman, she also helps meet European Parliament demands that more senior posts in EU institutions go to female candidates.

Juncker, who won parliamentary endorsement in July to head the Commission that proposes and enforces laws for 500 million Europeans, is expected to announce his full team next week from candidates put forward by governments.

Juncker has been frustrated that so many capitals have nominated men for Commission jobs. He said this week that a Commission without sufficient women would be “less legitimate and hardly representative” and that he would have to compensate by giving women more important posts.

The European Parliament, which must approve the choices for the top jobs, also wants to see more women in EU jobs and its president, Martin Schulz, warned in July that the EU legislature “will not accept a gentlemen's club.”  

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs