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.
Reuters

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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs