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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs