MS Risk Blog

Poland Fails to Stop Tusk EU Re-Election

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On Thursday 9 March, European Union (EU) leaders re-elected President of European Council Donald Tusk despite a bid to oust him by his home country Poland. The re-election came after earlier in the day Poland had threatened to derail Thursday’s EU summit as it attempted to bloc Tusk’s re-election.

Sources have indicated that the leaders voted 27 to one to give him another two-and-a-half-year term.

Arriving at the summit on Thursday, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo stated that nothing should be decided without Poland’s agreement. Ms Szydlo had also written a letter to EU leaders, stating that Mr Tusk has “violated multiple times his European mandate” by getting involved in Polish political disputes and supporting the opposition to the government. The EU has angered Poland’s nationalist government by criticizing changes to the country’s top court, new restrictions on journalists and it opposition to resettling refugees by quota. Meanwhile in an interview earlier with Polish television, Foreign Minister Waszczykowski stated that his country could even veto the summit’s conclusions to scupper Mr Tusk’s re-election. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, however suggested that Mr Tusk’s re-election could not be blocked, stating “one country, or a number of countries might be against that decision, but one country cannot block a decision…There are very clear rules of engagement and rules of procedure which we will follow.”

Speaking after EU leaders re-elected Mr Tusk to a second term, Poland’s Prime Minister stated that Mr Tusk’s re-appointment would damage EU efforts to recover after the UK’s departure and that it was a “question of principles” that any candidate for the post should be backed by his home country.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) implacably opposes Mr Tusk, who is a former minister from a rival party. While on the ground sources have indicated that such hostility among patriots is highly unusual in EU politics, Mr Tusk was expected to get enough support to keep his post. He had the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said that his re-election to a new 30-month term would be a “sign of stability. As European Council president, Mr Tusk would be a major role in the UK’s Brexit negotiations.

Prior to Thursday’s vote, Poland’s government was desperate in trying to prevent Mr Tusk from being re-elected to a second term as president of the European Council. They went as far as to propose its own candidate – a little-known Polish MEP called Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.

There has also been some suggestion that the UK may abstain from the vote in a bid to win Polish support over Brexit negotiations. However ultimately all but Poland voted for Mr Tusk, with the Press Association news agency quoting UK government sources as saying that Prime Minister Theresa May was “pleased” that he had been re-elected.

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