Tusk Wins New EU Term, Despite Polish Opposition

By Rikard Jozwiak

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on March 9 confirmed Poland’s former Prime Minister Donald Tusk for his second term as the president of the European Council.

Tusk’s confirmation for another 30-month mandate came despite opposition from the current government of Poland, Tusk’s home country.

A French diplomatic source said EU leaders voted 27-to-1 for Tusk.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said before the vote that the right-wing government in Warsaw would do "everything to ensure that the reappointment does not take place today."

Some EU officials said Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo tried to get other EU leaders to postpone a decision about Tusk, who is closely tied with the centrist opposition in Poland.

But Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who holds the rotating presidency of the EU, insisted that the vote take place immediately and all 27 other EU leaders supported the 59-year-old Tusk -- including one of the Polish government's closest allies, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Muscat said: "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."

Beata Mazurek, a spokeswoman for Szydlo's ruling Law and Justice (PiS), said after the 27-to-1 vote to reappoint Tusk that the decision raises questions about the bloc's unity.

Mazurek said: "We should ask whether the EU can remain united, or whether this situation will not lead to the leaders of individual member states having little say."

For his part,Tusk thanked the other EU leaders for their support.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said before the decision that Tusk’s reelection would be a "sign of stability" for the bloc.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said before the vote that Tusk was “always fair as chairman with his eye on the ball. In very turbulent times, he has kept a cool head."

Tusk was the prime minister of Poland when Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and 94 other Polish officials were killed in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia, in 2010.

Following the vote on the European Council presidency, EU leaders were continuing their summit in Brussels with plans to discuss the situation in the Western Balkans.

They were expected to adopt conclusions seen by RFE/RL in which the European Council "reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans."

The document also stresses "the importance of continuing on the reform path, neighborly relations, and inclusive regional cooperation initiatives."

The Western Balkans includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, and Kosovo.

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