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Poland's Tusk, Italy's Mogherini set for top EU jobs

© John Thys, AFP | Tusk (L), Van Rompuy and Mogherini in Brussels

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-31

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk became president of the European Council and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini was appointed diplomacy chief at a Brussels summit Saturday at which EU leaders also mulled new sanctions against Russia.

"The new European leadership team is complete," said outgoing European Council president Herman Van Rompuy at a press conference.

Introducing conservative Tusk as his successor and Mogherini as the new EU chief for foreign affairs, Belgium’s Van Rompuy said: "You have the full endorsement of the European Council."

Van Rompuy highlighted that Poland had known no recession during the global economic crisis under Tusk's government. "My experience as prime minister points to the fact that fiscal discipline on one side and economic growth on the other, combining these two challenges is possible," said Tusk, a free-market advocate and member of the centre-right European People's Party alongside German chancellor Angela Merkel.

He also pledged to address London's concerns about reform of the EU, stating he "could not imagine" the EU without Britain as a member. He insisted it would be possible to "reach an agreement" on issues such as freedom of movement of labour.

Mogherini’s modernising presence

By contrast, centre left Mogherini was "almost unknown" in Europe before she became Italy’s foreign minister in February, said FRANCE 24's Brussels correspondent Meabh McMahon.

"She is very active online, blogging, tweeting and uploading photos – completely different from her predecessor Britain’s Catherine Ashton, who was very quiet and cautious, very hesitant to take any media interviews for fear of putting her foot in it," McMahon added.

Listing crises in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, Mogherini acknowledged her task would be "challenging and difficult" as "all our neighbourhoods are suffering from conflicts and wars".

Mogherini also dismissed suggestions she was too young and inexperienced at 41 and pledged to speak for a “new generation” of Europeans to promote peace in the region and beyond.

European leaders were apparently satisfied with the balance between Tusk, a representative of the EU's most recent eastern member states, and Mogherini, who hails from a founding member of the bloc.

Gender equality has also been a concern in the appointment of top officials since last June's European election.

Tusk's strong comments on Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis also appeared to have balanced concerns about Mogherini's softer stance on Moscow.

The 28 heads of state and government continued their summit Saturday evening, examining the situation in Ukraine amid reports that Russian combat troops are now fighting inside east Ukraine.

EU states toughened their sanctions against Russia five weeks ago, but with Moscow now allegedly acting as a direct and hostile force inside Ukraine the EU is under pressure to ratchet up its response.

“Consequences” for Russia

"Such behaviour cannot remain without consequences," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday amid reports from NATO that "well over" a thousand Russian soldiers were now taking part in battles inside Ukraine.

British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Russia to halt its intervention and scale back its involvement in Ukraine. If it does not, he said, Russia "should be in no doubt that there will be further consequences".

French President Francois Hollande stressed that a failure by Russia to reverse a flow of weapons and troops into eastern Ukraine would force the bloc to impose new economic measures.

“Are we going to let the situation worsen, until it leads to war?” Hollande said at a news conference. “Because that’s the risk today. There is no time to waste.”

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite was more vocal, saying: "Russia is in a war state against Ukraine. That means it is in a state of war against a country which would like to be closely integrated with the EU. Practically Russia is in a state of war against Europe."

At a press conference Saturday evening after a series of meetings with European leaders, Poroshenko said the EU had agreed to impose more sanctions on Russia if no progress was made towards a peace agreement.

"Based on my proposals, which were supported by the majority of the member states, there are possible sanctions that would be implemented," he said.

"They will link to the success of the peace plan of the president of Ukraine," he added in reference to trilateral talks planned on Monday between Russia, Ukraine and the EU, which he hoped would result in a ceasefire.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, Reuters)

Date created : 2014-08-30

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