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Europe

Tusk re-elected European Council president despite Polish opposition

© Stéphane de Sakutin, AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-03-09

European leaders re-elected Donald Tusk as European Council president at a Brussels summit on Thursday despite threats from his native Poland that it would block his appointment.

The vote was 27 in favour to one, according to a French diplomatic source, while Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel tweeted: "Habemus #EUCO Presidentum" ("We have a European Council president").

The government in Warsaw had argued that the decision should be delayed because of its displeasure with Tusk, a bitter political rival of the leader of Poland's current governing party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. His government has argued that Tusk supports the domestic opposition in Poland and has failed to protect the country's interests in the EU.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said it would be unheard-of to confirm a president without the consent of his home nation.

"Nothing without us, without our consent," she said upon arrival for the summit. "This is a matter of principles."

But other EU leaders insisted there was little reason for a delay.

"I don't see how one country could oppose this solution when all the others are in favor," said French President François Hollande as he arrived for the summit, echoing comment from many of the bloc's 28 leaders.

Hollande said that "with a Europe that has to affirm its unity, a Europe that needs to be firm in the face of a certain number of pressures it faces, there is every reason to confirm here the nomination of Donald Tusk".

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that consultations over the past week had shown "very solid support" for Tusk. "There is an overwhelming support for President Tusk's re-election," he said.

"One country cannot block a decision. There are very clear rules of engagement and rules of procedure that we will follow," Muscat said.

The job is one of the bloc's most prestigious. It involves chairing summits, coordinating the work of the member countries and making sure the 28 nations speak as much as possible with one voice on the international stage.

The EU is facing a plethora of challenges, not least the imminent divorce proceedings as Britain leaves the bloc, and did not want to be caught in an institutional quagmire.

Even Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, often an ally of Poland's nationalist government, made clear that his country will support Tusk.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the EU needed to move on. "We don't want to become hostages of national politics inside Poland," she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Tusk public support in a pre-summit speech to lawmakers in Berlin. "I see his re-election as a sign of stability for the entire European Union and I look forward to continuing working with him," Merkel said.

Muscat acknowledged that several member nations are unhappy that all major EU posts are held by members of the centre-right European People's Party. But he said "they don't want to sacrifice President Tusk because of that, because they think he has done a good job".

Apart from Tusk, EPP politicians Jean-Claude Juncker and Antonio Tajani head the EU's executive Commission and the European Parliament, respectively. Muscat said a more equitable spreading of posts would need to be addressed some time over the coming months.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2017-03-09

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