Donald Tusk is expected to become the first president of the European Council that will be elected without the vote of his country Poland. Instead of Tusk, Poland has tried to promote as its own candidate for the office, a member of the European Parliament named Jacek Saryuz-Wolski. Reporters say that this hostility among compatriots is very unusual for European Union politics.
EU leaders are meeting on Thursday in Brussels, in the Summit that will be the last one that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Theresa May, attends before she triggers the article 50, initiating the Brexit negotiations. On Friday, EU leaders will meet again, this time without May’s presence, to discuss the EU unity. The Brexit talks were expected to monopolise the Summit until the Polish government started a campaign against Donald Tusk, a politician who has served as a Prime Minister of Poland for 7 years and has been the President of the Council for the last 3.
The Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydlo, before the start of the Summit, said that nothing should be decided without her country’s agreement. Ms. Szydlo fights back Tusk’s candidacy because as she wrote in a letter to the EU “Mr. Tusk has violated multiple times his mandate by getting involved in Polish political disputes and supporting the opposition to the government”. Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski threatened the EU with a possible veto against the Summit’s conclusions, in order to abstract Tusk’s re-election.
The EU-Polish relationships are strained because the new nationalist government in Warsaw has imposed restrictions on journalists, changed the country’s top court in a way that EU described as unconstitutional and has refused the resettling of refugees by quota. Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta which holds the rotating EU presidency, stated that there is no way that Poland can block a possible re-election of Donald Tusk. More specific, he said that “one country cannot block the decision, there are very clear rules of engagement and procedure that we are going to follow”.
The question why the Polish government strongly opposes Donald Tusk is very simple to answer. The larger party of the government is the Law and Justice or PiS, in Polish. PiS leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski holds Tusk politically responsible for the 2010 plane crash outside of Smolensk that had as consequence the death of his twin brother, Lech who was at that time President of Poland, and a number of ministers and military officials. A lot of Poles are confident that Tusk, who was Prime Minister at that time, didn’t take the necessary actions to reveal the causes of the crash. He is also accused for allowing the Russians to perform the first investigation on the crash site.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, stated that she will support Tusk as well as the French President, Francois Hollande, and Marc Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister. Tusk is expected to gather 25 or 26 votes against the Polish one, depending if Theresa May votes. If re-elected he will stay in office until November 2019.