On 30 August 2014, the European Council appointed the Polish candidate Donald Tusk to be the next President of the European Council who will take over from President Herman Van Rompuy.
Mr. Tusk will take up his position on 01 December 2014, for a term that should last until May 31 2017. The two-and-a-half year mandate is renewable once. Mr. Tusk was also appointed president of the Euro Summit. Donald Tusk stands in stark contrast to the low-profile former Belgian Prime Minister, Mr. Van Rompuy.
A well-known political figure long before his appointment to President of the Council, Donald Tusk has been at the centre of Polish and occasionally European politics. The appointment of Mr. Tusk to this position serves as recognition of Poland’s rapid economic and political progress since joining the EU, an exemplification of a successful post-communism state and is a significant boost to newer Members of the Union from the eastern bloc.
Donald Tusk has been Prime Minister of Poland since November 2007 and is the longest serving Prime Minister of the 3rd Republic of Poland. He is largely credited with the rise of the national party “Civic Platform” (PO) of which he is the co-founder and can claim that during the entire EU financial crisis, Poland’s economy during his leadership did not decline.
Most of the speculation as to the impact that the Prime Minister’s appointment could have is largely related to the impact on Poland. Mr. Tusk will leave behind a party that is not performing in the polls and there are worries that in his absence the status quo will have to change.
Polish economists on the other hand are hopeful that Mr. Tusk’s appointment to the position of President of the European Council would expedite Poland’s entry into the euro zone. This will be a difficult issue for the former Prime Minister of a non-Eurozone country but his close ties with Chancellor Angela Merkel it is hoped will help facilitate this.
Part of the rationale behind the choice, according to some EU officials is diversity of gender and representation. Gender balance is ensured with Mr. Tusk taking the role of President and Italian delegate Ms. Federica Mogherini appointed as new EU High Representative and replacing Baroness Ashton.
This will also mean however that Poland will not be in a political position to take the much coveted position of Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry.
It is also expected that Mr. Tusk will have an increased focus on ensuring that the views of Eastern European countries are effectively reflected in policy and that in the long term, the High Representative would have more concern for the Western EU Member States despite the current heavy focus on Russian-Ukrainian relations.
The appointment of a man who is openly pro-European integration who’s Government during the Polish Presidency saw the accession of Croatia to the EU and who believes in EU-wide solutions to EU problems, represents a significant change in European Politics. Such an appointment at the height of Euroscepticism in Europe may not have been possible at the time of Mr. Van Rompuy’s appointment and if anything, Mr. Tusk’s appointment is representative of a changing attitudes of Europe’s political elite if not its citizens.