“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” Finally a name and a number to answer Henry Kissinger’s question

Handshake between Donald Tusk, Herman van Rompuy and Federica Mogherini (from left to right) during the end of the August Council where Mr Tusk got the top EU job. (EC Audiovisual Services, 30/08/2014)

Handshake between Donald Tusk, Herman van Rompuy and Federica Mogherini (from left to right) during the end of the August Council where Mr Tusk got the top EU job. (EC Audiovisual Services, 30/08/2014)

The much awaited succession ceremony at the EU Council took place yesterday in Brussels. Herman Van Rompuy, leaving President of the EU Council, handed over Europe’s top job to Poland’s Donald Tusk. Mr Tusk, who served as Premier Minister of Poland two times, is considered to be one of Europe’s most successful politicians of the past years, together with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The political career of the 57 year old Pole kicked off in the 1980s when he joined the anti-soviet political movement in his country and took part in the protests. He then led Poland’s center-right Civic Platform from 2001 for 13 years, only to become at the end of it, the first EU President coming from the ‘East’. Last August at the EU Council he was voted by EU leaders as the chosen one to drive the EU toward better days.

Mr Tusk, the “favourite son of Poland” as Mr Van Rompuy calls him, seems to be bringing with him a lot of confidence and hope in a sorely bad economic time for the Old Continent. “I come here with a strong sense of purpose,”…“In these difficult times, Europe needs success”, were his first words to come out yesterday. Later the Pole maintained and recapped the current core agenda of the EU, economy, TTIP, relations with Russia and UK exit.

Referring to TTIP, he said: “We are both responsible for the future of our relations. The year ahead will be crucial”. Confirming the Council’s clear intention to conclude the trade agreement with the other side of the Atlantic, he continued: “Relations between Europe and the United States are the backbone of the community of democracies”.

Touching upon European economy, a major spike for Europe at the moment, he said that “we need ruthless determination to end the economic crisis”. “We most certainly do but our good EU leaders are not able to push the right buttons”, we would like to add. The Polish politician also stated that “It is our responsibility to complete a genuine economic and monetary union”. In addition, concerning the common currency he noted that “we need to prevent Europe from dividing into euro and non-euro camps. I wouldn’t have taken job if it involved (a) new institutional split.”

Later on, he did not omit one of Juncker’s top priorities, “answer to the British question”. The new EU Council President vowed yesterday to bring back “fundamental values, solidarity, freedom, unity, against the threats to the European Union coming both from outside and inside”. Further, pointing to the anti-EU movement that is expressed in the form of political parties as well he insightfully underlined: “Today not only are eurosceptics questioning the EU’s value, we have also enemies, not only sceptic.  Politics has returned to Europe… “History is back. And such times need leadership and political unity”.

Europe’s new leader also made a clear hint to the Russia-EU relations. Looking at the Russian invasion in Ukraine, he adds that “Europe has to secure its borders and support those in the neighborhood who share our values”.

All in all, it is undeniable that the expectations are very high from Mr Tusk. And this is due to the fact that the stakes are very high in the EU currently. Besides the harsh criticism he has been receiving for his command in English, we need to see fast that he is able to steer the wheel of Europe correctly, finding the right balance between EU member states and the common EU interest.

The challenges will be plenty and tough. Can the “open hearted” Pole, as Mr Rompuy calls him, make it? It remains to be seen.

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