Politico: Tusk in the fray for EC President

According to the portal “Politico”, the current President of the European Council is seen as a potential candidate for the job of President of the European Commission.

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Mr Tusk has denied being a candidate at a press conference following last week’s European Council and was even the victim of a put-down by the current President of the EC Jean-Claude Juncker who added “fortunately not” to the straight answer of “no” which Mr Tusk issued.

But according to the “Politico“ portal, he is on a list of ten potential candidates coming from the European Parliament’s largest party grouping the EPP. The problem is that the EPP is in charge of the government in eight member states whereas the socialists and liberals together now hold 15.

Agreement on who is to head the EC is urgently needed so that the process of constructing the next EC can begin and so that the EP can elect its own President. So a deal between the main parties is needed on which party gets which of the top four jobs: President of the EC, President of the European Council, the Foreign Affairs brief on the EC and finally the President of the EP.

A European Council summit is to take place on 30 June to reach a compromise on the issue. “Politico” on Tuesday speculated that should there be an impasse come the morning of 1 July it is the candidature of Mr Tusk that might be what emerges from the member state conclave.

The Polish government would, of course, be against. However, only a qualified majority of 21 out of the 28 member states is required. Mr Tusk could win even if he is opposed by Poland, Hungary, the UK, Italy, and the Czech Republic.

As “Politico” reports, Mr Tusk certainly now has the experience of both EU structures and heading a large member state government. And the last time he was a candidate for President of the European Council he had the support of both the liberals and socialists, as well as that of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And when he was opposed by his own country for his second term as President of the European Council 27 member states backed him.

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Nightmare scenario for the Polish government?

On the surface, this would appear to be a nightmare scenario for the present Polish government. The man who has actively opposed it while serving as President of the European Council being chosen to head the European Commission would be seen as a humiliation and a hostile act.

However, Mr Tusk staying in Brussels means he cannot come back to Poland to lead the opposition or stand for President. And on issues such as energy solidarity, sanctions on Russia or the single market Mr Tusk remains an ally rather than an opponent of this or any other Polish government. Nevertheless, it would be extraordinary for the government of a major member state to be snubbed in this way. The snub would be especially painful bearing in mind that it would mean Poland losing the opportunity to nominate a Commissioner to the new European Commission.

So how could Poland be compensated? Not by any additional top job. But it could be unopposed for the job of deputy head of NATO (Krzysztof Sczerski, President Andrzej Duda’s chief of staff), given assurances about a favorable EU budget settlement and about any attempt to activate Article 7 of the Treaty of Lisbon over the rule of law.

But even should the ‘offer’ be so generous the Polish government would be loathed to see such a development. It has been highly critical of Mr Tusk and has argued that his position in Brussels is not strong. Losing a major battle over Mr Tusk heading the EC would send confusing and unwelcome signals about the position of the current Polish government in the EU too.