In one of his farewell addresses before he ceases to be the President of the European Council Donald Tusk makes a point of criticizing the French President’s view on EU enlargement and Russia.
Donald Tusk gave a keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 2019/2020 academic year at the College of Europe in Brugge. In it he criticized the French President Emmanuel Macron for his views on Russia and EU enlargement. The French President in an interview with “The Economist” last week said that NATO was “brain dead” and that Europe needed to rethink its approach to Russia.
Mr Tusk said that he agreed with Mr Macron’s desire for a more integrated Europe as a global players. But he criticized France’s blocking of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania saying that there “will be no sovereign Europe without stable Balkans integrated with the rest of the continent.”
He also criticized the French President’s stance on Russia. He made a point of saying that “there will be no sovereign Europe without an independent Ukraine. Our tough and consistent stance on Russia was the first expression, so clear and unambiguous, of our sovereignty… And this is why when I hear Macron's words, that ‘we must reconsider our position with Russia, to rethink the strategic relationship’, I can only express hope that it will not happen at the cost of our common dreams about Europe's sovereignty.”
Mr Tusk said that he would not be supporting any moves to put pressure on Poland to change its stance on sanctions on Russia. “In the same interview for The Economist, President Macron says that he shares the same views on this subject as Viktor Orbán, and that he hopes that Mr Orbán will help convince Poles to change their position on Russia. Maybe, but not me, Emmanuel”, the President of the European Council said.
Unity the key
The former Polish PM said that his primary purpose during his five years as President of the European Council was the maintenance of European unity. Preserving a common EU view on Russia was for Mr Tusk an essential part of that needed unity. He had no qualms about Russian intent “that Putin's strategic goal was not only to regain control of the former Soviet Union territories, but also to systematically weaken the EU by provoking internal divisions. I had to publicly remind others, almost every week, that Russia is not our ‘strategic partner’, but our ‘strategic problem’” Mr Tusk said.
He expressed satisfaction in the way the Euro crisis was solved without Greece having to leave the Eurozone. He was also content that compromises were in the end found to resolve the migration crisis. As well Mr Tusk stated that he had done everything possible to avert a two speed Europe.
It obviously irked him that, despite the maintenance of unity among 27 member states over Brexit, the UK were still likely to leave the EU. He believed that this would result in the UK becoming a “second-rate player” on the global stage. He quoted a British source to support his view. “One of my English friends is probably right when he says with melancholy that Brexit is the real end of the British Empire.”
There will be agreement with Mr Tusk within Poland’s present government on Russia, EU enlargement and avoiding a two speed Europe. On Brexit as well, the Polish side considers the fact as a regrettable development which Poland never wanted.
But Mr Tusk’s call for unity will sound a little hollow in Warsaw when it comes to disagreements over the rule of law, migration and climate change policies. On all these issues Mr Tusk has stood firmly on the side of the EC, even when, as on migration case, he had serious misgivings about the policy being adopted.
Mr Tusk’s active engagement against the present government meant that communication between Warsaw and Mr Tusk became difficult. And since Poland is a key member state in Central Europe this created further tensions between the Visegrad Group and the West Europeans.
Mr Tusk ends his term in office as President of the European Council with the EU at the crossroads. It is still not clear whether Brexit will happen. The disagreement over the next budget of the EU is deeper than ever. Tensions over the Euro and migration are still present and enlargement has been put on ice. And now Mr Macron has thrown another spanner into the works by raising relations with Russia and Europe’s security framework into the equation. Return to the top of the page.