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Three Major Challenges Facing Donald Tusk

Today marks the day former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk takes over as leader of the European Council. But Who is Donald Tusk? And what will his role be as leader of the European Council.

Who is Donald Tusk?

His predecessor Herman Von Rompuy, who stood down after five years, was subject to much criticism during his tenure, not least for his lack of charisma considering the enormity of the job held.

He was a favourite punching bag for UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, who directed the famous ‘Who are You’ speech at him in 2010. Watch it here.

It is unlikely Farage will find it quite so easy to direct such insults at Donald Tusk, who is a well known and well respected politician in Europe.

The 57 year old Kashubian Slav and a native of Gdansk had been Prime Minister of Poland from 2007-2014, and is still a very popular man in Poland.

His record speaks for itself. Whilst Poland may still suffer from structural high unemployment and is currently experiencing a deflationary problem, it was the only country within the European Union to avoid recession during the financial crisis. It is also currently one of the top growth performers in Europe.

The party he co-founded in 2001 Civic Platform has its roots in the 1980s solidarity movement. Also his departure from Polish politics could harm their chances of forming a government in next year’s general election.

The Task at Hand

The timing of his arrival in Europe could not be more significant.

His role will involve promoting cohesion and consensus with the European Council. He sill be setting the European Union’s political direction and will be the representative of the EU abroad, A mammoth task.

Aside from the many day to day duties, three major issues will linger for the duration of his three year tenure.

The Eurozone Crisis

The concern that Europe, more specifically the Eurozone is going through a slow and unstoppable decline.

Whilst growth at present is just in positive territory, and the worst appears to be over for the PIGS, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, the feeling remains that another crisis is just around the corner. Larger and more important economies, most notably Italy and France are stagnating, and even Germany only recently narrowly avoided recession.

Tackling this will be difficult when many believe the very concept of the Euro is flawed, including the majority of his country. 53% in a 2014 poll were are opposed to joining.


The thorny issue of Russia grows.

Like many of the former Soviet states, a harder line on Vladimir Putin might be expected and wished for. However, the dawning reality is that no matter how much diversification from the Russian economy the EU looks for, the reality is Europe needs Russia as much as Russia needs Europe.

Tusk recently referred to Russia as ‘Our strategic partner, but our Strategic problem’. It is impossible to know at this stage how he will play this, but most in the EU do not want to see a Cold War 2.0 and hope to eventually see nations talking.

‘Brexit’ and a Potential Breakup of The EU

Finally and perhaps most significantly, is the ever present threat of a breakup of the European Union itself.

Whilst there are plenty of Euro sceptic parties, there is a growing realisation that The UK Independence Party (UKIP), may hold the balance of power in the country’s general elections next May. It is also probable that they will be able to direct the Conservatives into an In/Out referendum.

Former Conservative and pro Europe Prime Minister, John Major is concerned about ‘Brexit’ (British Exit of the EU). He recently stated that there is a 50% chance of this happening.

Regarding Donald Tusk, Britain is a natural ally of Poland. Both countries are liberal, free market economies on the fringes of the European Union, and both are sceptical of the Franco-German EU dominance.

It could be a major job of Donald Tusk’s to put on a charm offensive and persuade the British public that Brexit is not in their interests.

The Outlook

One criticism of Mr Tusk is his English or lack thereof. It is something he has assured people he has been brushing up on.

He sent the following tweet recently, “Veni vidi… and we’ll see what happened, Brussels, here I come”. This is a rare display of English from a man who incidentally, speaks fluent Russian.

He is known for his skills in taking leadership of situations. He his taken risks in bringing in unpopular reforms, something The EU may require for inevitable reforms.

Herman Von Rompuy recently called him a ‘European Statesman’.

He is also known to be fond of his own voice. His 2007 policy speech was three hours long.

It is only 10 years since the communist bloc’s progression from accession to full member states…. to Tusk’s appointment as leader of the European Council. If anything it goes to show the rapid transformation Europe and the European Union has gone through since 1989.

It will be Donald Tusk’s job to prove that it can expand and extend further, or maybe just simply be held together.

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