Leadership Changes at the European Union
The European Union came to closure on the top remaining posts in the EU senior leadership last week. EU leaders chose veteran right-of-center Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to be President of the European Council and the left-of-center, Next Gen Italian Foreign Minister, Frederica Mogherini, to be High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. With these choices, the EU achieved a measure of geographic, political, and demographic balance that is intrinsic to the EU selection process. In the case of Tusk, the EU has chosen a sophisticated politician, who has a demonstrated ability to build consensus, and long experience in dealing with Moscow. While Mogherini is newer to the scene, she is seen as a rising star, who has grown in the job since being appointed Foreign Minister in February of this year. Donald Tusk is an extremely canny politician, the first to win two consecutive terms as Prime Minister in Poland since the democratic transition. He is a smart and capable politician, who knows how to keep his opponents off balance. To get the job, he managed to secure the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, already a close associate, and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Getting British support speaks to Tusk's political skills as Warsaw and London have been on opposite sides of many issues, including austerity, immigration policy, and EU integration. Cameron has, however, sided with Poland on the need for a resolute response to Russia, which may have been a factor in Cameron throwing his support to Tusk. Tusk will assume the job already knowledgeable about the workings of the Council and deeply familiar with his colleagues, having served on the Council as Polish Prime Minister since 2007. Although Tusk’s English is limited (he rarely, if ever, speaks in English) he converses with Merkel in German. Tusk has taken a hard line on Russia policy since the Ukraine crisis, like most other EU politicians in the states bordering Russia. During his time as Prime Minister, however, Tusk supported pragmatic relations with Russia, in particular during the Medvedev period. Tusk encouraged closer Polish ties with Moscow particularly after the 2010 plane crash over Smolensk, and supported Poland’s own reset with Moscow, which corresponded with President Obama’s first term outreach to Moscow. Tusk’s appointment underlines the growing role of Poland, now the EU’s sixth largest economy and, perhaps, the EU member most enthusiastic about deepening European integration, despite the 2008 crisis. Notably, Tusk will assume the critical responsibility of chairing Eurozone meetings, even though Poland, itself, has not yet adopted the Euro, although Poland still seeks to join, as Tusk affirmed over the weekend. Tusk's move to Brussels will create political unease in Warsaw as there was no obvious successor to him in his party, whose popularity has been flagging. Speculation about his successor is focusing on close associate and Parliament Speaker, Ewa Kopacz. Also mentioned was Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak, who has demonstrated low-key resolve in managing an intricate and often controversial portfolio. Although new to the job, Mogherini has grown quickly in the position, and has a reputation as a talented politician. She is unlikely to pursue a pro-Russia policy in the role, which is highly circumscribed in any case. Catherine Ashton will continue in the Iran negotiations, perhaps for the duration of the talks, a well-earned recognition of the role she played in keeping the 5+1 talks going during the period when Washington's attention was elsewhere. Lee Feinstein is non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund. A former senior official in the Obama and Clinton administrations, he was U.S. Ambassador to Poland from 2009-2012. He is founding dean of the School of Global and International Studies at the University of Indiana at Bloomington.
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