European Council President Donald Tusk defended the “liberal democracy” on which the present EU has been built and warned against the anti-liberal “virus” which plays into the hands of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Tusk was unusually blunt in his address, made on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the European Policy Centre, a Brussels think tank.
The EU Council President warned that the threat faced by the EU today “is that of the disintegration of Europe, in a political and ideological sense”.
Without mentioning by name the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the self-styled promoter of ‘illiberal democracy’, he said that it was “no coincidence that very often those who question liberal democracy are the same ones who call for the break-up of the European Union”.
Tusk and Orbán are from the same political family, the European Peoples’ party (EPP), a broad political grouping of centrists and conservatives. But many see illiberal democracy also in Tusk’s native Poland, under the populist party ‘Law and Justice’ of Jaroslav Kaczyński.
The EU’s problem is that others are following the illiberal regimes of Hungary and in Poland, and it is possible that among them be Germany, writes George Friedman.
“You will have noticed that the anti-liberal virus produces similar symptoms: both in Europe and beyond. Its carriers dislike the Union, so they are happy about Brexit. They don’t want trans-Atlantic solidarity, so they promote isolationism. They look up to Putin and support Trump,” Tusk said.
The Council President also mentioned the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party as one of the anti-liberal forces moving from the periphery onto the main stage.
“They proclaim a need for total change, they want to subvert the political order we call liberal democracy. Change for the sake of change has become their fetish. As the leader of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD0 said, commenting on the presidential campaign in the US, and I quote: “it might not be better under Trump, but at least with him there is the chance to change,” Tusk said.
The Council President said anti-liberals lacked positive ideas and designs for concrete solutions.
“But what they do not lack is the energy and determination in their march for influence and power. It is remarkable how all too often politicians of the moderate centre in comparison to them come across as listless, unwilling to fight, with no faith in their own convictions. As if they’ve fallen into a trap of fatalism, which they have no strength or desire to free themselves from”, Tusk said.
He noted that in the 1930s, the advocates of a liberal order gave up to Nazism virtually without a fight, “even though they had all the cards in their hands”.
“I categorically reject this fatalistic approach. I categorically reject this temptation to give in to these trends. I do not accept arguments about the decadence of Europe and the West”, Tusk said.
Regarding Brexit, Tusk said there was no alternative to the “hard Brexit”, adding that it was “pure illusion” that one can have the EU cake and eat it too.
“To all who believe in it, I propose a simple experiment. Buy a cake, eat it, and see if it is still there on the plate”, Tusk said.
- Council President: Speech by President Donald Tusk at the European Policy Centre conference