The Brief: Polish psychodrama casts shadow over summit

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

A Polish psychodrama has cast a fratricidal shadow over today’s EU summit. The Poles want their former Prime Minister Donald Tusk out of his job as European Council president. So much for Solidarity.

They are willing, it seems, to kick up a right stink at tonight’s meeting of EU leaders in Brussels. Poland and the rest of the EU are, simply put, poles apart over Tusk.

Back in Warsaw, lurks the leader of ruling PiS party Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Crazed with grief for the loss of his twin brother in a 2010 plane crash, for which he holds Tusk responsible, he plots his vengeance.

As far as the EU is concerned, it is pretty clear the surviving brother was the evil twin.

There’s talk of Poland being willing to torpedo the talks. Whether this is meaningless chest-beating remains to be seen. A letter from Poland to EU leaders seems to have only strengthened their resolve to keep Tusk in post.

Donald Tusk said yesterday he was “ready” to face his compatriots and tormentors in the glitzy arena of the Council’s new “Space Egg” building.

Of course he was ready. Mutti Merkel has his back and the German chancellor looks after her boys.

As she strode, loins girded for battle, into today’s meeting of EU leaders, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo warned, “Nothing can be done without our agreement.”

Beata was talking total balderdash. It’s true EU leaders would rather back Tusk unanimously, especially as the bloc wants to look united ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

But European diplomats said that Tusk could be re-elected by a qualified majority vote of 21 to 28. Only Hungary is supporting Poland.

Everyone expects that Tusk will be reconfirmed. But nothing is ever 100% certain once leaders disappear into their diversity-carpeted and secluded meeting room.

Forgotten amid the internecine warfare, was the fact that Tusk is a member of the European People’s Party.

In a significant break with tradition, the EPP holds the top jobs at the Commission, Parliament and Council.

Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat will chair tonight’s talks on Tusk. This morning, he let slip that some socialist EU leaders were unhappy with the EPP’s dominance. The issue will be discussed tonight, he said, and may make a mention in the summit’s conclusions.

Muscat, a socialist, insists that the EPP monopoly will not influence the outcome of the Tusk tussle.

But tonight, outnumbered Poland could pick at that scab and open fresh wounds in the delicate tissue of the EU’s unity.

THE ROUNDUP

EU leaders will this evening express their “unequivocal support” for the European perspective of the Western Balkans”, in an effort to head off  Russian interference in the region.

European Parliament Vice-President Ramón Luis Valcárcel has called for a “red button” to censor the misogynistic tirades and “incredible nonsense” spouted by MEPs like Janusz Korwin-Mikke.

Experts warned MEPs today that curbs on civil liberties in the name of security often have the opposite effect, acting as ready-made “recruiting tools for extremists”.

Germany has described Russia’s deployment of nuclear-capable missiles to the enclave of Kaliningrad as “a blow to European security”.

Berlin’s row with Ankara stepped up a gear yesterday, with accusations of espionage and Islamophobia flying back and forth.

Donald Trump’s economic advisor wants to cut America’s $65bn trade deficit with Germany without EU involvement. Berlin will investigate allegations the CIA has been running a hacking base from the US consulate in Frankfurt.

Deutsche Bahn’s plans for a high-speed rail link between Frankfurt and London may help to woo the City’s bankers onto EU soil after Brexit.

The journey could be faster than flying.The Commission is betting on biofuels to cut aviation emissions by up to 80%.

Romanian MEP Daciana Sârbu told EURACTIV the EU needs a food quality watchdog to stop companies selling lower quality products in Eastern Europe.

Greece missed out on €3.1m of EU funding to provide free fruits and vegetables for schoolchildren because it did not ask for the money. Opposition MEPs have blamed “government incompetence”.

Not sure who to back in France’s presidential elections? Take our quiz to see which candidate suits you best.

Sam White contributed to this Brief.

LOOK OUT FOR…

EU-27 leaders will tomorrow discuss plans for the bloc’s 60th birthday celebrations in Rome on 25 March. That is if they are still talking to each other after tonight’s ding-dong over Donald Tusk’s reappointment as Council president.

Views are the author’s.

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