EU Socialists eye Tusk’s job after losing European Parliament presidency

Sergei Stanishev [PES]

Centre-left leaders could try to oust Donald Tusk as chair of the European Council and key broker of Brexit negotiations with Britain and will have their first discussion on the issue next week before an EU summit in Malta, their party president said.

Centre-left lawmakers are fuming over the loss of the European Parliament’s presidency to the main centre-right grouping, which already heads the EU’s other major institutions, the European Council and the executive European Commission.

The centre-right’s Antonio Tajani (EPP group) of Italy replaced German Social Democrat Martin Schulz as president of the Parliament in a vote last week. Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker is president of the Commission.

Tajani triumphant in historic Parliament presidency vote

Following intense political negotiations, centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) candidate Antonio Tajani was elected this evening (17 January) as president of the European Parliament.

“It is not logical that one political party that had less than one third of the votes in the European elections have three out of the three key positions,” Sergei Stanishev, head of the Party of European Socialists (PES), told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday (24 January).

“I think a conversation about a progressive candidate for the presidency of the European Council should be initiated among our prime ministers and heads of state,” Stanishev, a former Bulgarian premier, said.

He said he would propose the start of such a debate at a meeting of Socialist leaders due to take place next week in Malta, just before an EU summit on 3 February.

Theresa May to attend first part of EU Malta summit on 3 February

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will attend the first part of a meeting of European Union leaders in Malta early next month, her spokeswoman said yesterday (18 January).

The European Council, which groups the 28 EU heads of state and government, must decide by May whether to give Tusk a second, 30-month mandate. They will prefer a consensus choice, though if need be can take a majority vote. Nine EU countries are currently led by the centre-left.

Brexit challenge

Tusk, a centre-right former Polish prime minister, has not said whether he wants a second term.

Arguing in Tusk’s favour, diplomats say, is a broad view that he has done a fair job in a time of crisis and a preference for continuity, especially as he prepares to oversee complex negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The issue of party affiliation has rarely been a top priority for EU leaders when they decide such appointments.

Stanishev declined to comment on a report, denied by aides to François Hollande, that the French Socialist leader might like to replace Tusk after France’s presidential election in May. Hollande is not seeking re-election.

Hollande has no plans to replace Tusk, aides say

François Hollande does not want to chair the European Council when he steps down as French president in May, aides said yesterday (19 January), denying a report that he hoped to succeed Donald Tusk in overseeing negotiations on Britain’s exit from the EU.

“It is not about personality. It is a matter of political balance,” said Stanishev, adding that the centre-right’s stranglehold on top EU posts could also help fuel the rise of Eurosceptic, far-right parties across the continent.

Tusk, who served as prime minister between 2007 and 2014, has recently infuriated the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) with extremely critical comments.

Tusk rallies against 'undermining of democracy’ in Poland as protests continue

European Council President Donald Tusk weighed in on Poland’s political crisis on Saturday (17 December), urging the ruling party to respect the constitution, the voters and the democratic process, as two days of anti-government protests spread from Warsaw to two other cities.

Poland’s current populist government, lead by Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of PiS, has no real esteem for Tusk, who was the co-founder and leader of the EPP-affiliated Civic Platform (PO), now in opposition.

Polish FM calls Tusk ‘icon of evil and stupidity’

Donald Tusk suffered another attack from Poland’s populist government on Monday (2 January), when Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski told Krakow radio station RMF FM that he was an “icon of evil and stupidity” and that he should stay “far away from Poland”.

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