Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Monday (10 June) he wanted to fight for another term in office, quashing speculation that he was preparing a bid to take over as the next European Commission President.
Tusk has strong pro-European credentials and had been seen by many officials in EU capitals as a leading candidate to replace serving Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso when his term ends in 2014.
But he told Polish public television channel TVP2 he intended to lead his Civic Platform party to victory in parliamentary elections in 2015.
"I decided that I want to remain Polish prime minister and that until 2015 I will engage only in domestic issues," he said.
"I'm aware that some opportunity has appeared, but when I weigh what's important for me as a man, I will not experience any greater honour, satisfaction, than that of the role of prime minister. To be a Polish premier is 100 times more important for me than any European promotion," he added.
Tusk has established a good working relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has committed to taking Poland into the euro zone and has won plaudits for the prudent way his government has used EU development funds.
In a radio interview last week he said he would be a "good candidate" for the job of Commission president, local media reported, but he would not say if he planned to seek the job.
Tusk's commitment on Monday to stay in Polish politics for now will help draw a line under a period of uncertainty inside his own party. Several leading figures have been jockeying for position to take over if Tusk departed for Brussels.
However, his choice to stay comes with risks.
His party's popularity has slumped over the past year as the global downturn has finally reached Poland, eastern Europe's biggest economy. Opinion polls show his party has been overtaken by the conservative opposition Law and Justice Party.
Tusk aides have said privately in the past that he may still move to a job in Brussels after the next election, but they did not specify what role it would be. By that time, Barroso's replacement will already have been chosen.
Searching for Mr Europe
Given falling turnout and spreading euroscepticism, experts say that legitimacy of the Parliament must be strengthened through higher voter participation in the next European elections, scheduled for 22-25 May 2014.
European political parties are confident that choosing a candidate for Commission president would herald stronger leadership in the European Union. Better name recognition and a strong political programme could fuel a more political campaign, they reckon.
MEPs have pushed for members of the next European Commission to be chosen among newly elected members of Parliament so as to give voters more say. National governments currently nominate Commission candidates.
The two big political families, the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the European Peoples’ Party (EPP), have already announced that they would elect a candidate for Commission president well ahead the European elections to mobilise voters.
“The nomination of presidential candidates will trigger a series of positive dynamics and will generate unprecedented public interest for the 2014 European elections," said Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party (EPP). "If all the main European political parties commit to this process, we will surely make a significant contribution in the creation of a European public space.”
The 2014 European elections will be the first to be held under the Lisbon Treaty, which sought to enhance the role of citizens as political actors in the EU.
The Lisbon Treaty also strengthens the powers of the European Parliament, consolidating its role as co-legislator and giving it additional responsibility: it elects the president of the Commission on the basis of a proposal by the European Council taking into account the results of the European elections (Article 17.7) of the Treaty on European Union.
- End of 2013: Nomination for Commission president candidates presented by political groups
- By Feb. 2013: Selection of Commission president candidates
- 22-25 May 2014: European elections to be held in all 28 member states
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