Tusk reappointment highlights EPP monopoly of top posts

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat warned that the current situation is not only "bad" for the institutions but for Europe as a whole. [Government of Malta]

EU leaders will address the political imbalance at the Union’s helm this year as a “substantial” number are “unhappy” with the current distribution, Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat said today (9 March).

Speaking to reporters before the European Council started, Muscat commented that the situation is “not sustainable”, as a single political family holds most of the top positions of the EU institutions.

He added that this distribution was “bad” not only for the institutions but also for Europe.

The EPP, the largest political group in the European Parliament, controls the presidencies of the three main institutions: the European Council, the Parliament and the European 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.

The Eurogroup presidency and the foreign policy chief’s posts are controlled by the Socialists & Democrats (S&D). The centre-left group includes one head of state and eight heads of government.

Seven leaders of national governments come from liberals ALDE, but they don’t control any top post.

EU leaders shared their dissatisfaction with Muscat, a socialist, during his round of contacts to sound out the capitals’ views for the re-election of Donald Tusk as European Council president.

The Council is expected to reappoint him today for another term.

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

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.

The Maltese prime minister did not expect a substantial discussion on the political balance during his rotating presidency. But he told reporters that it will take place this year.

A mention could be included in the European Council conclusions today, he added.

Muscat explained that the Commission presidency could fall under the review process to achieve a more balanced distribution.

Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed Commission chief following the EPP’s victory in the 2014 European elections.

But the spitzenkandidaten procedure is not established in the treaties. Leaders said that they would reassess this approach after the 2014 elections. A review should take place now, Muscat argued.

Overwhelming majority

The protest of various heads of national governments against the political imbalance would not influence the confirmation of Tusk for a second term, Muscat explained.

In his round of contacts with the 28 member states, he found an “overwhelming” majority in favour of renewing his mandate for another two and a half years.

Despite the staunch opposition of Poland’s conservative government to the nomination of his former premier, Muscat expected the European Council’s endorsement during today’s summit.

Tusk row threatens to overshadow EU summit

A row over Poland’s bid to replace EU President Donald Tusk threatens to overshadow a summit this week that was meant to focus on post-Brexit unity.

The “rules are clear” he insisted. He was open to calling for a vote if it was necessary to overcome Warsaw’s opposition.

Polish Prime Minister, Beata Szydlo was ready to filibuster the adoption of the summit conclusions in order to derail the process.

But Muscat played down the consequences of these threats.

He insisted that a decision would be taken today as he recalled that this is the last European Council before the end of Tusk’s mandate in May.

Sources told EURACTIV that at the European People’s Party pre-summit the only center-right leader who expressed concerns about Tusk’s re-election was Hungary’s premier Viktor Orban.

“The fact that we are backing a candidate who does not have the support of his country’s government should not be seen as a precedent,” Orban allegedly said.

Commenting on Polish Government’s resistance to the reappointment of Donald Tusk as President of the European Council, European Green Party Co-Chair Reinhard Bütikofer said: “It is most unfortunate that the Polish government has decided to turn the debate over a second term for President Tusk into a pitched political battle between Poland and its neighbors. The danger of an escalation of this conflict is putting at risk necessary steps forward towards a European Union that delivers better to its citizens.

Anti-German propaganda from Warsaw cannot hide the fact that even within the Visegrad Group of EU Member States Poland has not been able to convince its partners. The simple bottom line must be that the EU needs Poland but Poland also needs the EU. No Member State should try to force its will on almost all the others. Mr Kaczynski and Ms Szydlo must climb down from their tree. In a rational analysis they must come to the conclusion that they are doing a major disservice to their own country and its citizens.”

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.