A special summit of European Union leaders on August 30 named Polish prime minister Donald Tusk as the next President of the European Council and Italy’s Federica Mogherini as the EU foreign policy chief, to take office in November 2014.
The appointment of Mogherini is a defeat for Bulgaria, which after prolonged domestic political turmoil – exacerbated by rearguard actions by its now-departed and discredited short-lived Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet – formally put forward serving European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva for the foreign policy job.
Herman van Rompuy, whose term as European Council President, the first to hold the office, ends in November, said in a tweet that the special European Council meeting had chosen Poland’s Tusk as his successor and Mogherini as the new foreign policy chief, to succeed the UK’s Catherine Ashton.
Especially among Eastern European member states of the EU, there had been misgivings about Mogherini, on top of her inexperience, because of what they saw as her soft line on the Kremlin.
But this was seen as being counterbalanced by Tusk’s much more assertive stance towards Russia, especially its illegal actions in Ukraine.
Tusk’s term of two and a half years will be, in terms of EU rules, renewable for a second term of the same length. Mogherini will take office on November 1 2014 for a five-year term.
Ashton, in a formal statement issued by the European Commission, said, “I would like to congratulate Federica Mogherini on her appointment as the European Union’s next High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission.
“I wish her every success in taking forward the EU’s external action over the next five years
at the head of the European External Action Service,” Ashton said.
Deutsche Welle reported Tusk as saying that it was possible to combine austerity and expansion in Europe.
“My experience as prime minister points to the fact that fiscal discipline on one side and economic growth on the other, combining these two challenges is possible,” Tusk told a news conference in Brussels.
The 57-year-old career politician also said he would take on Britain’s concerns over the EU: “No reasonable person can imagine the EU without the UK,” he said.
For his own country, Tusk said his appointment was a strong signal for Poland’s future in the Eurozone, although the date and the final decision would be decided by the government in Poland.
The Warsaw Voice reported that on the Ukraine crisis, Tusk said it was vital to “jointly work out a policy on the Ukraine-Russia conflict that is courageous but not radical and effective in achieving peace.”
Analysts say that Tusk’s appointment will give ex-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe that are critical of the Kremlin new clout in the EU. Poland has been one of the most vocal supporters of sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
It is expected that by-September, European Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker will announce the allocation of portfolios in the coming EC.