German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw her weight behind Donald Tusk to retain one of the European Union’s top jobs Thursday, despite staunch opposition from his home country of Poland.
The 28 EU leaders are due to decide during the opening session of their summit in Brussels who will be president of the EU Council for the next two and a half years. It is one of the bloc’s most prestigious jobs, and involves chairing summits and coordinating the work of the member countries and make sure the 28 nations speak as much as possible with one voice on the international stage.
Warsaw argued that the decision should be delayed. But Malta’s prime minister, who will preside over the vote, indicated that there’s little appetite for a delay.
“There is an overwhelming support for President Tusk’s re-election,” Joseph Muscat told reporters.
Poland’s nationalist government has proposed little-known Polish EU lawmaker Jacek Saryusz-Wolski to replace Tusk, whose current term ends May 31.
Tusk is a former prime minister who has a long and bitter rivalry with the leader of Poland’s current governing party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The government argues that Tusk supports the domestic opposition in Poland and has failed to protect the country’s interests in the EU.
Diplomats from several member nations say Warsaw has little or no support, while Tusk has strong backing. Merkel offered Tusk public support in a pre-summit speech to lawmakers in Berlin.
“I see the re-election of Donald Tusk as a sign of stability for the entire EU,” she said.
Malta, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, will be looking right up to the beginning of the summit for a way to preserve the consensus and have everyone back one candidate. However, it appears likely that the matter will go to a vote, with Tusk being re-elected by an overwhelming majority.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Thursday that Poland will do everything it can to block Tusk’s re-election.
“There is no need for hurry, no need to make the decision today,” Waszczykowski said on Poland’s TVN24 television.
But Muscat indicated that he remains convinced the decision will be made Thursday.
“The item is on the agenda, so I think that usually when an item is on the agenda one has to decide on that item,” Muscat said.