Sunday, June 26, 2016


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Interview: Will A Tusk Presidency Help EU Look East?

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk "has the kind of abilities that can be helpful to him as a new leader in the European Union," Joanna Wajda says.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk "has the kind of abilities that can be helpful to him as a new leader in the European Union," Joanna Wajda says.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has been chosen to replace Herman Von Rompuy as the president of the European Council at a gathering of EU leaders in Brussels to decide on the bloc's top posts.

RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak spoke to Joanna Wajda, the Brussels correspondent for Polish public broadcaster TVP, prior to the announcement about what to expect if Tusk is chosen for the post.

RFE/RL: What would it mean for Poland if Donald Tusk became EU Council president?

Joanna Wajda: It would be a big success for Poland. In Poland, there's a big demand for this kind of success, especially after the 10th anniversary [this year] of our entering into the European Union. So in Poland, both the opposition and the [ruling] coalition are keeping their fingers crossed.

RFE/RL: Do you think that the EU's policy toward the Eastern Partnership program would change with Tusk as the EU Council president?

Wajda: This is the question. What could the president of the European Council do? Because he is, in my opinion, more of a coordinator, more of a person who is responsible for preparing the European summit and finding compromises.

But I think he could show all of Europe and the European leaders that, hey, we have the eastern part of Europe as well, and we have to look at them and see their problems. I think it could be a signal to Moscow, if he becomes the new leader, that the European Union is putting pressure on eastern issues as well.

RFE/RL: What sort of leader is Tusk?

Wajda: He is quite successful in Polish politics, because he's been the prime minister for two terms, something that's happening for the first time in Polish politics [since the fall of communism]. The opposition in Poland is very strong; there's a big fight between the opposition Law and Justice party and the ruling Civic Platform, and he's been quite successful in this fight.

I think he has the ability to build consensus. He has the ability to be liked by other people, because he's not an angry man or a shouter. He is rather open to compromise. So I think that he has the kind of abilities that can be helpful to him as a new leader in the European Union.

RFE/RL: The main criticism of him seems to be his lack of language skills. What languages does he actually speak apart from his native Polish and German?

Wajda: There are lots of legends out there about whether he can speak English or not. We've heard from his people that he's learning English, that he's good at speaking it but is a little too shy to speak to journalists. During the last European summit, for example, we could see from some shots from the meeting that he speaks to his counterparts in English.

I don't know what his level of English is, but I've heard that he's quite good. He's had lots of lessons, so I think that it's not a big problem with English, because I think over these next three months he could learn more and more before he takes the post on December 1. With French it's a bigger problem.

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