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EU Chooses Tusk, Mogherini For Top Positions

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is an economic liberal and advocate of free trade.

EU leaders have chosen Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as the new president of the European Council and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini as the new EU foreign-policy chief.

The choices were announced by the outgoing president of the European Council, Herman Von Rompuy, as EU heads of state met on August 30 in Brussels.

Tusk said in a press conference following the announcement that the EU needed a courageous but not radical position on the conflict in Ukraine and that the end goal should be peace.

He also said that it was possible to combine fiscal discipline and economic growth in Europe and pledged to address the concerns of Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on continued EU membership by 2017.

Mogherini, speaking at the same press conference, said the EU must keep the path to a diplomatic solution of the Ukraine crisis open even as it worked on new sanctions against Russia.

Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini
Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini

"As we think and we work on the level of sanctions, we also have to keep the diplomatic way open...hoping that the combination, a wise combination, can be effective," she said.

Tusk has been Poland's prime minister for two terms.

The 57-year-old center-right politician from what is by far the biggest of the ex-communist EU states is an economic liberal and advocate of free trade.

His reported weak point is that he speaks little English and no French, making it harder for him to communicate on behalf of the EU to a wide audience.

His appointment to chair and steer policymaking meetings of EU leaders is a victory for the 10 ex-communist Central and Eastern European countries that joined the European Union a decade ago and which have demanded that one of the top jobs go to a candidate from their region.

In the Ukraine crisis, Poland alongside Britain has led the drive for tougher sanctions against Moscow.

Prior to being named Italy's foreign minister in February, the 41-year-old Mogherini was a member of the Italian parliament since 2008.

Her foreign-policy experience consists of stints representing her country in the parliamentary assemblies of both NATO and the Council of Europe and as a fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She is fluent in English, French, and also speaks some Spanish.

The center-left politician was widely expected to get the EU foreign-policy-chief job back in July, but her candidacy was scuttled by Poland and Lithuania, who argued that she was too soft on Russia during the crisis in Ukraine.

The fact that Mogherini's first foreign trip since Italy took over the EU presidency in July was to Moscow to see Russian President Vladimir Putin exacerbated the issue.

EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton will step down at the end of October.

President Herman Van Rompuy's term also expires this year.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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