Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister, has been appointed the new European Council President. Tonight, Tusk has had warm words about how imperative it is that Britain’s concerns about the EU are addressed. As Open Europe reports, he called the possibility of an EU without Britain a “black scenario.”
Tusk’s appointment is a mixed blessing for David Cameron. On the one hand, Tusk comes from a non-Eurozone country meaning that he’ll be sympathetic to Britain’s desire for single market protections for the Eurozone outs. The Ukraine crisis has also reminded the Poles of how important Britain is in terms of stiffening the EU approach towards Russia; meaning that Tusk genuinely would be loath to see Britain leave.
Set against that, though, is that Tusk is adamant that the free movement of people must remain a sacrosanct EU principle. As the leaked Wprost tapes revealed, Tusk had—in the words of his media adviser—a ‘proper f***ing go’ at Cameron for his comments about Poles claiming benefits in the UK. Given the public and party pressure Cameron will come under to do something about EU immigration in the renegotiation, this puts Cameron in a very difficult position.
The other important thing about Tusk, in the current circumstances, is that he is a hardliner on Russia. His appointment offsets the new EU High Rep on Foreign Affairs, the Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini who is regarded as soft on Putin.
Tusk’s appointment is another reminder of Angela Merkel’s power in Europe. She was Tusk’s great backer and her support persuaded Cameron and, ultimately other EU leaders, to back him.
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