The European Council is set to vote on a new president on Thursday. Incumbent Donald Tusk, a Pole, is widely expected to be reelected for another 30-month term. But his home government threw a spanner in the works on Saturday, announcing it would back conservative Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (another Pole) for the top job.
No precedent exists for such competition; there’s not been a contested re-election since 2009, when the post was created. EU rules mandate that a candidate must be backed by at least 16 of the bloc’s 28 member states and also receive votes from countries that together make up 65% of the total EU population.
Poland’s sudden rejection of Donald Tusk’s bid is steeped in domestic politics. Mr Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, shares a bitter rivalry with the chairman of the country’s ruling nationalist party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
More broadly, the current Polish government is critical of the liberal policy fixes frequently proffered by Brussels – which in turn has criticised it for undermining the rule of law and instituting creeping authoritarianism.
Ultimately, while it’s likely Mr Tusk will be reelected on Thursday, the last-minute turmoil once more underscores the deep divisions in Europe – ones that are unlikely to go away anytime soon.
Dig deeper: A challenging year for the European Union
Simon is the founder of Foreign Brief who served as managing director from 2015 to 2021. A lawyer by training, Simon has worked as an analyst and adviser in the private sector and government. Simon’s desire to help clients understand global developments in a contextualised way underpinned the establishment of Foreign Brief. This aspiration remains the organisation’s driving principle.