The new appointments evoked debate concerning the upcoming changes in the EU and European policy towards Russia.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was elected new president of the European Council succeeding the outgoing president Herman Van Rompuy, while Italy’s Foreign Minister Frederica Mogherini would replace Catherine Ashton as the European Union’s head of foreign affairs. The new appointments evoked debate concerning the upcoming changes in the EU and European policy towards Russia.
Studio guest Dmitry Polikanov, Vice-President of the PIR Center, Paolo Salom, Foreign Editor, Corriere della Sera, Mickal Kokot, political observer at “Gazeta Wyborcha” shared their opinions with Radio VR.
How do you assess the possible change in Europe’s further policy towards Moscow given the counterbalance between the two new appointments and the vector that they are known for, at least in the media?
Dmitry Polikanov: I would say that the new people who will be in charge of the foreign policy in the EU look much stronger than their predecessors, who used to be quite chaotic in their movements and in formulating the foreign policy of this organization. I think the balance is good and even though Poland is not very much friendly towards Russia sometimes, but, generally speaking, I think that Donald Tusk is known as a kind of rational and balanced politician. And his Italian colleague will obviously help him somehow to focus on certain issues and she is a professional as well.
Generally speaking, the EU foreign policy has always been a matter of a big question, because it is not persistent. It is very difficult for the EU members to come to compromises. And actually the people who represent the EU have to follow this uncertainty in the minds of the EU members. So, I don’t expect any significant changes in the EU’s attitude towards Russia, but I hope that, at least, there will be more professional approach than before.
Paolo Salom: The problem with Frederica Mogherini’s lack of experience, it is only apparent. She has been doing politics since she was in the high school. And she always dealt with the foreign policy. It is true that she’s been in office as a minister for a few months, but actually Frederica Mogherini is a person with different experience. She is only 41 years old and I think that she is capable of understanding the different problem that Europe is facing right now.
Tusk, we have to watch and carefully follow his first decisions. He’s been in office as the Prime Minister, he is a very experienced man and he is known as the man who brought Poland out of the quagmire of the past. But again, Europe is in a way changing and probably very deeply in these last months, and in the months ahead. So, it is difficult to foresee what it is going to be like in the coming years.
We are sure of one thing: the real decisions will be made as it was in the past, in the most important capitals – Berlin, London, Paris and not in Brussels. But we will see something fresh in the coming months.
What are the expectations inside Poland?
Mickal Kokot: There is no doubt, the first thing he would be dealing with is solving the Ukrainian crisis. And I think that is the reason why he was chosen for this position. When the war in Ukraine began, Poland was always in favour of putting a bigger pressure on Russia. According to the last survey 80 percent of the Polish people in the light of the Ukrainian crisis are afraid of Russia. From this point of view, in my opinion, Tusk cannot and will not ignore that.
The second task will be an attempt to find alternative ways of the energy supplies for the EU countries, which nowadays mainly come from Russia. And I think he will try to convince other countries not to implement the Kyoto Protocol agreement, because Poland’s energy is mainly based on fossil fuels and this is what he will most probably try to keep.
To what extent do you think he would be able to act as an effective manager of the troubled economy of the EU?
Mickal Kokot: It is really hard to tell, because we are facing very hard times in the EU. And to find a compromise among 28 countries will be very difficult. But, on the other hand, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and a few days ago Tusk agreed on some of Cameron’s suggestions to start reforms within the EU. The question is about the willingness to seek a compromise with the other countries. The economic agenda is also very important, but now we face a political crisis with Russia and this will be the number one problem.
To what extent do you think he would be able to reinvent himself in such a position, because this is a big challenge for him?
Mickal Kokot: Yes, I agree with you. But, on the other hand, he has a huge experience. He was 7 years in the office as the Prime Minister of Poland and knows most of the people. He is not a hardliner, he is known for his willingness to seek compromises. And he told it several times while he has been in the office. And although his party is officially central right, he didn’t hesitate to implement some parts of the left policies, especially in the social affairs. And that’s why some of the left politicians also joined the party. He created a very wide movement in terms of the political parties and this is why he remained in power in Poland that long, which is quite unusual for this part of Europe, except for Hungary, but this is a very specific country.
Tusk, in my opinion, is very skill full. He can listen and understand what people want. He said about himself that he is not a revolutionist or a reformist. And I think it is true, only a handful of reforms were in fact implemented in Poland. He tries as much as possible to avoid any radical policy which could cause the loss of his power. For example, he refused to start the debate about Poland joining the Eurozone, because most of his voters are against that.
But his disadvantages in Poland can become his advantages in Brussels. There are 28 countries and many of them have different or even contradictory demand. He is the good negotiator and he can manage it to be a good president of the European Council.