Donald Tusk named next president of European Council

Taoiseach Enda Kenny says economy is a key challenge for new EU leader

Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk arriving at the European Council headquarters before an EU summit in Brussels. European Union leaders chose Tusk as the new president of their Council today. Photograph: Reuters

Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk arriving at the European Council headquarters before an EU summit in Brussels. European Union leaders chose Tusk as the new president of their Council today. Photograph: Reuters

Sat, Aug 30, 2014, 19:34

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has been named as the next head of the European Council with Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini scooping the post of foreign policy chief.

At a summit in Brussels this evening, EU leaders agreed on the candidates who will govern the European Union over the next five years, following the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as the European Commission head in June

Speaking this evening in Brussels, Mr Tusk, said that he would bring an “energy” to the post, adding that Poland was a country that “believes in a united Europe. ”

The European Union would also “take on the concerns” of the UK, Mr Tusk said. “No reasonable person can imagine the EU without the UK. I cannot imagine it myself. I have talked about it with David Cameron [..]We can reach an agreement.”

Mr Tusk, who has led Poland since 2007, will be responsible for chairing EU summits, while Ms Mogherini will succeed Catherine Ashton as the EU’s foreign policy chief. Ms Mogherini assumes the role at a critical time for EU foreign policy as the bloc grapples with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny called on the incoming president of the European Council to put economics at the heart of EU policy over the next five years, describing unemployment as the “central issue” facing the European Union over the coming years.

Speaking on his way into the summit of EU leaders, Mr Kenny said that tackling the economic challenges facing the European economy should be “central to the politics of the European Union.”

“Europe faces a time of great change and a time of great challenge, so whoever takes up the presidency of the Council is faced with the enormous prospect of dealing with the future economic strength and development of the European Union,” the Taoiseach said.

His comments come as the European Union grapples with the threat of deflation and sluggish economic activity, with recent economic data showing that GDP growth faltered in the second quarter of the year.

Both the position of high representative for foreign affairs and European Council president were created under the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed as the head of the European Commission in June. Mr Juncker is expected to announce the allocation of Commission portfolios as early as next week. All three senior EU positions are for a five-year term.

Mr Kenny said he had discussed the issue of Ireland’s commissionership with Mr Juncker at today’s pre-summit EPP meeting. “I have very good relations with Jean Claude Juncker over many years, as Ireland has. Obviously he is going to make the appointments, and he made it clear at the last Council meeting that this will be a Commission appointed by him. I did say to him that Ireland would be interested in a commissionership that would be related to jobs, investment and growth.”

Ireland’s incoming European commissioner Phil Hogan is due to meet with Mr Juncker next week, having also met with the incoming head of the Commission last month. Among the portfolios understood to be preferred by Ireland include agriculture, though Spain and Romania are also believed to be lobbying for the post.

EU leaders are also set to discuss the continuing crisis in Ukraine this evening, with the possibility of further sanctions under consideration. However, a draft of the summit’s conclusions, seen by the Irish Times, omits any specific mention of further sanctions.

The document also contains a number of references to Europe’s economic challenges and “unacceptably high” unemployment levels. A conference on employment, investment and growth, to be attended by EU leaders, has been scheduled for October 7th in Milan.