The Irish Times view on Donald Tusk: necessary truths

The plain-spoken Pole has made a habit of speaking unhappy, undiplomatic but necessary truths to fellow EU leaders

European Council president Donald Tusk has quietly but successfully helped to re-establish the primacy of member-state leaders in the Council in steering the EU’s political agenda, a mixed legacy smaller states may fear. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

European Council president Donald Tusk has quietly but successfully helped to re-establish the primacy of member-state leaders in the Council in steering the EU’s political agenda, a mixed legacy smaller states may fear. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

 

October 31st, when the UK is due to leave the EU, will mark another unfortunate departure from its stage: that of European Council president Donald Tusk. At the end of his term he passes on the baton of EU leaders’ shop steward to Belgium’s Charles Michel.

He will be missed. The plain-spoken Pole has made a habit of speaking unhappy, undiplomatic but necessary truths to fellow leaders of the union – remember the “special place in hell” for those who promoted Brexit with no plan for how to deliver it safely – and on the international stage.

He has quietly but successfully also helped to re-establish the primacy of member-state leaders in the Council in steering the EU’s political agenda, a mixed legacy smaller states may fear.

But last week, in a farewell address to the UN General Assembly, he delivered a telling, blistering attack on Donald Trump. The latter had spoken from the same podium of what Tusk saw as a dangerous false dichotomy between “patriotism and globalism”. “The very idea of the UN, just like that of the EU, is de facto a heroic attempt to overcome such thinking,” Tusk warned.

His targets were clearly not only Trump, but, unnamed, closer to home, the “politicians [who] use lies as a permanent method to maintain power” and who do not see that “to protect the rule of law, you really have to accept that law should be above power”. Boris Johnson, Viktor Orban, and Matteo Salvini spring to mind.

Tusk’s message that solidarity must be at the heart of global politics and is the essence of a patriotic globalism, is the message that 50 states, including Ireland, embraced at the UN in launching a new Alliance for Multilateralism. “The patriotism of the 21st century,” Tusk said, “must also have a global dimension, if it is not to become, as has many times been the case, a common national egoism. The history of our nations shows how easy it is to transform the love of one’s homeland into a hatred towards one’s neighbours…. How easy it is to use the slogans of one’s own sovereignty against the sovereignty of others.”

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