European Union: President of the European Council Donald Tusk

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Donald Tusk began his political career in earnest in 1989 upon his creation of the free market-oriented Liberal and Democratic Congress Party (KLD) out of the ashes of Poland’s Solidarity Party.  In 1991, Tusk gained a seat in Sejm, Poland’s lower legislative house.  After failing to meet the minimum limit of votes for maintaining representation in Parliament, Tusk merged his party with the Democratic Union Party (UD), forming the Freedom Union (UW).  In 1997, running on the Freeman Union ticket, Tusk earned a seat in the Senate. In 2001 Tusk left the Freedom Union to cocreate the new center-right, market-oriented party, Civic Platform (PO).  Tusk was again elected to the Sejm and made its deputy speaker. In 2007 Tusk was elected Prime Minister as a part of a coalition government formed with the Peasants Party (PSL).

As Prime Minister, Tusk was strongly pro-business and pro-European Union.  His pursuit of E.U. membership served Poland well.  E.U. funds drove growth in the Polish economy.  Under Tusk’s leadership Poland weathered the global economic downturn of 2008 remarkably well, maintaining its growth rate even while other E.U. member states were badly shaken.  E.U. leadership applauded Tusk’s performance in the crisis.   Upon his election to a second term Tusk fought for his controversial plan to increase the Polish retirement age to 67.  In 2014 Tusk was unanimously chosen to succeed Herman Van Ropuy as President of the European Council. He resigned from his post as Prime Minister and accepted the post.  In his first term as president Tusk was faced with three major issues: Brexit, the annexation of the Crimea, and the E.U. economy.  In regards to Brexit, Tusk has proved to be a tough negotiator, adopting the mantra “no negotiations without notifications”, and is applauded for his calm handling of the storm.  In regards to the Ukraine, Tusk has emerged as a hawk, leading the call for strict sanctions on Russia. In regards to the E.U. economy Tusk remains staunchly pro free-market.  Tusk was elected to the presidency for a second term in 2017, amid backlash from the current Polish administration. It will fall to him to continue negotiating the U.K.’s retreat from the European Union.

Ahead of the G7 Summit, Tusk made a statement to the press expecting the most challenging G7 summit yet.  He commented that the US and the rest of the G7 leaders disagree on crucial issues, including climate change, trade, and the Iran Nuclear Deal.  Tusk emphasized the importance of pushing forward fighting for democracy and rule of law.  Furthermore, Tusk stated that despite the differences between the G7 leaders, there are strong values and causes that unite them.  Tusk noted the importance of unity among the G7 and maintaining this throughout and following the summit.  These issues which Tusk stated bring unity include denuclearizing North Korea, opposing Russia’s aggression, finding a resolution to the war in Syria, defending democracy, and maintaining a unified stance on the militarization of the South China Sea.  President Tusk also brought up an individual named Oleg Sentsov, who was a Ukrainian filmmaker.  Sentsov protested the annexation of Crimea, and is now serving a 20 year sentence in Siberia.  Tusk called on the G7 leaders to support Sentsov.  Tusk stated, “Our (G7 leaders) solidarity can save his life.”

Prior to the G20 Summit in Hamburg last year, Tusk issued a statement that focused on the widespread migration throughout Europe and the need for UN sanctions against smugglers. He called upon all G20 leaders to “be ruthless in the fight against smugglers.” As Tusk’s recent statement at the 2017 G20 Summit and the 2018 G7 Summit have focused on the importance of unity among world leaders, Tusk will likely express similar sentiment regarding unity on economic growth and policy at the G20 Summit in Argentina.

“I want to be very clear today.  Our common values and the rules-based order are worth fighting for, and we will always stand in their defence. Because they are the foundation of our liberal democracies and they define our way of life.  There is no way we are giving up on them.  But of course we are open to reasonable arguments, whenever something doesn’t function well.  There is always room for debate. It is also one of the reasons we are here today.”

“What we have to do is to definitively remove the last vestiges of power from those who treat terms such as ‘liberal democracy,’ ‘free markets’ and ‘Europe’ with suspicion.”

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