The choice of Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk as president of the European Council couldn't have come at a better time. It is noteworthy that the new chief of the European Council, the European Union’s most important institution, is prime minister of a country that has weathered the global crisis the best in the entire EU. Considered as a model of economic success, Poland was the only community country not to slip into recession in 2008-11.
In an exclusive interview with Diplomatist’s Editor-at-Large Alankar Srivastava, Ambassador of Poland to India H.E. Mr Tomasz Lukaszuk shares his perspectives and throws light on the values that Poland brings to the EU table, and the country’s relationship with India.
‘EU Favours Dialogue and Friendly Mutual Understanding with India’
The elevation of Donald Tusk to one of the top jobs in Europe is, indeed, a coming of age for Poland. How big is this moment for your country?
Elevation of Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland to the post of the president of the European Council coincided with the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the democratic changes in Central Europe, which began in Poland. Appointment of the first non-communist government with one of the advisors of Lech Walesa as prime minister in September 1989 started the process, leading to the fall of the communist systems in the countries of the region and the reunification of Germany. Ten years ago, Poland became a member of the European Union and today we are no longer ‘a new member’, as our prime minister is the highest ranking official of the EU.
Donald Tusk has led Poland as a prime minister twice. During his tenure, Poland was the only country in the European Union (EU) to remain untouched by recession as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. Share your thoughts on his style of governance.
Donald Tusk was a tough, pragmatic and effective prime minister. There was a plaque on his door ‘Good clerk brings solutions to his boss, not problems’. During his tenure, many ministers and their deputies were dismissed or changed due to the lack of effective performance or corruption allegations.
We remained untouched by the recession thanks to the consequent fiscal policy of the finance minister fully supported by our prime minister.
Donald Tusk has always maintained that Poland’s destiny rested on its closest possible European integration. What, according to you, will be his priorities as the president of the European Council?
Europe is at the crossroads - the most developed part of the European Union reached a point where everyone has to decide about the strategy for the next 10 years. We need a model that will meet the challenges of diminishing labour force, computerised factories and nationalistic sentiments. The Eastern part of the EU has to determine its relations with Russia and with the countries aspiring to membership of the EU. Russia itself is trying to find a place in the new global order, but it shall not run from realities and jump into communist paradigm of talking to its neighbours through tanks and troops.
“No reasonable person can imagine the EU without the UK,” remarked Donald Tusk soon after his appointment to the top job. How the UK issue will be dealt with, given the complexities and the tough stance Tusk took against David Cameron?
United Kingdom is an important part of the EU and I cannot imagine the home of the best sense of humour and the best football league in the world being apart from the continent. The concept of the Union in Europe is based on consensus and I believe that Donald Tusk will find solutions to Mr Cameron’s fears.
On Ukraine and Russia, Poland has advocated on getting tough with Putin. How does the EU intend to deal with the crisis?
Ukrainian crisis is a very complex issue. On the one hand, you have a country poorly governed for the last 20 years but with a vibrant civil society and on the other hand, Russia with its old Tsar-imperial tradition is showing tendency to treat Ukraine as the zone of influence. The EU sanctions are among the instruments making Russia think deeper about its attitude towards the Eastern Europe and its model of development. In the long run, we need dialogue and peaceful solution. During the 20th century, Europe suffered twice because of the lack of cooperation and dialogue.
Poland is gearing up for general election next year. In Donald Tusk’s absence, won’t it be an uphill task for his Civic Platform party?
It is too early to begin discussion on election in Poland scheduled for next year. We have other strong personalities in our political life like Ewa Kopacz (the new prime minister), Radoslaw Sikorski (Speaker of the Parliament), Jaroslaw Kaczynski (leader of the opposition) and Leszek Miller (former prime minister and now in the opposition). Their battles during the election campaign will decide which party will govern Poland for the next four years.
Tusk has long been a proponent of free markets, privatisation and minimal government interference. What will be his approach in reviving the stagnating European economy?
As you have noticed, Donald Tusk has changed his post and portfolio. His agenda for Europe will be definitely different than that of Poland. Representing all 28 countries of the EU, he is probably going to limit his liberal programme and be more open for French or German interventionism.
Donald Tusk said he will be brushing up on his language skills before taking up the post in December. What languages does he speak apart from his native Polish and German?
Donald Tusk speaks English and French, and also some local Polish dialects.
The situation in Iraq and Syria has deteriorated as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) poses grave threat to regional and international security. What will be the EU strategy in dealing with this global threat?
Several member states are engaged in efforts by international organisations such as the UN or NATO to support countries of the Middle East in their fight against terrorism. The position of the highest executive and legislatory body of the EU is clear - the region which has witnessed conflicts since the end of the World War II deserves a peaceful decent place in the international community. The model of ISIS does not match the aspirations and dreams of the people in these countries.
The tendency of Europe to preach (or if I may say lecture) to India has often been cited as the biggest drawback of the relationship. Will the EU wake up to the potential of India, and accord it the prominence that it deserves in the global order?
The EU countries together are the biggest investor in India and the biggest trade partner as well. With ‘the new EU investors’ having stronger say in EU foreign policy, the tendency ‘to preach’ is diminishing in favour of dialogue and friendly mutual understanding of each other’s values.