Friday, 12 September 2014

Goodbye Premier Tusk, hello President Tusk

The selection of Donald Tusk, until yesterday Poland's prime minister, as president of the European Council was met with the same muted enthusiasm as the election of Tadeusz Mazowiecki as Poland's first post-war non-communist prime minister 25 years ago today.

A deal had been done, a result achieved. Poles felt a subdued sense of achievement then as they do now; the pride of being recognised as an Achiever Nation.

Mr Tusk, Poland's longest-ruling premier since the downfall of communism, will have plenty of people willing to criticise him from the left and from the right - which means he pretty much got things right. He could have advanced further and faster, but the direction of travel was correct. He kept a coalition going for a full term, then got re-elected, the first government to do so since 1989. The knockers may knock, but the macroeconomic indicators and the international rankings - as well as the honour of being selected as one of the EU's three principal leaders - suggest that he must have been doing something right.

Let us hope that in Brussels Mr Tusk will give the EU some backbone when it comes to realising where the big threats are coming from - not only in the form of a resurgent, awkward, nationalistic Russia - but also in the form of threats to Europe's competitiveness, over-regulation, and petty national self-interest.

Let us also hope that Mr Tusk will provide Mr Cameron with the ammunition needed to shut up his UKIP critics - by pushing the EU on a reformist path based on economic goals rather than on top-down federalising ambitions. Let's see the transatlantic trade deal (TTIP) hammered out, let's see Europe's economy becoming more innovative and open. Let's see a Single European Market in goods, services and digital services (why can't I watch BBC programmes online in Poland?)

Let us hope that Mr Tusk has a good English teacher. Stories from his classmates that he used to bunk off English lessons disturb me slightly - bunking off Russian I can understand, but if you were offered the chance to learn English back in the 1970s, Donald, you should have grabbed it with both hands.

Let us hope, too, that Mr Tusk's energy levels, commitment and drive do not dissipate, and that he can be seen by Europe and the world as an effective champion of market-driven solutions and smart regulation. And that Mr Tusk will give the EU some firm backbone in the face of a nationalistic, bullying, cheating Russia.

Meanwhile, here in Poland, Ewa Kopacz has been nominated prime minister. Not my choice - I'd have gone for another woman, Elżbieta Bienkowska, but she's also off to Brussels to serve as commissioner for the internal market (big job to do here, especially in services and digital). Deputy Premier Bienkowska did a great job in regional development, and was doing well running an expanded ministry that also took in infrastructure (a job no man in Poland had ever achieved great results).

Ms Kopacz? Her greatest hour was as Poland's health minister during the swine-flu crisis (remember that, readers?) in 2009-2010. Unlike other European health ministries, who were panicked into buying huge stockpiles of vaccines than ended up unused, Ms Kopacz took the firm line that the threat was overplayed and that the health budget was better spent elsewhere. The opposition demanded her head, she kept cool and saved the Polish tax payer a shed-load of money.

Somewhat she seems lacklustre as a future Polish premier; her job is to keep the PO government going until the next parliamentary elections in the autumn of 2015.

Given the shambles that is Poland's opposition (both left and right), I wish her well and will support her in keeping the country on its current course. "Steady as she goes, Captain Kopacz."

This time last year:
Return from depressing Radom

This time two years ago:
Up up up with the Cosmopolitan

This time three years ago:
New urban toponyms: "P+R Al. Krakowska" = Okęcie

This time four years ago:
Politics - a change of gear

This time five years ago:
On preference and genetics

This time six years ago:


Bob said...

Good post as usual Michal. Solid non partisan observations.

Anonymous said...

Backbone - spineless more like - god help Europe if he is to carry on with his see no eveil, hear no evil approach with the occasional anti russia sound bite. As for the new PM - the PiS must be rubbing their hands - is this Tusk legacy after so many years in power that the best candidate is a middle aged Polish lady nobody is to manage europe's 6ht largest economy with a rampant russia on the doorstep

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Anonymous

Yeah. Right on. Trying to imagine another middle aged Polish nobody, Mrs ... uh... uh.. what's her name - you know that woman who was Poland's foreign minister under Kaczyński... deal with PUTIN... what was her name... Completely faded into well-deserved obscurity.

AndrzejK said...

And long may that obscurity remain!!!

She was called fajtpłata or something similiar or am I thinking of someone else.