Tusk seen gathering ‘overwhelming support’ for top EU job

(AP) — Donald Tusk has “overwhelming support” to retain one of the European Union’s top jobs Thursday, despite staunch opposition from the government of his native Poland, the EU leader overseeing the election process said.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said only hours before the 28 EU leaders are due to decide who will be president of the EU Council for the next 2½ years that consultations over the past week had shown “very solid support.”

The job is one of the bloc’s most prestigious. It involves chairing summits, coordinating the work of the member countries and making sure the 28 nations speak as much as possible with one voice on the international stage.

The government in Warsaw argued that the decision should be delayed because of its displeasure with Tusk, a bitter political rival, and with the election process. But Muscat said there was little appetite for a delay.

“There is an overwhelming support for President Tusk’s re-election,” Joseph Muscat told reporters before the start of a two-day summit.

The EU is facing a plethora of challenges, not least the imminent divorce proceedings as Britain leaves the bloc, and does not want to be caught in an institutional quagmire over the position of a leader.

“Until now I have not seen a willingness or enthusiasm for member states to postpone that vote,” said Muscat, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

Poland’s nationalist government has proposed little-known Polish EU lawmaker Jacek Saryusz-Wolski to replace Tusk, whose current term ends May 31.

Tusk is a former prime minister who has a long and bitter rivalry with the leader of Poland’s current governing party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The government argues that Tusk supports the domestic opposition in Poland and has failed to protect the country’s interests in the EU.

Diplomats from several member nations say Warsaw has little or no support, while Tusk has strong backing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Tusk public support in a pre-summit speech to lawmakers in Berlin.

“I see his re-election as a sign of stability for the entire European Union and I look forward to continuing working with him,” Merkel said.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Poland will do everything it can to block Tusk’s re-election.

“There is no need for hurry, no need to make the decision today,” Waszczykowski said on Poland’s TVN24 television.

Muscat acknowledged that several member nations are unhappy that all major EU posts are held by members of the center-right European People’s Party, but insisted that “they don’t want to sacrifice President Tusk because of that, because they think he has done a good job.”

Apart from Tusk, EPP politicians Jean-Claude Juncker and Antonio Tajani head the EU’s executive Commission and the European Parliament, respectively. Muscat said a more equitable spreading of posts would need to be addressed sometime over the coming months.