Donald Tusk, former prime minister of Poland, president of the European Council until next December 1 and one of the continental leaders who speaks more clearly will always be the next president of the European People's Party. Leaders, committees and supporters have ratified this Wednesday in Zagreb (Croatia) at their annual Congress, after no other nomination has been submitted. Tusk will replace the Frenchman Joseph Daul, head of the last six years and with a very long career as a MEP.
The PPE has at least two souls. The predominant, conservative, but in the broadest sense of the word. Both in political principles and priorities (low taxes, family, security, tougher borders) and in the worldview of the world, Oakeshottian court. With a molecular suspicion of change, of revolutions, of disorder. Always prefers the familiar to the unknown. A classic conservatism but with an arsenal is sometimes insufficient, designed for a world that is no longer and a continent that does not exist .
A more liberal air
The other, minority, has the reference in the present or in the future, not in the past. He believes that focusing on the founding fathers of the 50s and 60s is absurd and counterproductive. Sometimes he talks about technology, artificial intelligence, robots, as with the Finn Alex Stubb. It gives off a more liberal, 'modern' air . A stream that asks for less realpolitik and is more comfortable with centrist alliances or a green agenda. A wing that, in the perpetual struggle between freedom and security, swings towards the first.
The transfer of powers staged in Zagreb is an interesting example of the coexistence of these two souls, but also of the many intermediate and mystical traditions. Joseph Daul, French, comes from an agricultural tradition and the purest current of the popular movement. A lifelong insider . A master of intrigues, conspiracies, with dominions of political families , national interests, delegates. Politics from below, match ahead of everything.
Donald Tusk is quite the opposite. A historian, an intellectual. Someone who does not stop quoting philosophers, writers and painters and who gives a paramount importance to words and ideas. A conservative but at home is liberal as a Europeanist . Someone with the scars of the communist dictatorship in the skin and mind. Not an apparatchik but a leader accustomed to the highest category, the first that does not come from one of the six founding states of the EU. With a career based on struggles, dissent and values, but little knowledge of the parliamentary group, manias and internal struggles. An admirer of Thatcher who mentions every day the importance of freedoms , the rule of law and open societies. And who knows how few his enemies. Internal and external.
"Under no circumstances can we give the sphere of security and order to populists, manipulators and autocrats that lead people to believe that freedom cannot be reconciled with security. That protecting our borders and territory cannot be reconciled with democracy liberal or effective governance with the rule of law.This is the essence of our internal debate in the European People's Party.I would like to end it as quickly as possible with an obvious conclusion : we will not sacrifice values such as civic freedoms, the state of law and decency in public life on the altar of security and order, because there is simply no need. Because they do not exclude each other. Who can not accept it, in fact, is outside our family, "he said bluntly Wednesday the Polish with applause from the public. "We will never allow nationals and populists to kidnap our European way of life, " agreed the next president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, shortly thereafter.
Tusk, who believes that scrambled times are the new normal, has an obsession at the operational level: unity. And a priority at the head of the EPP: to maintain the hegemony of the strongest, most influential and most organized party on the continent, but which faces powerful challenges, on the right, on the left and within. In just one legislature, the popular have gone from having 35% of the votes to 25% . They retain the presidency of the European Commission, but unlike until now they will not have the Council (in liberal hands for the next few years) or the European Chamber, at least until 2022. They are the strongest and most solid, like a ben-oiled machine, but now cannot be imposed as before or agree between only two to carry out directives , proposals and declarations.
Tusk's choice is also symbolic and unknown. The EPP has always been sustained around the Franco-German axis, in Berlin, Paris and Strasbourg, and on the shoulders of the Christian forces. But since the enlargement, its sphere has been pivoting eastward.
As president of the European Council, Tusk has tried to maintain unity before Brexit, the threat of the political crisis over the management of the flow of refugees or Russian pressure. At the head of the EPP, he will have to preserve it too, but looking for a response to the rise of populists and Eurosceptics who have subtracted their votes, from the illiberal challenge that Viktor Orban represents, better than anyone. And the green turn of a continent concerned about the weather or recycling beyond left or right.
"In politics, impressions are sometimes more important than the facts. Look at the immigration crisis. Some worked very hard for many days and weeks to contain the wave of illegal immigrants from Turkey ... However, someone appropriated perceptions . Someone, who also worked hard, but only in his narrative and self-creation, placing a wall and billboards with propaganda against migration, "he said Wednesday in front reference to the Hungarian prime minister.
SUSPENDED, NOT EXPULSED
The group is divided into the issue of Fidesz, which a few months ago was suspended indefinitely, but not expelled from the popular family. There are those who, like Pablo Casado, have prioritized issues such as Hungarian support on issues such as Catalonia's when positioning . There are those who cry out for expulsion. And those who remember that when David Cameron took out the PPE tories and formed his own group, a drift began that ended, somehow, in the Brexit referendum .
In the coming months Tusk will have to deal with the two souls and traditions of the group. Decide if you maintain the line of prudence and aversion to change and big gestures, keeping Fidesz in the PPE to try to tame it, control it and model it. Or if you opt for the practical defense of your theoretical ideals. In the game, those who are comfortable with the current situation are probably a majority and if a decision were taken to vote, the result could be a setback for the new person in charge . That he does not know the dynamics, the traditions and that, knowing that he was going to win without opposition, he has not even bothered to meet with almost anyone. Not even discuss your strategy with the rest.
Even so, his legacy of the last five years has closed many doors for the Polish. He won't shut up, he can't hide, for better and for worse. And that much of what he says goes nationally. The EPP, with him, has not opted for a generational change, but neither is it a leap into the unknown. They know, or should know, what they have chosen.
"Let us all join in this political battlefield, the most important. On one side, parties of irresponsible populism, on the other, our party of 'responsible popularity'. After five years, I am tired of being the European chief bureaucrat. I'm ready to fight. And I hope you do too, "he said in his speech. It is up to his people to decide if they follow him or if the goal is to tame him.
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