ZAGREB — The European People’s Party on Wednesday elected former European Council President Donald Tusk as its leader, replacing Frenchman Joseph Daul.
Tusk was elected with 491 votes in favor and 37 against at the party’s congress in the Croatian capital, meaning Tusk becomes the first Eastern European to take the helm of the biggest political force in the EU.
“With Tusk, we will be opening a new chapter in the history of the EPP,” David McAllister, a senior German MEP, told POLITICO. “Tusk has proven to be a bridge builder between the east and the west, and as a former prime minister [of Poland] and president of the Council, he has huge experience and I very much look forward to him shaping the future of Europe’s largest political family.”
A former member of Poland’s Solidarity movement, Tusk became the longest-serving prime minister in Poland and carried out two terms as European Council president.
“Someone who has been a Polish minister for seven years, who has been leading the European Council with straight-talking and very bold when he wants to be, I think he will be debarrassé [spared], as the French would say, of all the honest brokerage style that the president of the European Council needs to have,” Andrej Plenković, Croatia’s prime minister, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
A few hours before the vote, Tusk gave an impassioned speech which targeted “autocrats,” populists and, without naming him directly, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and those “putting up a fence and billboards with anti-migration propaganda.”
“After five years, I am fed up with being the European bureaucrat in chief,” Tusk told the audience. “I am ready to fight and I hope you are too,” he said.