Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 2)

Barbara Zak

Brussels’ response : you can’t have your cake and eat it too

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain's exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Following the announcement of the results of the referendum on the membership of the United Kingdom (UK) to the European Union (EU), it was understood that the EU respected the change of heart of the majority of the UK citizens. EU leaders do not want to go back in time but agree on the UK leaving the EU as soon as possible. Brussels is simply waiting for the formal notification of the UK to trigger the article 50 of the TEU. Even Donald Tusk (the President of the European Council) told Theresa May “the ball is in your court”. However the EU refuses to negotiate with the UK until the government has triggered the article. The reason may be the fear of contagion of a “Brexit” in other EU member states – Brussels is afraid of the ripple effect. With the rise of nationalism and populism, we can expect from far-right ruling parties to claim a referendum about leaving the EU in their countries. Moreover, the current uncertainty around the economy of the UK can have repercussions on the EU’s trade. The decrease of investments in the UK can be contagious to the European continent. There is an economic and ideological cost to the delay of the withdrawal of the UK.

            The heads of the member states, without the head of state of the UK, met informally on the 16th of September 2016 in Slovakia in what is called the Bratislava summit. The aim of this meeting, which was already planned before the referendum, was to discuss the stability and security of the EU. The withdrawal of the UK was not on the agenda of this gathering. However, it was more a way to show the unity and thus the strength and solidarity of the EU. However, on the inside, the EU is at a crisis – it is only a matter of time before another member state reveals its intention to withdraw from the Union. For instance, a referendum on the EU relocation plan will be held in Hungary on the 2nd of October 2016, which goes against the EU refugee policies. This “EU Quotas Referendum” illustrates the fact that some members of the EU disagree with the policies of the EU – it may be the beginning of their rebellion. As a matter of fact, the heads of states of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia recently met several times as the Visegrád Group in order to discuss the issues related to the EU. As a consequence, the EU cannot be too soft towards the UK in order not to incite other member states to do the same. The argument of the economy is the strongest: the single market can be open to the UK only if they accept the free movement of people. Leaving the EU does not mean abandoning its drawbacks while still benefiting from its advantages.

The conundrum of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar

            Even though the “leave” won over the “remain” in the EU referendum, anti-Brexiters still cannot recover from the results, in particular in the parts of the UK where the “remain” was overwhelming: Scotland (62%), Northern Ireland (55.8%) and Gibraltar (95.9%).

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (Photo: GETTY)

            Many Scots, right after the announcements of the results of the UK referendum, asked for a second referendum on this topic. However, May’s government declared that a second referendum would not be held. There are some possibilities about a second Scottish independence referendum though – but not before the article 50 of the TEU is triggered. Nevertheless, both Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians, along with polls, are against the will of the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to have a second independence referendum. Actually, the “Reverse-Greenland” concept may be the solution for Scotland as they wish to stay in the UK and in the EU. Parts of the UK can maintain Britain’s membership of the EU. This means that Scotland does not need to apply to access the EU. The Greenland solution refers to the Greenland treaty which entered into force in 1985, following the Greenlandic referendum of 1982: Greenland, at that time part of Denmark, could leave the EU while Denmark was still a member state of the EU. In the case of Scotland, it is the opposite situation. Scotland would have an associate membership of the Union, namely the access to the single market, EU citizenship and free movement of goods/people/workers/students. They will pay membership dues. In a nutshell, they would take the seat of the UK in Brussels.

The case of Northern Ireland is a bit different from Scotland. Leaving the EU would mean too big economic consequences for Northern Ireland in comparison with Britain. There is the fear of losing the agricultural subsidies that are actually much needed and in demand by farmers. In addition, the transaction costs for trading in the EU (that did not exist before) would be overwhelming for Northern Ireland. Instability would resume in Northern Ireland’s situation. Another problem, that is geographical this time, would be the border with Ireland, which is a member state of the EU. Irish people are afraid to turn back in time to the Troubles period (conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century). Thus they aspire to keep the free movement and the customs union across the border – the trade between two states decreases the possibility of them being at war. However, everything is in the hands of May’s government and the EU’s willingness to be flexible during the future negotiations. Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister stays confident – Theresa May should not negotiate a Brexit that simply suits English interests. Yet the best option for Northern Ireland would be the same as Scotland: the Reverse-Greenland solution, that is to say to remain in the UK and in the EU.

Gibraltar was one of the territories where the “remain” vote was strong: nearly 100%. The main reason is the economy: Gibraltar imports exclusively from the EU. The transaction costs for trading with the EU would be utterly crushing Gibraltar. The Reverse-Greenland solution could be effective, only if there was no hiccup – more precisely, a Spanish hitch. In fact, Spain has a sovereign claim over Gibraltar due to its history. If the UK leaves the EU, Spain could isolate Gibraltar from Europe by building a wall alongside the border. Crossing the wall would mean paying border fees. In the case of applying the Reverse-Greenland solution, Gibraltarians are afraid that Spain would not accept it and veto it. The Spanish Government could veto the terms of any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU that sought to include Gibraltar. Indeed, Spain is fully entitled to do so: as soon as the UK activates the withdrawal process, the European Council must agree the broad terms of the withdrawal negotiation by unanimity. Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo is resolute and says Spain will not leave the case until it receives at least the joint control of Gibraltar. As a result, Gibraltarians call for a second referendum explaining that the “leave” option was not clear enough – yet it is well understood that it is probably their last hope to stay in the EU.




Brussels’ response—and-what-is-not—a/


Northern Ireland


Read more:


Polish Parliamentary Elections seen through Western European Countries’ Eyes

Barbara Zak

Prime Minister Beata Szydło and Jarosław Kaczyński (Leader of PiS), JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP

Prime Minister Beata Szydło and Jarosław Kaczyński (Leader of PiS), JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP

It has been almost two months since the results of the Polish parliamentary elections have been revealed to the public. The overwhelming victory went to the Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS), which earned 37.58% of the total votes. This succes allowed the party to have 235 seats out of 460 – that is to say that they managed to seize the absolute majority of the Sejm (one of the Polish chambers) which is 230 seats plus another seat. The party also gained the absolute majority in the Senate with 61 seats out of 100. It is significant to note that the party that came in second place, the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO), which is also the party that won the two previous elections, gained only 24.09% of the votes, namely 138 seats out of 460 seats in the Sejm and 34 seats out of 100 seats in the Senate. The third and fourth parties’ results do not exceed the 50 seats mark and have no seats in the Senate. No left-wing party has won any seat in the parliament – a fact that is utterly inconceivable in Western European democracies.

The significant difference between the results is not to be taken lightly since it illustrates the position of Poles towards the administration of their country : they have entirely trusted PiS with its promises and have provided it with all the tools needed to rule the country (we should not forget that the political affiliation of the incumbent President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, is PiS). To sum up, PiS has received enough seats to govern alone.

Every victory shall be congratulated, particularly when it is an overpowering victory. Polish press magazines have mentionned the party PiS as the main winner and have praised its considerable success. However, words of congratulations could not be found in Western European countries’ newspapers. The words used in the headlines on French, English, Spanish and Italian newspapers were very negative. The words „Eurosceptic, conservative, nationalist, ultranationalist, populist, extremist, extreme right-wing, far-right party, xenophobic” were used to depict the winner of the elections.

The Western European countries’ opinions

(AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski)

Jarosław Kaczyński and Beata Szydło celebrating its victory (AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski)

Western European countries’ newspapers have explained PiS’ victory as the result of an anti-migration campaign, an anti-internationalisation of the country, a promise to keep young Polish people from moving to other countries because of unemployment, a return to the nuclear family with a ban of the modern Western family, the support of the Roman-Catholic church, a pro-rural campaign and helping poorer areas of the country. They have warned that the possible constitutional reforms could immerse the country into disastrous relations with the European Union (EU). Medias have shared their worries about the future of Poland regarding its membership of the EU. The tensions between Paris/Berlin and Warsaw may arise. Since the pro-European Polish government (composed of PO members) is no longer in office, the relations between EU institutions and the new „excessively” conservative and nationalist government could be turbulent. Moreover, the fact that PiS claims to be more of a pro-American party is very worrisome in the eyes of Western European countries. Poland is gradually looking towards the United States of America, meaning that it seems to be willing to have an ally against the „permanent Russian threat” they’re facing. Poland asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to focus on providing it with missile shield – as the EU does not have a common army or defence plans, the only solution found by Poland was beyond the Atlantic ocean.


Jarosław Kaczyński (ALIK KEPLICZ / AP)

The media of Western European countries assimilate the electoral campaign of PiS as propaganda, using fear as its main tool. Every means is good to illustrate how dangerous this party is. The most quoted sentence by Jarosław Kaczyński that can be found in the newspapers is basically that immigrants are like parasites that will bring various diseases. Medias remind the population that this kind of xenophobic speech was used against Jews during Hitler’s ascension to power. The leader of the Polish party is compared to the totalitarian personalities of the XXth century. Authors of these articles say they foresee his eventual coup d’état because of his undeniable thirst of power – Beata Szydło, the current Polish prime minister, is more of a screen to Kaczyński’s actions rather than an independent figure.

After the results of the parliamentary elections were out, Mr Kaczyński’s first words during his speech were a tribute to his late twin brother who died along with his wife in a plane crash while he was President of the Republic of Poland. In addition to the fact that their daughter was also present, the media of Europe perceived this as a means to move the population by reminding them of their well-liked late President.They remarked that he did not speak of the promises the party made.

Online version of the Italian nawspaper "La Stampa" right after the results

Online version of the Italian nawspaper „La Stampa” right after the results

The media said his speech was not appropriate for a winning speech. Moreover, Mr Kaczyński’s admiration for the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who is perceived as Hungary’s next dictator, worries the Western European journalists. They are afraid that Poland’s politics and diplomatical relationship with other European countries would become similar to Hungary’s. The fear of authoritarian government and the weakening of democracy values can be found in every article talking about this subject. The constitutional reforms were the first step Orbán took to cement his position. „Kaczyński’s party is willing to do the same” can be seen in the press in Western Europe.  Furthermore, the medias tend to remind that Poland needs the European funds in order to develop itself. Thus the idea of electing a Eurosceptic government should be unthinkable for Poles. French researcher, essayist and political commentator Jean-Yves Camus has said in an interview with Le Figaro (a French newspaper) that member states from the Eastern part of Europe think they are like lower-ranking associates – however it is untrue, he claims, since they are represented by important European commissionners (the former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk (PO) who is now the President of the European Council, is a revealing example of it).

 Poland’s response to the accusations

"Indestructible - what will Jaroslaw Kaczynski do now?" says Polish magazine Do Rzeczy

„Indestructible – what will Jaroslaw Kaczynski do now?” says Polish magazine Do Rzeczy

Nevertheless, all of these negative views of the winning party are not shared by the Polish people nor Polish media. In theory, PiS is a right-wing, national-conservative party. PO is also a right-wing party. The true far right, Eurosceptic party of Poland is KORWiN (Coalition for the Renewal of the Republic – Liberty and Hope). But PiS’ campaign was depicted as caring about the interests of Poland and of Polish people. In the public opinion, Poland has indeed received a huge amount of funds but in return their political moves were dictated by the EU’s most powerful governments, which are Western European countries. Poles reckon that the PO government has sold everything (especially banks and supermarkets) to foreigners and speculators, thus Polish little companies have perished. The reason why Polish people have voted for PiS is that they have wished for some changes in the internal situaiton of the country but also in their everyday life. PO being pro-EU was not well-perceived by Poles in the end. Harsh critics has been made against the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and the former prime minister Ewa Kopacz, depicted as puppets of the EU. Poland is starting to refuse the authority of Western Europe, for instance regarding the quotas of migrants it is told to welcome. The new government promised to make the voice of Poland to be heard. Right after the elections, Polish newspapers have written that Poles are looking at the new government with hope for a better change.

The main motto of the Western European medias is „be aware of PiS governing Poland”. It is not well accepted that a conservative, Eurosceptic and xenophobic party, as they call it, was allowed to form the new government representing Poland. These are the statements that can be found in Western European countries’ newspapers and their influence on the population is huge. They know they play an important role in shaping the public opinion. The position of the media will divide the EU more and more. However, we cannot hide the fact that this government has been elected in a democratic way. This is the answer of the Polish people towards their difficulties and worries. So rather than being a Polish crisis, as we can read in the newspapers in Western European countries, it should be called a European crisis, and more specifically a European identity crisis : Poles feel before anything else Polish rather than European. The national values got the upper hand on the European unity. We could sense it during Poland’s new prime minister Beata Szydło’s speech : only Polish white-red flags could be seen. No European flag. Not anymore.



United Kingdom




Newspaper wSieci nr 46 16-22 november 2015 : article „Niezły rząd wielkich nadziei”, Piotr Zaremba


United States of America

Donald Tusk – 11 months in office

Emil Wojtaluk

Since Donald Tusk holds his position as the President of the European Council for over 11 months we are witnessing first opinions as to how he is perceived in Europe. In one of its recent articles with a meaningful title “A task for Tusk”, The Economist discusses what it means for Tusk to hold the position of the so-called “President of the European Union”.

Donald Tusk ( Source:

Donald Tusk ( Source:


In the first paragraph, Donald Tusk admitted that becoming the President of the European Council was like “reaching paradise”. The authors ironically stated that it’s indeed true, since he more likely had a chance to visit local museums than negotiating with European leaders. The article focuses on extremely important task for Mr Tusk, such as management of EU response to crises. Although he already found some ways to cope with current situation, even having limited powers. The authors underline that even Mr Tusk had run his country for 7 years he did not manage to introduce it to the common currency, which seems to be one of the EU’s priority projects. Tusk’s experience, even if he was the first Prime Minister in the democratic history of Poland to be reelected does not present such a great value. Since it’s rather young democracy (in author’s opinion) it does not present such “consensual methods” as are preferred in Brussels. Additionally, the article points out language barrier, since Mr Tusk still did not manage to speak French (which is “behind the scenes” language in Brussels), even if his English improved.

One of the Tusk’s priorities is to protect Europe against the rise of populism and right-wing populists; in his opinion liberal centre must be strengthened.

In response to current migratory crisis, he present strong position as to regaining control over EU’s external borders. The “open doors” policy has to come to an end in his opinion. In order to preserve Europe’s openness there has to be more security instruments.

What about the UK?

Probably the most important task during Mr Tusk’s term of office, is to ensure that the Great Britain stays in the EU. It is soon expected, that PM Cameron will send a letter to Donald Tusk, presenting a draft renegotiation of UK’s membership in the EU. The authors emphasize that it will be a task for Donald Tusk to seek compromise in this case, together with other 27 EU member states. One of the most critical points is that Mr Cameron opts for reducing social benefits to immigrants and he generally don’t agree on the direction EU is going right now. Donald Tusk’s strongest fear is that if UK’s withdrawal from the Union is possible, it could serve as the example for others, and as a result lead to “the end of the EU”.

Another paragraph describes the limits imposed on President Tusk. One of his first statements when he took his office, was strong position on Russia, concerning events in Ukraine. The time has showed that his position did not change, but he can do little to resolve the crisis.

To conclude, Donald Tusk accepts German leadership, with some reservations that “not everything that is good for Germany is good for Europe”. He is not oriented to build some kind of new structures, but rather to keep the EU project from failure. The decisions to oppose to Vladimir Putin’s actions to divide Europe seems to be a good sign for the future.

Apart from the article, I would add that EU migration policy (the legal provisions) seems to be ineffective in the crisis time. Each third country national should claim for asylum in the first EU country he/she visit, while they are using EU member states’ territory to rest and go to Germany, which is their final destination. Finding solution on how to regain control rest inter alia in he hands of Donald Tusk and his leadership skills.

We’re curious what is your opinion on President Tusk, do you think he has a chance to be reelected for a second term as the President of the European Council? Have your say in the comments below!

Read the full article “A task for Tusk” here

Donald Tusk: Quick look on the new EU leader

Adrianna Brzozowska


Donald Tusk, elected to be a President of the EU at the end of August, today has to face his new responsibilities. Presidency of the European Council demands other kind of skills than being the Prime Minister of Poland. On the European level the most needed are language skills and the art of diplomacy, to maintain coherent cooperation among Member States.


Donald Tusk (Fot. Adam Stępień/Agencja Gazeta)

Donald Tusk (Fot. Adam Stępień/Agencja Gazeta)

The election

On the special meeting on the 30th of August, former President Herman van Rompuy in his speech announced that new representatives of the EU have been chosen. He stated:

” It is my great pleasure to introduce to you, in their new roles: the future President of the European Council, Prime Minister of Poland and my good friend, Donald Tusk”.

From that time on, newly elected President had to leave Polish government in favor of presiding the European Council. He has been the Prime Minister since 16th of November 2007. Former President stated that Donald Tusk impressed his colleagues with the confident way he has led his country even through the economic crisis, being the only Prime Minister of Poland being re-elected in 25 years, after the collapse of communism regime.

During the conference, Herman van Rompuy introduced also Federica Mogherini as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

New responsibilities

President of the European Council is nominated in a Qualified Majority Voting (according to art. 15 (5) of the TEU) for the term of 2,5 years. He can be re-elected once.

Responsibilities have been once presented on our blog, but still I will remind. The President of the European Council chairs and drives the work of European Council, ensures the continuity of the work of Council in the cooperation with the President of the Commission, presents rapports for the European Parliament from each meeting. Besides these strictly paper work, he represents the whole Union on the World’s level. He will have to face issues concerning Ukraine – Russia dispute, which is today’s threat to our security, stagnating economy of the EU and Britain’s presence in the Union.

As we can see, when some people think it is good to be a leader, actual leadership over the European Union is quite hard job. We will be looking at the results of Donald Tusk’s presidency and how is he managing today’s key issues. We hope he will maintain cooperation among Member States at its best.

5 facts about Donald Tusk you may not know:


Józef Piłsudski (source:

1. Historian

Have you ever known that he actually graduated history at the University of Gdańsk? His M.A. work was about Józef Piłsudski.

2. Re-elected Prime Minister

As I mentioned before, Donald Tusk was the only Prime Minister in Poland since the end of communism, who has been re-elected! Do you think that as the President he will be re-elected too?

3. Editor over censorship

Gdańsk Solidarity logo (source:

Gdańsk Solidarity logo (source:

During the communism in Poland, he belonged to the Student Committee of Solidarność, then he co-established Independent Student’s Association and couple months later became a leader of „Solidarność” (eng. Solidarity movement) in a publishing house, where he wrote to a newspaper without a censorship, which led him to lose his job.

4. Grandfather in Wehrmacht

Actually for Poles that is nothing new. One of Polish politicians has stated that Tusk’s grandfather voluntarily joined the Wehrmacht, but the truth is that Józef Tusk was a railway official, who was imprisoned,  and as a former citizen of the Free City of Danzig(Gdańsk), compulsorily drafted into the Wehrmacht.

5. A Kashub

Kashubs (source:

Kashubs (source:

His family belong to the Kashubian minority, which are situated in Poland, Germany and even United States and Canada! Having their own language, they are situated in Pomerelia, north-central Poland.

Foreign Policy of the EU – who’s in charge?

Emil Wojtaluk


The representation of 28 member states of the European Union has to be properly organized not to create tensions between countries and to be coherent. But is this possible to achieve? Have you ever wondered about the external representation of the European Union? Is there one person for the whole Union to represent the organization to the outside world like “EU’s Secretary of State”? Let’s find the answers…

Who will be the brightest point in EU Foreign Policy?

Who will be the brightest point in EU Foreign Policy?


High Representative of the Union and her diplomatic arm

The current shape of EU External Policy is existing thanks to The Lisbon Treaty, which modified Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) – that’s the official name of the above mentioned external policy of the Union. The most important change was an introduction of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The procedure of appointing a person for this important position lays in the competence of the European Council’s vote, acting by qualified majority with necessary consent of the President of the European Commission. The first person to hold this office was appointed since 1 December 2009, Catherine Ashton. She will be replaced exactly this Saturday by Federica Mogherini, former Italian FM. The term of office of the High Representative is accurately the same as the European Commission, so five year term. In theory, holding this office means you are the main person to whom outside leaders should call when they want to “talk with the EU”. The position itself is not as autonomous as we may think, because it’s closely connected with EU institutions such as: the European Commission, European Council and the Council of the EU. First point is that High Representative is at the same time the Vice-President of the European Commission, second that he or she participates in European Council, and finally chairs the Foreign Affairs Council. The main task of the High Representative is to carry out and coordinate CFSP. A person holding this office should exercise foreign policy on behalf of the EU, coordinate tools of EU foreign policy, building consensus between 28 EU members, represent the EU internationally, ensure coordination of EU peacekeeping operations, supervise EU Delegations or ensure the unity and effectiveness in the field of CFSP.

EEAS building in Brussels

EEAS building in Brussels

A very significant and necessary tool to fulfill the mandate for the High Representative is the European External Action Service (EEAS), existing since 1st January 2011. If we could compare it to national conditions, it’s like one big Foreign Ministry for the whole Union. It consists of individuals delegated by its national diplomatic services, officials from the General Secretariat of the Council and the Commission. The task of this diplomatic service is to support the High Representative of the Union, in particular with regards to: monitoring the consistency of the Union’s external actions, assisting in chairing the Foreign Affairs Council and exercising the office of Vice-President of the Commission. The European External Actions service supports national diplomatic services and other EU institutions and bodies, cooperating with the European Parliament. At least twice a year the High Representative reports on foreign policy achievements and plans to the EP, also being questioned by MEP’s – the EEAS assists the High Representative with this task.

What about EU Presidents?

Ambiguities start when we look at the competences of other EU Institutions. Each of the Presidents of the European Union has the representative function! The European Commission together with its President represents the Union in all areas of EU competence outside foreign and security policy but the President can represent his/her institution and the whole Union, unfortunately it’s still not over…

At the level of Heads of States or Government, the Union is represented by the President of the European Council. For instance, on September 25, European Council President – Herman Van Rompuy represented the EU at the UN General Assembly. The case of the EU at the United Nations is valid since the European Union has been granted an enhanced observer status at the UN on 3 May 2011 – meaning it has the right to speak but not to vote. During all General Assemblies the EU can be also represented by the High Representative (it happens rather rarely) , the European Commission and EU Delegations. Another confusing fact is that the President of the European Council is conferred to represent the Union on issues related to Common Foreign and Security Policy, as it’s written in the Treaties. As a consequence, the High Representative should consult foreign policy priorities and directions with the European Council President since the role of the European Council is to define political directions and priorities.

And finally, the President of the European Parliament represents the Parliament to the other EU institutions …as well as to the outside world.

 EU Foreign Policy…a complicated matter

As you see, Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU is too fragmented, which means too many entities takes part is the representative functions. Current state of actions could lead to unnecessary tensions between EU institutions, its Presidents and bodies and as a consequence between EU member states. Don’t you think it would be absolutely enough to have the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy assisted by European External Action Service?

If you have any comments and opinions on this or other articles please feel free to write a comment below or write us at


The European Council in brief

Emil Wojtaluk

In view of the newest decisions on the so-called „EU Top Jobs” it’s good to know what does it mean to become the President of the European Council, what are its responsibilities and powers. The media around Europe tends to omit important facts, focusing only on brief descriptions. If you look for the information on the European Council, read it carefully and everything will become clear to you.


It is important to emphasize that it was the Treaty of Lisbon that granted an official status of EU institution to the European Council on December 1, 2009. From that moment it is one of the seven institutions. But granting an official/formal status of EU institution wasn’t the last change introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. The second, maybe more important was the extension of the existing competences of the European Council and the creation of the office of the President of the European Council. Before, the Head of State which country was currently holding the Presidency was at the same time the President of EU Council.

Headquarters, organization and competences

Justus Lipsius building - Home of the Council of the EU and the European Council (Brussels 2014) ©EUROpens BLOG

Justus Lipsius building – Home of the Council of the EU and the European Council (Brussels 2014) ©EUROpens BLOG

Europa Building under construction(Brussels, March 2014) – future HQ of the European Council ©EUROpens BLOG

Europa Building under construction(Brussels, March 2014) – future HQ of the European Council ©EUROpens BL

For many years the European Council didn’t have headquarters, its meetings were held in Justus Lipsius building(Brussels), the same in which the Council of the EU meets. Now it will change due to the reconstruction works of the Bloc A of the Residence Palace in Brussels, known also as the Europa Building. It is going to be the headquarters of the European Council in 2015. The main role of this EU institution is to define political direction and priorities for the EU as a whole. Members of the European Council are Heads of State or Government from each Member State, plus the President of the European Council and the President of the Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy can also take part in the meetings. It does not adopt legislation, however it issues conclusions after each meeting, reflecting the main discussed issues, decisions taken and identifying major problems to be dealt with by the Council. The European Council may also invite the European Commission to come forward with proposals for the Union. European Council meetings( also named as “summits”) take place at least twice every six months but when the situation requires it may convene special meetings, addressing urgent issues(i.e. Ukraine case). During the meetings EU leaders decide on the priorities of the Union by consensus. Qualified majority applies in the appointment of the Commission and the High Representative, as well as the election of the President of the European Council. It is important to emphasize that when it decides by vote, only Heads of State or Government may cast a vote.

The President of the European Council


Newly elected President of the European Council, Donald Tusk and its current President, Herman Van Rompuy;   photo: The Chancellery of the Prime Minister Donald Tusk

A person who coordinates the work of the European Council is its President, responsible for convening and chairing each meeting, but also drive forward the work of this EU institution. He or she is presenting a report to the European Parliament after each meeting. The first President of the European Council is Herman Van Rompuy, elected in 2009 and then re-elected for a second term. On August 30, EU leaders decided that his successor will be a Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk who will take the office on December 1, 2014. One of his main tasks will to represent the European Union to the outside world together with the High Representative and the President of the European Commission. Being the President means also being a President of all EU summits. It’s about all EU Member States whose currency is the euro. The co called “Euro summits” are being held to discuss the governance of the euro area, but also major economic reforms. The term of office of the President of the European Council is 2,5 years, renewable once – as it happened with Herman Van Rompuy, who has been re-elected in 2012.

Don’t get confused!

People tend to confuse which European body is which – that is not so surprising due to their very similar names. We can distinguish three “Councils”:

  • The European Council which is presented in this article;

  • The Council of the EU – means the Council of Ministers; consists of ministers from all EU members; meets regularly to pass European laws;

  • The Council of Europe – Created in 1949 to protect human rights; currently it has 47 members, including all EU countries. It’s important to remember that it is not an EU institution!

For more information on EU Institutional Law check our previous entry:

EU top jobs- taken!

Ewa Krakowska

           Elected. The European Council has elected PM Donald Tusk as the next President of the European Council & Euro Summits

                                                                                                          Herman Van Rompuy

Finally, all speculations around candidates for most prestigious EU posts can be stopped. Decisions were made during last EU summit on Saturday. The honour to be the President of European Council got Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk who was earlier a nominee along with Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and former Latvian PM Valdis Dombrovskis. The job which was previously connected with the name of Radosław Sikorski, namely High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is now in the hands of Italian FM Federica Mogherini. It is said that Donald Tusk’s candidacy was accepted unanimously. Selection of Federica Mogherini as new foreign relations chief was earlier a matter of strong discussion which finally ended up as a consensus.

/Agencja SE/East News

/Agencja SE/East News

It is probably good to mention what this election really means. We can read in  Article 15 (6) of the Treaty on the European Union, the President of the European Council has the following, main tasks to fulfil: chairing  summits and drives forward its work and ensuring the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the President of the Commission. He also endeavours to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council and presents a report to the European Parliament after each of the meetings of the European Council.

We hope that Donald Tusk will contribute to even better functioning of the most important EU body.

From the Energy Union, to (possibly) better Europe?

Karol Panas

A very interesting matter has been adressed lately in the European Union. The Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk decided to take voice and raise the matter of Russia – or to be more precise – the matter of Gazprom – the largest extractor of natural gas and one of the largest companies in the world. According to him, the European Union should become free from Russian gas suppy and create it’s own „Energy Union” to „secure its supply and reduce its dependence on Russian gas”. The blueprint he submitted, can be found in the latest Financial Times (22nd April) and as it says, it would establish a single European Union body that would buy gas for the Member States.


As we can assume from Tusk’s speech, European Union is annoyed of the constant increase in gas prices imposed by Russians. What is more, there are countries who because of this increase feel deceived. A good example of it is Lithuania who not so long ago sued Russian Gazprom explaining that they are paying more or less 35% more then Germans. Also – last month, because of well known Crimean Crisis, already poor Ukrainians living in Kiev suffered from increase of gas price (the Ukraine unpaid gas bills to Russia in 2014 stood at about $1,7 billions). Taking those facts into account, we can clearly see – the desire for change is a major step to avoid their overpriced gas supply. Here it is worth to add that even though every country is negotiating to reach some kind of consensus on the gas price, not everyone of those will be accepted. Because of this this, as we saw in the example above, some countries are paying riddiculously higher prices than the others.

Gazprom is also under surveilance of European Commission since 4th September 2012 on the grounds of „abusing its dominant market position in upsteam gas supply markets”. Right now at least 10 of European Union countries are dependant on Russians on this matter and some of them (and also other European counties) does not even have a chance to change the gas supplier (for example Gazprom owns (or co-owns) 100% of pipes in Moldova).

Of course, like it is also – there are supporters and opponents of a given plan or idea. In this case the opponent was the bloc’s energy commissioner – Gunther Oettinger. In his answer he stated that „gas deals between EU countries and Russia will not be affected even if economic sanctions are imposed on Moscow because of its role in destabilising Ukraine”. He also added that he is against scaling back or even cutting the gas links with Russia in the uncoming years.

Talking about gas, we certainly do not want to forget about the shale gas. Even Donald Tusk, in his blueprint gave a special call to the European Union countries, to as quoted „exploit existing supplies of fossil fuels and the so-far untapped resources of shale gas”. However this raises a very important question – will this be enough to become free from the Gazprom ? In my opinion, no. What is more we still do not really know about the scale of supplies of the shale gas in Europe, so right now it is hard to discuss on this matter. Nevertheless – it is still an option.

To conclude, the idea presented by the Polish Prime Minister is cerainly a good idea to start. As a Pole, I am really glad to know that some major steps are being made – even on such inicial steps as ‚idea’. I really hope to see it blooming in the nearest future – hopefully into something more then just a sketch.