Sunday 28 May 2017

New job? Enda Kenny tipped to take over as European Council president

New role: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Donald Tusk. (AP Photo)
New role: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Donald Tusk. (AP Photo)
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

There was mounting speculation last night that Taoiseach Enda Kenny could be dramatically appointed as the president of the European Council after he steps down as leader of Fine Gael.

Senior EU sources told the Sunday Independent that the current president, Donald Tusk, may not stay for another term after he failed to get the backing of his home country, Poland, for a second stint in the office.

"Tusk has already hinted that if he didn't have his home country's backing he would return to national politics in Poland. For Tusk not to have the backing of his own country is very embarrassing," an EU source said.

Mr Kenny was touted for the role when Mr Tusk secured the nomination from the leaders of the 28 member states in 2014.

The EU source said there was "significant pressure" on the Taoiseach from the European Peoples Party (EPP) to take the job three years ago.

"If Tusk steps out of the field Kenny would be the clear favourite to take over," the source said.

Mr Tusk's term in office comes to an end in early May - around the same time the Taoiseach is expected to step down as leader of Fine Gael.

Ireland's access to the White House under US President Donald Trump is being touted as a reason for appointing Mr Kenny. The presidency is always given to a serving or former prime minister and Mr Kenny is well liked by other European leaders who all have a vote.

However, it is widely suspected Mr Tusk would have the backing of the other EU member states should he decide to stay on.

The president of the European Council will be one of the most influential roles in Brussels during Brexit negotiations.

Poland yesterday announced it would not support Mr Tusk's re-appointment and instead would propose Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a politician from Mr Tusk's own party, for the position.

Mr Tusk is at the centre of a bitter political feud in Poland over the tragic plane crash in 2010 which killed 96 people, including the then President of Poland Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria.

Mr Kaczynski's twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), has accused Mr Tusk of criminal acts over the tragic plane crash, which happened when he was prime minister.

At a press conference last week, Mr Kaczynski said: "Donald Tusk is a politician who breaks the elementary rules of the European Union.

"Someone who breaks such rules cannot simply be the European Council's president and cannot under any circumstances count on our support - or a lack of our objection."

Sunday Independent

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