Tusk in 2017
|President of the European Council|
1 December 2014
|Preceded by||Herman Van Rompuy|
|14th Prime Minister of Poland|
16 November 2007 – 22 September 2014
Bronisław Komorowski (Acting)
Bogdan Borusewicz (Acting)
Grzegorz Schetyna (Acting)
|Preceded by||Jarosław Kaczyński|
|Succeeded by||Ewa Kopacz|
|Leader of Civic Platform|
1 June 2003 – 8 November 2014
|Preceded by||Maciej Płażyński|
|Succeeded by||Ewa Kopacz|
|Born||Donald Franciszek Tusk
(1957-04-22) 22 April 1957
|Political party||Civic Platform (2001–present)|
|Liberal Democratic Congress (Before 1994)
Freedom Union (1994–2001)
|Spouse(s)||Małgorzata Sochacka (m. 1978)|
|Alma mater||University of Gdańsk|
Order of the Sun of Peru
Royal Norwegian Order of Merit
Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana
Donald Franciszek Tusk (/tʊsk/; Polish: [ˈdɔnalt franˈt͡ɕiʂɛk ˈtusk] ( listen); born 22 April 1957) is a Polish politician and historian who has been the President of the European Council since 2014. He served as Prime Minister of Poland from 2007 to 2014 and was a co-founder and chairman of the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) political party.
Tusk has been involved in Polish politics since the early 1990s, having founded several political parties and held elected office almost continuously since 1991. Tusk was one of the co-founders of the free-market-oriented Liberal Democratic Congress party. He entered the Sejm (lower chamber of Poland’s parliament) in 1991, but lost his seat in the 1993 election which went badly for the Congress. In 1994, the Congress merged with the Democratic Union to form the Freedom Union. In 1997 Tusk was elected to the Senate and became its deputy speaker. In 2001 he co-founded another centre-right party, Civic Platform (PO), and he was again elected to the Sejm, and became its deputy speaker. He was elected Prime Minister in 2007 and with his party’s victory in the 2011 Polish parliamentary election, he became the first Prime Minister to be re-elected since the fall of Communism in Poland.
In 2014, he became President of the European Council, and was re-elected to this position in 2017. He resigned as Polish Prime Minister to take the role, having been the longest-serving Prime Minister of the Third Polish Republic.
Family and education
Tusk was born in Gdańsk in northern Poland.He has German and Kashubian ancestry. His father, also named Donald Tusk (1930–1972), was a carpenter, and his mother, Ewa (née Dawidowska) Tusk (1934–2009), was a nurse. His grandfather Józef Tusk (1907–1987) was a railway official who was imprisoned at the Neuengamme concentration camp; later, as a former citizen of the Free City of Danzig, he was apparently conscripted by German authorities into the Wehrmacht. Later on, he was successful in joining the Polish Armed Forces in the West.
Tusk credits his interest in politics to watching clashes between striking workers and riot police when he was a teenager. He enrolled at the University of Gdańsk to study history, and graduated in 1980. While studying, he was active in the Student Committee of Solidarity, a group that opposed Poland’s communist rule at the time.
Early political career
Tusk was one of the founders of the Liberal Democratic Congress (Kongres Liberalno-Demokratyczny KLD), which in the 1991 elections won 37 seats in the lower house of parliament. The KLD later merged with the Democratic Union (UD) to become the Freedom Union (UW). Tusk became deputy chairman of the new party, and was elected to the Senate in the next election in 1997. In 2001, he co-founded the Civic Platform, and became deputy speaker in parliament after the party won seats in the year’s election. in 2005, Tusk was defeated in the presidential election by Lech Kaczyński, and the Civic Platform lost Parliament to the Law and Justice party.
Prime Minister (2007–2014)
In the 2011 parliamentary election, Civic Platform retained their Parliamentary majority, giving Tusk a second term as Prime Minister and making him Poland’s first PM to win reelection since the fall of communism. In September 2014, Tusk resigned his position as Prime Minister in order to take the position of President of the European Council.
In the 2007 parliamentary election campaign and at an early stage of his rule Tusk promised to continue the free-market policies, streamline the bureaucracy, enact long-term stable governance, cut taxes to attract greater foreign business ventures, lure foreign-working Poles back to Poland, and privatise state-owned companies. Later on in his rule, Tusk changed his views on the role of taxation in the functioning of the state and his government has never cut any taxes. Instead, it raised the value-added tax from 22% to 23% in 2011 and has increased the excise imposed on diesel oil, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and coal as well as eliminated many tax exemptions. The number of people employed in the public administration has also grown considerably. As of 2012, the value of foreign investments in Poland had never reached its heights from 2006–2007, before Tusk’s take-over. The number of Poles staying abroad in 2013 was almost the same as in 2007.
The construction of a more adequate and larger national road network in preparation for the UEFA 2012 football championships has been a stated priority for the Tusk government. On 27 October 2009, Tusk declared that he wants to partially outlaw gambling.
During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, Tusk defended his government’s decision not to purchase swine flu vaccine, citing the lack of testing by pharmaceutical companies and its unavailability to be purchased freely through the market. Tusk criticised other nations’ responses to the pandemic. “The eagerness of some countries seems to be excessive and disproportionate to the real epidemiological situation”, Tusk stated, referring to the pandemic’s relatively low fatality rate.
Donald Tusk is moderately conservative on social issues. He is opposed to legalising abortion on demand, believing that Poland’s current legislation on abortion (which allows for legal abortion only when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or health, when the fetus is seriously malformed, and when the pregnancy results from rape or incest) protects human life best. Tusk has publicly stated that he opposes euthanasia and the legalization of marijuana.
In foreign policy, Tusk sought to improve relations severely damaged during the previous Kaczyński government, particularly with Germany and Russia. While he criticised the words of German politician Erika Steinbach with regard to her opinion over the expulsion of Germans from Poland following World War II, Tusk has stressed the need for warm relations with Berlin.Tusk also advocated a more realistic relationship with Moscow, especially in regard to energy policy. Under Tusk’s premiership, Russian bans on Polish meat and agricultural products have been lifted, while Poland reversed its official policy of disagreement on a European Union-Russian partnership agreement.
During a speech delivered to the Sejm in the first weeks of his premiership, Tusk outlined a proposal to withdraw military units from Iraq, stating that “we will conduct this operation keeping in mind that our commitment to our ally, the United States, has been lived up to and exceeded.” The last Polish military units completed their withdrawal in October 2008.
In regards to U.S. plans of hosting missile defense shield bases in the country, Tusk hinted skepticism toward the project, saying that their presence could potentially increase security risks from Russia, and rejected U.S. offers in early July 2008. By August, however, Tusk relented, and supported the missile shield, declaring: “We have achieved the main goal. It means our countries, Poland and the United States will be more secure.” Following President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap and revise missile defense strategy, Tusk described the move as “a chance to strengthen Polish-US co-operation in defense…” He said: “I took this declaration from President Obama very seriously and with great satisfaction.”
Contrary to the condemnation of foreign governments and the leadership of the European Union, Tusk supported Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in his efforts of implementing a new controversial constitution. Tusk stated that the Hungarian constitution’s democratic controversies were “exaggerated” and that Hungary had “a European level standard of democracy.” Tusk’s support for the Hungarian government garnered a rare show of solidarity with the opposition Law and Justice, which also publicly displayed support for Orbán’s efforts.
In early 2012, Tusk announced his support for committing Poland to signing the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). In response, websites for the Chancellery, Sejm and Presidency were hacked in mid-January. Following Anonymous’s claim of responsibility for the web attack, Tusk remained undeterred by internet protests, authorising the Polish ambassador in Japan to sign the agreement, yet promised that final legislation in the Sejm would not go ahead without assurances regarding freedom to access the Internet. Despite the government’s guarantees, mass protests erupted in late January, with demonstrations held in Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław and Kielce. Further web attacks were reported on the website of Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
In continental policy, Tusk strongly supported greater political and economic integration within the European Union, strongly backing the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, standing in stark contrast to President Lech Kaczyński’s vehement opposition. Tusk repeatedly stated his government’s intention in bringing Poland into the Eurozone. Originally wanting to introduce the euro by 2012, Tusk envisaged in 2009 a starting year of 2015 as “a realistic and not overly-ambitious goal.” However, during the European sovereign debt crisis, Tusk and his government displayed less optimism in joining the monetary union under contemporary economic circumstances, leading to Finance Minister Jan Vincent-Rostowski calling any move “unthinkable.” Despite not being a member of the eurozone, Tusk pressed that Poland, along with the other non-eurozone states of the EU, should be included in future euro financial negotiations.
Between July and December 2011, Poland under Tusk’s government presided over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Under its presidency tenure, Poland supported and welcomed Croatia’s entry into the European Union through the Treaty of Accession 2011.
While being a constituent member of the Weimar Triangle with fellow states Germany and France, Tusk showed displeasure over German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s dominating roles in eurozone negotiations, remarking to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in January 2012 that “this should not translate into a lasting political monopoly: things cannot be left to only two capitals of Europe.”
After being elected prime minister, relations between Tusk and President Lech Kaczyński were often acrimonious due to different political ideologies and the constitutional role of the presidency. Using presidential veto powers, Kaczyński blocked legislation drafted by the Tusk government, including pension reform, agricultural and urban zoning plans, and restructuring state television.
In his premiership, Tusk has proposed various reforms to the Polish constitution. In 2009, Tusk proposed changes to the power of the presidency, by abolishing the presidential veto. “The president should not have veto power. People make their decision in elections and then state institutions should not be in conflict”, said Tusk. Tusk again reiterated his desire for constitutional reform in February 2010, proposing that the presidential veto be overridden by a simple parliamentary majority rather than through a three-fifths vote. “Presidential veto could not effectively block the will of the majority in parliament, which won elections and formed the government”, stated Tusk. Further constitutional reforms proposed by Tusk include reducing the Sejm from a membership of 460 to 300, “not only because of its savings, but also the excessive number of members’ causes blurring certain plans and projects”. Similarly, Tusk proposed radical changes to the Senate, preferring to abolish the upper house altogether, yet due to constitutional concerns and demands from the junior coalition Polish People’s Party partner, Tusk proposed reducing the Senate from 100 to 49, while including former presidents to sit in the Senate for political experience and expertise in state matters.Parliamentary immunity for all members of the Sejm and Senate would also be stripped, except for in special situations. In addition, Tusk proposed that the prime minister’s role in foreign policy decisions would be greatly expanded. By decreasing the president’s role in governance, executive power would further be concentrated in the prime minister, directly responsible to the cabinet and Sejm, as well as avoiding confusion over Poland’s representation at international or EU summits. The opposition conservative Law and Justice party deeply criticised Tusk’s constitutional reform proposals, opting in opposing legislation for the presidency to garner greater power over the prime minister.
In an interview with the Financial Times in January 2010, Tusk was asked if he considered running again as Civic Platform’s candidate for that year’s presidential election. Tusk replied that although the presidential election typically drew the most voters to the polls and remained Poland’s most high-profiled race, the presidency had little political power outside of the veto, and preferred to remain as prime minister. While not formally excluding his candidacy, Tusk declared that “I would very much like to continue to work in the government and Civic Platform, because that seems to me to be the key element in ensuring success in the civilisational race in which we are engaged”. A day after the interview, Tusk formally announced his intention of staying as prime minister, allowing his party to choose another candidate (and eventual winner), Bronisław Komorowski.
Honours and awards
The Charlemagne Prize of the city of Aachen was awarded to Tusk on 13 May 2010 for his merits in the further unification of Europe and for his role as a “patriot and great European”. He dedicated the prize to the people killed in a plane crash of a Polish Air Force Tu-154 in April 2010 including the Polish president Lech Kaczyński. The eulogy was given by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
He was also awarded an Economy Raspberry Award (similar to the Golden Raspberry Award in movies) by the Puls Biznesu (“Business’ Pulse”) and organizacja Pracodawców RP (Polish Employers Confederation) awarded to the persons who had negative influence in Polish economy, destroyed entrepreneurship and damaged quality standards of capital market.
In May 2012, he, moreover, received the Walther-Rathenau-Preis “in recognition for his commitment to European integration during Poland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2011 and for fostering Polish-German dialogue”. In her speech German chancellor Angela Merkel praised Tusk as “a farsighted European”. In December 2017, he was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Pécs, Hungary in recognition of Tusk’s “achievements as a Polish and European politician, which are strongly connected with Hungarian, regional and European history”.
Grand Cross Order of the Sun (2008, Peru)
Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit (2012, Norway)
Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (2014, Estonia)
President of the European Council (2014–present)
Tusk succeeded Herman Van Rompuy as President of the European Council on 1 December 2014.
Since assuming office, Tusk has notably worked to promote a unified European response to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. Tusk made attempts to co-ordinate the EU’s response to the European migrant crisis, and warned economic migrants not to come to Europe. Ahead of the UK’s EU membership referendum Tusk warned of dire consequences should the UK vote to leave. After the vote he pursued a hard line on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union stating that the country’s only real alternative to a “hard Brexit” is “no Brexit”.
On 31 January 2017, Tusk wrote an open letter to the 27 EU heads of state or government on the future of the EU before the Malta summit. In this letter, he stated the Trump administration presented a threat to the EU on a par with a newly assertive China, an aggressive Russia and “wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and Africa.”
On 9 March 2017, Tusk was re-elected for a second term to last until 30 November 2019. He received 27 of 28 votes; the one vote against him came from Beata Szydło, the Prime Minister of Poland. Tusk’s actions in the wake of the 2010 plane crash that killed then-Polish President Lech Kaczyński provoked opposition from Poland’s governing right-wing party—critics said that Tusk’s centrist government did not sufficiently investigate the cause of the crash. Szydło refused to sign the EU statement issued at the end of the Council’s meeting in protest at Tusk’s reelection, though other EU leaders spoke in favor of him; Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands called him “a very good president,” and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German chancellor Angela Merkel both made statements supporting the vote.
Donald Tusk maintains there will be no winners from Brexit and the two years following the triggering of Article 50 will be damage limitation.
Donald Tusk and his wife, Małgorzata Sochacka, have two children: a son, Michał and a daughter, Katarzyna.
Tusk belongs to the Kashubian minority in Poland. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in December 2008, Tusk compared his own family history to the Jewish experience, describing the Kashubian minority as a people who, “like the Jews, are people who were born and live in border areas and were suspected by the Nazis and by the Communists of being disloyal”.
Upon acceding to his position as President of the European Council, Tusk, while being fluent in German, was criticised for his poor English skills and lack of knowledge of French. Other sources however argue that he is “quite good” at English, and he underwent extensive language classes in advance of assuming the role of President.
Tusk’s religious views were a matter of a debate during his presidential campaign in 2005. To avoid further speculations, Tusk requested a Catholic marriage ceremony with his wife Małgorzata, whom he married in a civil ceremony 27 years earlier, just before the presidential elections.
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