Do new member states “deserve” EU top job?

It seems that Polish PM Donald Tusk is a favorite for taking over the post of President of the European Council. New CEE member states claimed in July that they want one of the EU top jobs. Would you say that the new member states somehow “deserve” one of the top jobs? Read few comments.

Tomas JaneliūnasAssociate Professor at Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University

I would say, so called “new” EU members are already full-fledged members. Ten years already passed at least for some of CEE countries as they are EU-members. So, there should be no more any distinction between “old” and “new” members. And accordingly, CEE countries and representatives from those countries should be treated equally with politicians from the western part of the EU. Of course, there could be some agreements about a kind of balance in the EU structures from the regional perspective. But I would say politicians from CEE would be needed for the EU top positions not because of the geographical belonging, but because of the “freshness”. The EU need to become more active, energetic, vital and with bigger courage. In my view, political leaders in CEE may possess such qualities more likely. We can see this comparing, for instance, reactions on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. So, political leaders from Poland or, maybe, Latvia (Mr. Dombrovskis) could be very potential candidates for top positions in the EU.

Uwe Puetter, Professor, Director, Center for European Union Research, Central European University

The election of Polish PM Tusk would be quite an important achievement for the CEE EU member states and would certainly lend legitimacy to the EU’s core institutions. I think that Tusk has strong potential to act as an effective consensus broker within the European Council – which is the crucial function of this position. He is recognised by euro area and non-euro countries and can bridge East and West. Yet, there is no doubt that the decision on the European Council president and the appointment of the High Representative are closely linked as the EU tries to find a balance between party affiliation, gender and geography. In any case CEE countries put on quite a strong showing this time with the Polish foreign minister Sikorski and the Bulgarian commission Georgieva being both considered as very serious candidates for the position of High Representative. Yet, I think Tusk’s own commitment to run for the European Council presidency makes it easier for CEE member states to agree on the Italian socialist foreign minister Federica Mogherini as High Representative – something they were sceptical about so far.

Cristian Ghinea, Director, Romanian Center for European Policies

I think it s a necessity now that Russia openly invades Ukraine to have a top position going to one of the states which have a coherent and principles based policy towards Russia. Putin changes the game and the EU either reacts or it becomes irrelevant. In this context I think new versus old members is less relevant, since there are new members as Bulgaria obedient towards Russia and other new members as Poland or Romania on the opposite side.

I think Poland is in the best position to represent the `Enough with Russian bullying` camp and I hope either for Tusk as head of the Council or for Sikorki for foreign affairs portfolio.

Ahto LobjakasAnalyst, Estonian Foreign Policy Institute

I think the word “deserve” is a little misleading. A space has been reserved for their expectations — made available to them by the other member states — and this is what the CEE countries now claim.

I personally think that the time when CEE described a coherent group of countries are long past. Estonia shares very little with Bulgaria. In fact, Estonia would very much like to be grouped with the Nordic countries (hence its fairly aggressive campaign against the “Southern” countries at the height of the debt crisis), but so far with no visible success.

On the other hand, the fact that this CEE space has been created when it comes to job distribution at the top of course reinforces a certain sense of community. This is most clearly being encouraged and exploited by Poland as the largest country in the region (also roughly central to the region) — perhaps less in the interests of Mr Tusk (who might not want the job in the first place), and more out of more strategic geopolitical ambitions.

Frank HägeLecturer in Politics, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick

Gender and geographical balance are an important criteria for filling positions in the EU to ensure that citizens and governments feel equally represented. The CEE states have been members for ten years without filling any of the key leadership positions, so they can make a convincing case for being considered for one of those posts now.

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