German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday signalled unequivocally that she expects European Council president Donald Tusk to stay in office, despite the attempts from his home country, Poland, to drive him out.
“I am looking forward to working with him in the future,” she told the Bundestag in a European and foreign policy speech just before setting off for Brussels for an EU summit where Mr Tusk’s fate is to be decided.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party, wants Mr Tusk removed following years of domestic political conflict with the liberal council president.
But a German official has “an overwhelming majority” among the 28 member states supports granting Mr Tusk a new two-year term.
The EU normally chooses its leaders by consensus but the rules allow for a qualified majority vote. However, Berlin is anxious not to alienate Warsaw, a key partner despite recent political tensions.
Ms Merkel also set out the ground for her visit next week to Washington for a first meeting with US president Donald Trump, saying she would stick to her principles of freedom and openness. Without naming Mr Trump, she made clear her opposition to the protectionist and isolationist tendencies in his public statements.
“When we see nationalist and protectionist initiatives on the march in parts of the world, Europe must never curl up in a ball, isolate itself or pull back,” she said. “Europe must maintain its openness to the world, especially in trade policy.”
The German chancellor also warned Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers against repeating their recent attacks comparing today’s Germany to the Nazi state.
Ms Merkel said the remarks were “sad and incredibly misplaced” and “not justifiable.” She added that such comparisons would “allow the victims of the Nazis to be trivialized”.
But she also insisted that Turkey remained an important partner, including on refugee policy and Nato. “A distancing of Turkey cannot be in our foreign and geopolitical interest,” she said.
Mr Erdogan accused Germany of “Nazi” practices after local officials in various towns and cities used safety regulations and other rules to ban appearances by Turkish ministers campaigning in Turkey’s constitutional referendum for a strengthening of the presidential powers.