New EPP leader Tusk embarking on fight against populists

New EPP leader Tusk embarking on fight against populists

New EPP leader Tusk embarking on fight against populists Izvor: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk is the new president of the European People's Party, delegates decided at a congress in Zagreb on Wednesday, to whom he pledged that he would fight against populists.

The first EPP president from central and eastern Europe succeeds France's Joseph Daul, who led the party since the end of 2013.

Tusk (62) was the only candidate for the position. His term as European Council president, to which he was elected in 2014 and 2017, ends at the end of this month.

As many as 491 delegates voted for Tusk and 39 were against his election.

Tusk was elected Polish prime minister in 2007 and with his party's victory in the 2011 Polish parliamentary election, he became the first premier to be re-elected since the fall of Communism in Poland.

Addressing the congress earlier today, Tusk said he was fed up with being the European Bureaucrat-in-Chief and that he would embark on a fight against populists as soon as he became president of the EPP.

On one side are parties of irresponsible populism and on the other is our party of responsible popularity, Tusk told delegates from about 40 countries.

"After five years, I am fed up with being the European Bureaucrat-in-Chief. I am ready to fight. And I hope you are too," Tusk said. His term as European Council President expires at the end of this month.

Founded in 1976, the EPP is an alliance of 84 centre-right parties from 43 countries. With 182 seats, they are the largest group in the 751-seat European Parliament. Together with the Socialists, the Liberals and the Greens, they make up the majority pro-Europe alliance against populist, Eurosceptic and Europhobic parties.

Tusk said fear "plays the biggest role in politics" and that "in the last years," because of "the migration crisis and a new wave of terrorism," people had been looking for "a sense of safety and security."

"This is why it is so easy to win people's hearts by those who shout in a loud voice: 'get up off your knees, make your country great again, take back control'," he said, alluding to populist leaders in Europe and U.S. President Donald Trump's election slogan.

Tusk said he believed "that only those who want and are able to give people a feeling of safety and security, preserving at the same time their freedoms and rights, have a mandate to run for power."

"Under no circumstances can we give away the sphere of security and order to political populists, manipulators and autocrats, who lead people to believe that freedom cannot be reconciled with security, that protecting our borders and territory cannot be reconciled with liberal democracy and... the rule of law," Tusk said.

"We will not sacrifice values like civic liberties, the rule of law, and decency in public life on the altar of security and order, because there is simply no need... Whoever is unable to accept it, is de facto placing himself outside our family," he said, alluding to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party, which the EPP suspended last March for violations of democratic standards in Hungary.

Although the relative winner of the European elections in May, the EPP won 39 seats less than in the 2014 elections.

Still, the populist wave has not swept over Europe, despite the rise in popularity of Eurosceptic and Europhobic parties in some countries.

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