Tusk makes scathing attack on Russian influence
KRAKOW, Poland â" Vladimir Putinâs Russia represents a major threat to the unity of the European Union, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk said Saturday.
Tusk used his speech at a conference on the future of the European Union to express concern about Russiaâs attempts to influence the direction of politics in Europe, and said Sundayâs election in Latvia could provide a clear signal that strategy is working.
âOur problem is Russia, which is undermining whatever it can undermine in Europe,â Tusk told the conference, hosted by the Pontifical University of John Paul II in KrakÃ³w in southern Poland. âI can provide numerous examples to prove that Russians will not refrain from any means to weaken European unity.â
Stating he was âanxiousâ about the result of Latviaâs national election, Tusk said it could âbe a turning point for that region â" a moment which was planned in the Kremlin and not in Europ e.â The latest polls show the pro-Russian Harmony party is poised to win the biggest share of votes.
Tusk also referenced âvery clear traces of Russiaâs engagement in the Brexit referendum campaignâ and in Cataloniaâs conflict with Madrid, and cited the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and the cyberattack on the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons as examples of unwelcome interference.
âThere are people who think that Europeâs demise is inevitable and unluckily they have quite a lot of arguments to support this thesisâ â" Donald Tusk
Tusk claimed he has no âanti-Russian obsession,â but said: âIf there is somewhere whose main political priority is to disintegrate Europe, this certainly is Russia.â
Meanwhile, Tusk warned fellow EU leaders not to âfoolâ themselves over the state of relations between Europe and the United States.
âNever before in my life has America been a problem for Europe,â Tusk said. âWhat happened under the administration of my namesake Donald Trump is a new phenomenon â" America is sailing away from Europe today and it is intentional.â
The 46-minute speech, delivered in the old town area of KrakÃ³w, was designed to defend the European project, beginning with a declaration that itâs âthe most beautiful political undertaking in Europeâs history.â
âThere are people who think that Europeâs demise is inevitable and unluckily they have quite a lot of argume nts to support this thesis,â he said, citing Brexit as an example.
But Tusk asked leaders to refrain from âfatalistic thinkingâ over the migration crisis, despite the fact it remains a focal point for disagreements between governments. âThis huge migration of peoples doesnât have to bring negative consequences for the EU,â he said, arguing the deal with Turkey to limit immigration to the bloc is working.
âThere will be fewer illegal crossings on all European borders in 2018 than there were before the migration crisis,â he said. âOne can cope with the problem without a mouthful of nationalistic slogans and this nauseating rhetoric.â
Protecting rule of law
Amid tension between Polandâs government and the EU over reform to the countryâs judiciary, Tusk used the speech in his homeland to make reference to the fundamental values of the EU.
âWhat is a liberal democracy? Simple: it is the rule of law, resp ect of rights of the weak by the stronger, it is the freedom of speech, it is a precise and definitive division between the judiciary and the executive,â he said.
He caveated his words should not be interpreted as an attack on Polandâs government, but cautioned: âThis set of rules is not given once and for ever â" it is something very fragile and unique.â
âWe have to be united as Poles in Europeâ â" Donald Tusk
He said Europe âcannot become a union of conflictsâ in which the victors are the âmost aggressiveâ or âthose for whom law and constitution mean the unbearable limitations and corsets,â adding: âI am convinced that in the interest of Poles and Poland is to protect Europe from such scenarios.â
After the speech Tusk took a stroll around KrakÃ³wâs picturesque Old Square.
With Poland preparing for local elections in two weeks, Tusk told the crowd: âWe have to be united as Poles i n Europe â¦ We need to shake each otherâs hand and remember that a simple reconciliation between Poles is a requirement of the moment.â
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