German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, March 9, 2017. European Union leaders confirmed Donald Tusk for a second term as council president Thursday, overcoming weeks of strong opposition from his native Poland. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

The Latest: Merkel criticized Polish 'blockade'

March 09, 2017 - 2:59 pm

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the European Union summit taking place Thursday and Friday (all times local):

8:55 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it was right to override Poland's objections and re-elect Donald Tusk as European Union president over his native Poland's objections.

Merkel said after Thursday's decision that other EU countries had spoken extensively with Poland beforehand. She said it's important to seek consensus, but "the search for consensus must of course not be used for a blockade."

Merkel said she was the wrong person to ask about whether the episode would have any lasting impact on Polish-EU relations. She added that "I am very interested and all of us are — I can say just the same for my other colleagues — in good cooperation with Poland."

She said: "We will see how things develop. I hope that we can return to sensible cooperation."


8:30 p.m.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has lashed out at the newly re-elected Council President Donald Tusk, saying he could not be impartial when it came to dealing with the government in Warsaw.

Szydlo said Tusk "cannot take sides in a political conflict, cannot side with opposition, against a democratically chosen government."

Tusk guaranteed he would make sure Poland did not have to spend its time in isolation.


Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo lashed out at the newly re-elected Council President Donald Tusk, saying he could not be impartial when it came to dealing with the government in Warsaw.

Szydlo said her Polish political rival Tusk "does not guarantee impartiality" saying Tusk "cannot take sides in a political conflict, cannot side with opposition, against a democratically chosen government."

Tusk guaranteed he would make sure Poland did not have to spend its time in isolation.

8:00 p.m.

The head of Poland's ruling party says the government's standing in the European Union was raised by its solitary, lost battle against the re-election of Donald Tusk, a Pole, to a top EU job.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Thursday also denied Tusk, a political rival, the right to represent Poland, accusing him of disloyalty to his native land.

His statements seemed addressed to the supporters of his nationalist party in Poland.

Despite a vote of 27 EU members for Thursday, Kaczynski said the good news was that Poland regained its sovereign status, by standing alone in defense of its views.

But he said it was "very bad" that Tusk was chosen for a second 2 ½-year term and denied him the right to "function under (Poland's) white and red flag."


6:00 p.m.

Donald Tusk says he recognized the "paradox" in getting re-elected as Council President of the European Union despite the opposition of his native Poland.

With a show of 27 hands that isolated Poland, Tusk still felt there was enough unity around him to go on for a second term of 2 ½ years.

He said, "It may sound like a paradox because of the context, but anyway, your decision is an expression of our unity today. I will work with all of you without any exceptions because I am truly devoted to a united Europe."

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who ran the election, told Tusk after his reappointment that: "You're a strong man with strong European convictions, and we believe that even after today you will work with each and every one of us."


5:55 p.m.

The spokeswoman for Poland's ruling nationalist party says the re-election of Donald Tusk for a top European Union job despite opposition from his native Poland means that individual heads of member states will have nothing to say in the future.

Beata Mazurek said in Warsaw that Tusk's re-election against Poland's protest was a bad sign for Europe, but not a defeat for Poland.

Mazurek represents the powerful ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Tusk's foe.

She says, "This will no longer be a union of unity."

Following the vote, Kaczynski, who is the mastermind of Poland's politics, was seen on TVN24 quietly leaving his office building and being driven away. He did not react to questions from journalists.


4:55 p.m.

Luxembourg's prime minister says European Union leaders have decided to give Donald Tusk a second term as president of the EU Council, one of the bloc's most prestigious jobs.

Xavier Bettel tweeted: "Habemus #EUCO Presidentum, Good Luck @eucopresident Donald."

Tusk was confirmed for another 2 ½-year term despite vociferous objections in recent weeks from the government of his native Poland. Tusk, a center-right former prime minister, is a longstanding and bitter rival of the current governing party.

However, Poland was isolated in its bid to block Tusk.

The Council president is responsible for chairing summits, coordinating the work of the member countries and making sure the 28 nations speak as much as possible with one voice on the international stage.


4:30 p.m.

European Union leaders are considering the future of Donald Tusk in one of the 28-nation bloc's most prestigious jobs.

Maltese government spokesman Kurt Farrugia wrote on Twitter that the country's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, is now chairing the election of the president of the EU Council. Malta holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Tusk, the incumbent, recused himself from that discussion Thursday. His spokesman, Preben Aamann, tweeted that he was "waiting outside."

Tusk has strong support from most EU nations for another 2 ½-year term but faces resistance from his native Poland.


3:40 p.m.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern is calling for a quick decision on the re-election of Donald Tusk as European Union president, saying that dragging out the matter would plunge Europe into a "senseless crisis."

Poland's nationalist government wants to prevent a second term for Tusk, the country's center-right former prime minister, as head of the EU Council. But Kern said as he arrived at an EU summit Thursday that it is "absolutely necessary" to get the matter out of the way quickly.

Kern said that "it is really not a good occasion to conduct a Polish argument at the European level." He added that "the motives that the Poles are bringing into the meeting are not acceptable. Donald Tusk has done a good job. We would plunge Europe into a senseless crisis if we now started a personnel discussion at the head of the Council."


3:15 p.m.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo says every head of the European Union's Council should have backing from their own home country.

Szydlo spoke on arriving for the EU summit that is to decide on whether Donald Tusk should serve a second term for as head of the Council. Poland strongly opposes the re-election of the former prime minister and political foe of the current government.

"We don't agree for the head of the European Council, whoever he is, to be chosen without the consent of the country he comes from," Szydlo said. "This is a matter of principle."

Szydlo made no threats to block the vote or the summit. Her statements seemed chiefly addressed to ruling party supporters in Poland.


3 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says Donald Tusk should be re-elected as European Union president in the interests of continuity and stability at a time when the 28-nation bloc is under pressure.

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, faces opposition from his own country's government. But Hollande said as he arrived at an EU summit Thursday: "I don't see how one country could oppose this solution when all the others are in favor."

Hollande added that "with a Europe that has to affirm its unity, a Europe that needs to be firm in the face of a certain number of pressures it faces, there is every reason to confirm here the nomination of Donald Tusk."


2:40 p.m.

Malta's prime minister is saying that it's not possible for one country to block a decision on who holds one of the European Union's top jobs, amid strong resistance from Poland to a new term for incumbent Donald Tusk.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, will preside over Thursday's planned decision on who will lead the EU Council for the next 2 ½ years. Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, appears to have overwhelming support among the 28 EU nations.

Muscat said: "One country cannot block a decision. There are very clear rules of engagement and rules of procedure that we will follow."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, often an ally of Poland's nationalist government, made clear that his country will support Tusk.


2:15 p.m.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says he is steadfast in his opposition to having a Turkish minister address the Turkish electorate the Netherlands ahead of a referendum, and said it had nothing to do with next Wednesday's Dutch elections.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu suggested on Thursday that Dutch officials feared campaigning by Turkish leaders for a "yes" vote in an upcoming referendum in Turkey about expanding the presidential powers would affect the polls. He said he could come after the elections.

But Rutte said his opposition ran much deeper and "has nothing to do with the elections."

Speaking as he entered the EU summit, Rutte called the Turkish vote as "a referendum by which Turkey is moving in the wrong direction, away from democracy."


12:30 p.m.

The European Union leader who will oversee the election of the new Council president says "there is an overwhelming support for President (Donald) Tusk 's re-election."

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told a small group of reporters just hours ahead of the summit that even if several member nations are unhappy that all major EU posts are held by members of the EPP Christian Democrat group, "they don't want to sacrifice President Tusk because of that because they think he has done a good job."

Malta currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Tusk's native Poland is the only known country that opposes his re-election, saying he has done a bad job and meddled too much in national politics, which is currently dominated by Tusk's political rivals.

Apart from Tusk, EPP politicians head the EU Commission through Jean-Claude Juncker and the Parliament, with Antonio Tajani at its head.


11:20 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has thrown her weight behind Donald Tusk to retain one of the European Union's top jobs ahead of an EU summit in Brussels Thursday, despite staunch opposition from his home country of Poland.

The EU's 28 leaders are due to decide who will be president of the EU Council for the next 2½ years. It is one of the bloc's most prestigious jobs, and involves chairing summits and coordinating the work of member countries.

Poland's nationalist government has proposed little-known Polish EU lawmaker Jacek Saryusz-Wolski to replace Tusk — a former prime minister who has a long and bitter rivalry with the leader of Poland's current governing party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Diplomats from several member nations say Warsaw has little or no support, while Tusk has strong backing. Merkel offered Tusk public support in a pre-summit speech to lawmakers in Berlin.

"I see the re-election of Donald Tusk as a sign of stability for the entire EU," she said.


11:10 a.m.

Malta's prime minister, who will preside over the election of the next president of the European Union's Council, is indicating that he remains convinced the decision will be made Thursday.

Poland is holding out against the re-election of incumbent Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister who's a bitter rival of the leader of the country's current governing party. It has proposed that a European lawmaker from Poland, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, replace him but appears to have little or no support.

The election will be overseen by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Muscat said ahead of the summit: "The item is on the agenda, so I think that usually when an item is on the agenda one has to decide on that item."


11:00 a.m.

Poland's foreign minister says the nation will do "everything" to block the re-election of European Council head Donald Tusk at a EU summit starting Thursday.

Tusk's term holding one of EU's most prestigious jobs ends May 31, and he enjoys wide backing for a second term.

Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Thursday Poland's diplomats will be telling their foreign partners that the summit "is in danger" if they insist on Tusk, Poland's former prime minister and adversary of the current government.

He said Polish media reports that Poland would refuse to sign the summit's conclusions were "journalist speculation."

In last-minute talks Poland is trying to garner support for its counter-candidate, little-known European lawmaker Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.

"There is no need for hurry, no need to make the decision today," Waszczykowski said on TVN24.

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