Tusk calls for EU to become “military power” on Paris and Berlin visits

Donald Tusk called on the EU to turn itself into a “military power” on Monday as he visited Paris and Berlin for the first time since returning as Poland’s prime minister.

Following a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Tusk also declared that Germany still owes Poland “moral, financial and material compensation” for the Second World War.

The Polish prime minister’s visits were seen as an opportunity to rebuild – or “revitalise”, in Tusk’s words – relations with two key allies following the tensions experienced under the former national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government from 2015 to 2023.

Premier @DonaldTusk podczas oświadczenia dla prasy z Prezydentem Francji @EmmanuelMacron w #Paryż: Dziękuje za to zaproszenie. Moją intencją było, aby rozpocząć od rewitalizacji relacji Polski z najważniejszymi partnerami europejskimi. Francja i Polska to tradycyjni przyjaciele -… pic.twitter.com/ZtG67xmPCL

— Kancelaria Premiera (@PremierRP) February 12, 2024

But they took on even greater significance following Donald Trump’s remarks on Saturday suggesting that, as US president, he would not help allies attacked by Russia if they were not meeting their commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence.

Speaking in Berlin alongside Scholz, Tusk called for the “EU to be not only a civilisational, economic and scientific power, but also a military one”.

Earlier in the day, after meeting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, Tusk had declared that “there is no alternative to the EU, to transatlantic cooperation, to NATO”.

“Europe must become a safe continent, and this means that the EU must become strong and ready to defend its borders and to defend its non-EU allies.”

❗ UE może być potęgą nie tylko cywilizacyjną, gospodarczą, naukową, ale także potęgą militarną – premier @DonaldTusk. pic.twitter.com/33sNP7A7al

— Kancelaria Premiera (@PremierRP) February 12, 2024

“The EU is eight times larger than the Russian economy. We have six times the population of Russia. There is no reason why we should be so clearly militarily weaker than Russia. Therefore, increasing production and intensifying cooperation are absolutely indisputable priorities,” said Tusk in Berlin.

He revealed that he and Scholz had discussed boosting air defence and ammunition production capabilities. This was “not only to help Ukraine – which is a priority today – but also for Europe to obtain defence capabilities commensurate to our capabilities”.

Speaking earlier in Paris, Tusk cited Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, declaring that “the idea of ​​solidarity – ‘One for all, all for one’ – is the basis of the philosophy of modern Europe”. But, he added, “this requires determined action for the European community”.

Macron expressed his pleasure to see Tusk back in office in Poland. “Through your government, we have partners who we can trust, are pro-European and clear on European security and the major challenges we face,” said the French president, quoted by Reuters.

Cieszę się, że mogę Cię gościć, drogi @DonaldTusk.

To Twoja pierwsza wizyta po objęciu stanowiska premiera, która wyznacza nowy rozdział w naszych stosunkach z Polską.

Kontynuujmy współpracę na rzecz bezpieczeństwa i suwerenności Europy. https://t.co/rDDerbKoIY

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 12, 2024

In Berlin, Tusk also touched on the sensitive issue of reparations for World War Two, which the former PiS government insisted Poland was still owed (to the tune of $1.3 trillion).

Tusk echoed the German government’s longstanding position, saying that “in the formal, legal sense, the issue of reparations was closed many years ago”. However, he added that “the issue of moral, financial and material compensation has never been completed”.

“I think that Germany [still] has something to do here,” continued Tusk, though he acknowledged that “the chancellor may have a different opinion”. Tusk pledged that he would “not use this narrative aggressively” but instead to foster “further cooperation for the security and benefit of both nations”.

„Germans have gaps in their memory” regarding WWII, says Poland’s foreign minister. „They know about the Holocaust but have forgotten what they did to the Polish population.”

He called on Berlin to compensate Poland for the „enormous losses” it suffered https://t.co/3D71btDBLg

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 12, 2024

Speaking alongside Tusk, Scholz began his remarks by acknowledging the “terrible German attack on Poland” in 1939 and “the immeasurable suffering that we Germans have caused our Polish neighbours”.

“Our countries share a painful and turbulent history” but today “Poland and Germany are neighbours, friends and partners”, he continued, quoted by Polish weekly Do Rzeczy.

“Today more than ever, Germany and Poland act together within the EU and as allies in NATO, especially at a time when Russian imperialism threatens our security,” added the German chancellor. “Poland’s security is also Germany’s security. We feel co-responsible for this.”

Dziękuję za Twoją wizytę, @donaldtusk! Łączy nas pragnienie sprawiedliwego pokoju, wolności, stabilności i bezpieczeństwa w Europie – jako partnerów w UE i sojuszników w NATO. Bezpieczeństwo Polski jest też naszym bezpieczeństwem – występujemy we wzajemnej obronie. pic.twitter.com/tVPHYYzRg6

— Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz (@Bundeskanzler) February 12, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: KPRM (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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