Two weeks before the debut of his successor Charles Michel, European Council President Donald Tusk did not mince his words on Wednesday night before the European College in Brugge. “Brexit means the true end of the British Empire,” he said.
During these last years, Tusk had heard repeatedly from Britain that leaving the EU would allow it to become a world power. But he also heard very different opinions during his travels in South Africa, India, Canada, Australia and in other countries. “After its departure, the UK will become an outsider, a second-class player in an area occupied by China, the USA and the EU,” he said.
According to him, it is only a member of a united Europe that Britain can play a role on the international stage. “We can say the same about France and Germany,” he added.
A month before the elections in Britain, Tusk still hopes to see a turnaround. “In this match, we have had extra time, we are now in the additional periods and perhaps there will even be penalty shots,” he said.
Tusk also regretted that France block the accession negotiations with Macedonia and Northern Albania, and he was sorry to hear President Emmanuel Macron call for a review of relations with Russia, which is covered by EU sanctions since the Crimean annexation and interference in Ukraine. “I share with Mr Macron the dream of a truly sovereign Europe, but a sovereign Europe will not be possible without stable and integrated Balkans and without an independent Ukraine.”
Negotiations on Brexit and maintenance of sanctions against Russia are his most important achievements and part of his great goal: the preservation of European unity. “It may sound trite, but my mandate was to maintain unity. It was a leitmotif, a challenge, almost an obsession,” Tusk said, who opposed once again a multi-speed Europe, or a Europe where Germany and France will win.
Former Belgian Prime Minister Michel succeeds Donald Tusk on 1 December. He will be dealing with complex issues, such as the European multi-annual budget, migration policy, strengthening the eurozone and climate policy. All of these areas have been especially marked by divisions and indecision in recent years.
“In my office, I hung a poster with the inscription: ‘It is unity, stupid’ I had done so to remind myself what is of the greatest importance.”