DONALD TUSK’S appointment as president of the European Council in 2014 seemed to cap Poland’s journey to the heart of the European Union. Twenty-five years after the collapse of communism and a decade after Poland led the accession of eight former Soviet-bloc countries to the EU, its prime minister was elevated by his peers to one of the most senior posts in Brussels. It was hard to imagine a more potent sign of the healing of Europe’s post-war scars.
The job of council president, which involves chairing summits of European leaders and channelling their tempestuous debates into compromise, is a profound test of political nous. Not everyone was happy with Mr Tusk’s early performance; some thought he was operating more like the Polish prime minister he was from 2007-14 than the consensus-seeking European they sought. But most came around as Mr Tusk coolly shepherded the EU through a series of sticky situations, from a Greek bail-out to the refugee crisis to Brexit. His election to a second two-and-a-half-year term, due at an EU summit on March 9th, looked like a formality.