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Poland’s Radosław Sikorski, who is almost certain to win a nomination to the next Commission, claims he is uninterested in the defence portfolio. Some sources suggest he is more interested in the EU diplomatic chief’s post he already ran for in 2014.

Written by Aleksandra Krzysztoszek, Krzysztof Ryncarz | Euractiv.pl

Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski is considered one of the frontrunners to the post of the EU commissioner for defence, a new portfolio that Ursula von der Leyen wants to create if reappointed for the Commission president.

The new dossier would embrace the EU defence industry, research and development, as well as security in a wider sense of the word, and its creation is meant as a response for Russia’s increasingly aggressive policy and its invasion of Ukraine.

Sikorski denies any interest in the job, though.

Asked to comment on his chances during a press briefing on 17 June, he noted that “such a post does not exist in the EU (yet).”

“And even if it existed and was proposed to me, I do not aspire to it and I am not going anywhere,” he added.

Second chance to win the HR post

Sikorski has also been frequently mentioned by Polish and foreign media as a candidate to take up the job of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, especially if the European People’s Party or any other group blocks the nomination of Estonian liberal Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

During his previous term as the foreign minister, Sikorski already ran for the same post as Poland’s nominee in 2014, but he ultimately lost the post to his Italian Socialist counterpart, Federica Mogherini.

His failure was, to a large extent, a matter of a need to preserve party, national and gender balance on the EU top jobs. As Sikorski’s boss, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, was considered a candidate for European Council President, there were two possible combinations: either with then Danish Socialist Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt nominated for the Council President, and EPP’s Sikorski or Bulgaria’s Kristalina Georgieva taking up the HR/VP job, or with Tusk as the Council President, and Mogherini as the HR/VP.

At the end of the day, the EU leaders opted for the second option, which resulted with Tusk replacing Belgian Herman van Rompuy as the European Council President, and Mogherini replacing UK’s Catherine Ashton as the High Representative.

Tusk was the second Pole to assume an EU top job after another member of his Civic Platform (PO, EPP), Jerzy Buzek, served as the European Parliament President from 2009 to 2012. Poland was the first country of the “new Union” to receive a top job, and still remains the only country to receive it twice.

As Ewa Kopacz replaced Tusk as prime minister after his assuming the job in the Council in 2014, Sikorski became the parliamentary speaker. He resigned in June 2015 in the wake of an illegal wiretaps scandal.

Tusk unwilling to let Sikorski go

Donald Tusk admits that personally he is not too much willing to lose Sikorski and let him go to Brussels.

“I would not like to lose Sikorski, who is a very good foreign minister,” he told the media recently.

“For me, the most important thing is to have a strong, efficient government that is highly-regarded abroad, and this is what Minister Sikorski guarantees,” he added.

Tusk declared earlier that he would support von der Leyen's re-election and Kallas' candidacy for the High Representative. He was asked how the EPP would deal with objections from southern EU countries that with Sikorski taking the defence commissioner's portfolio and Kaja Kallas nominated for the HR, the region would receive too much.

“Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is not our candidate,” Tusk stressed, while describing Kallas as “very credible” on Ukraine and Russia.

“I share her views. It is the business of other leaders to support her effectively, I certainly will not interfere. We have our own things to fight for,” said.

A portfolio for Poland in the Commission

Poland would certainly like to receive one of the key dossiers in the new Commission, and it is likely to succeed, given that Tusk is one of the key proponents of von der Leyen’s reappointment for the Commission president.

If not the defence portfolio, which is being said to be too narrow for Warsaw’s ambitions, the enlargement and neighbourhood dossier would also do, although it is already a job of interest for many countries.

The media suggest Poland also eyes the internal market portfolio, which it has already had in Jean-Claude Juncker’s Commission, with Elżbieta Bieńkowska as the Commissioner. France has also signalled its interest in the post, although it is not a common practice for a country to receive the same portfolio in two subsequent Commissions.

The enlargement portfolio is particularly appealing, with the perspective on the horizon of Ukraine and the Western Balkans joining the EU. Warsaw would like to get this dossier, as confirmed with new MEP, PO’s Michał Szczerba.

“I would like for Poland to get a powerful dossier, like the enlargement one, perhaps combined with the post of Commission Vice-President,” he said.

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