Brussels, 29 November 2019 (dpa/MIA) – European Council President Donald Tusk handed over the reins to his successor Charles Michel on Friday, as the European Union completes a change of leadership following EU-wide elections in May.
“Europe is the best place on earth, at least as long as it remains a continent of freedom and rule of law … inhabited by a community aware of its history and culture,” Tusk said, before symbolically handing Michel the bell used at summits to call EU leaders to order.
“I’m sure you, dear Charles, will use all your talents and virtues to maintain our unity,” he added.
Michel, who recently stepped down as Belgian prime minister, said he would take a “common-sense approach to problem-solving with innovation and efficiency.”
He stressed the green economy as a priority while noting that Europe should be more assertive on the world stage.
“In the medium to long term, there is a risk of a new Cold War between the United States and China,” Michel said earlier, in an interview with Italy’s La Stampa and other European newspapers published on Friday.
“Europe risks becoming collateral damage in this future conflict,” he warned.
Later on Friday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is due to put in a final appearance before journalists in Brussels.
Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s former defense minister, takes over at the helm of a new commission team on Sunday, when Michel also formally succeeds Tusk.
As a parting shot, Juncker also guest-edited Friday’s edition of “Playbook,” a morning newsletter by the Politico news site.
“It is no secret that Europe is and will always be the great love of my life and so to lead the European Commission over the past five years has truly been the greatest of honors,” he wrote.
Juncker called his five-year term “no picnic,” and mentioned the Greek eurozone crisis and Brexit among the “challenging moments” that punctuated it.
“I will be leaving before [Britain] does. In a way, I am not unhappy about this because it breaks my heart to see a member of our Union leave its midst,” he said.