Tusk was speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to mark the start of Poland's presidency of the EU, which will last the next six months. "The answer to the crisis is more Europe," he said, not less. He indicated that he will fight against efforts to further erode EU principles, and suggested he was unhappy with the deal reached among member states last month to allow temporary internal border patrols to deal with increased immigration.
"I am against any barriers to internal free movement under the pretext of dealing with migration problems. What Denmark is doing is a concern for anybody who thinks that free movement is going to be restricted even further," he told the parliament. "Europe, with its institutions, its budget and its objectives, is not the source of this crisis. And following those who say the opposite would be a fatal mistake. Undoing the European construction at this time and turning to nationalism as an answer to the crisis would be a very big mistake."It was a fairly unusual move for the incoming presidency to take such a political stance against what other member states are doing, because the presidency is supposed to be a neutral negotiator in the council. But Poland has always marched to the beat of its own drummer when it comes to the EU.
As the largest Eastern European member state, Poland has taken on the roll of 'defender of the interests of the new member states', often taking unpopular stances that smaller Eastern states agree with privately but don't feel secure enough to say publicly. Their unorthodox way of doing things has often been interpreted by Western European states as being anti-European. But in an ironic twist, it is now Poland lecturing the Western states about their lack of European values.
Of course, the Polish government today is a far cry from what it was five years ago under the reign of the right-wing Kaczynski twins. Though Poland still often takes obstructionist or unorthodox positions, Prime Minister Tusk is an avowed pro-European. Poland and the other Eastern European states worked hard to join the Schengen Zone in 2007, and doing so has brought them myriad advantages. It is perhaps the Eastern European states who are the most concerned about the Schengen agreement falling apart. And Tusk likely sees it as his duty to protect it.
This could convince the Danish government to abandon the move, which was likely done to appease the increasingly powerful far right Danish People's Party, who now form part of the government. Denmark's actions are likely illegal under the Schengen treaty and the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, has already warned the government that this is likely to be the case.
If Poland can convince member states to show solidarity with the commission rather than with Denmark, it would go a long way in warning other states not to try going down the same route. After all, the commission can complain till they're blue in the face, but if member states don't stand up for Schengen it will likely go the way of the dodo.