The Brief: Donald Tusk lands new job as EPP president with pledge to fight populism

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By Trent Murray
Donald Tusk was elected president of the EPP in Zagreb
Donald Tusk was elected president of the EPP in Zagreb   -  Copyright  REUTERS

He may be stepping down as President of the European Council, but Donald Tusk is stepping up for a new challenge after being elected to lead the centre-right European People’s Party.

The EPP is the largest political grouping across the continent, but has suffered losses amid the rise in populism and extremist parties.

Tusk’s task is to try and turn around the fortunes of the grouping.

The former Polish prime minister is committed to the European cause and many hope this passion will help revive the party's brand.

"I think we'll see a big focus on the rule of law, respect for democracy and respect for human rights. I think that is something that is very important. We are going to take the populists head on over the next five years with him as president," said Neale Richmond, an Irish Senator.

Tusk was chosen at a party meeting in Zagreb on Wednesday evening.

One of his first tasks will be to rule on the status of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s populist Fidesz party within EPP.

A decision will be made in January after an EPP internal investigation, Tusk said on Thursday.

Fidesz was temporarily suspended from the EPP in March before the EU elections due to alleged violations of the rule of law.

“My opinion is quite clear when I express my opinion about illiberal democracy” conducted by Orban, Tusk said. “I think we have to be very determined in fighting against this kind of idea.”