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Poland's Tusk and Italy's Mogherini to get EU top jobsBy Alex Pigman

BRUSSELS -- European leaders Saturday named Polish Premier Donald Tusk the next EU president and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini to head its diplomatic service as the bloc faces a series of challenges topped by Ukraine.

Tusk, who speaks only halting English and no French, is the first eastern European to hold such a senior post in the EU and is known as a tough critic of the Kremlin, especially over the Ukraine crisis.

“The suspense is up, the new EU leadership team is complete,” said current EU President Herman Van Rompuy moments after the announcement was made.

Van Rompuy said the new team faced three major challenges: the stagnating European economy, the crisis in Ukraine which he called “the gravest threat to continental security since the Cold War,” and Britain's place in the EU.

“I come to Brussels from a country that deeply believes in the significance of Europe,” the centre-right Tusk told a news conference with Van Rompuy and Mogherini.

He insisted that “no reasonable person can imagine the EU without the UK” and pledged to do everything possible to meet London's demands for reform.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “delighted” by Tusk's appointment and by his comments.

Tusk will take office on December 1 while Mogherini, if confirmed by the European Parliament, will start her new job on November 1.

Strongly backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the 57-year-old Tusk is a pro-European free marketeer with roots in Poland's Solidarity anti-Soviet trade union who has been prime minister since 2007.

Merkel said Tusk “faced big challenges” and lauded him as “a qualified, committed and passionate European, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 25 years after the end of the Cold War.”

He will also head up summits of the countries that use the euro, despite years of questioning the wisdom of eurozone bailouts as prime minister and Poland not being a member of the single currency.

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