Poland, an EU member since 2004, is the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which helped bring down Soviet-style communism in the late 1980s. It was also the site of some of the 20th century's greatest tragedies.
Home to 38.5 million people, Poland sits in the near heart of Europe, bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and the Russian enclave Kaliningrad. The prime location and large amount of land (more than 300,000 square kilometers) Poland enjoys have enticed more than one of the country's neighbors to attempt to take it over. Poland survived the 1939-45 Nazi occupation, however, and endured over four decades of Soviet dominance to emerge as one of the EU's shining stars in Central Europe.
The Polish former prime minister will serve a second term in his new European role. His home country Poland, now governed by fierce opponents of Tusk's, had sought to block him - Tusk himself acknowledged the "paradox."