Juncker Questions Romania’s Readiness for Its First EU Presidency
The EC chief’s comments come against the backdrop of a long-standing political strife inside Romania and tense relations between Bucharest and the EU institutions in Brussels.
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has expressed doubts over Romania’s ability to assume the six-month rotating Presidency of the European Union.
Romania, which joined the EU together with Bulgaria back in 2007, is set to hold the EU Presidency for the first time in the first half of 2019, as of January 1.
Its Balkan, post-communist peer Bulgaria already completed its own first ever EU Presidency in the first half of 2018.
While its economy has been performing rather well, Romania has been struggling with political tensions over the past couple of years, including at times massive and violent street protests against the center-left government led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD).
Romania’s increasingly populist Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila but in effect led by PSD leader Liviu Dragnea has been in conflict with the European Commission in Brussels over attempts to curb the independence of the Romanian judiciary.
Against this backdrop, the head of EC, Jean-Claude Juncker, used strong words to make clear his doubt in Romania’s fitness to take over the rotating President of the EU at the present moment.
“[Romania might be] technically well prepared [but the] Bucharest government has not fully understood what it means to preside over the countries of the EU,” Juncker told German newspaper Die Welt in an interview published on December 29, 2018.
“[President the EU] requires a willingness to listen to others and a willingness to put one’s own concerns in the background. I have some doubts about this,” he stated.
The EC chief also questioned Romania’s ability to seem as a “compact unit” in Europe given the political tensions inside the Balkan country.
Each of the three Prime Ministers to have been in charge of the leftist Cabinet since 2016, Dancila included, has been in conflict with Romania’s pro-European, center-right President Klaus Iohannis, who represents the country on the European Council.
Romania’s government is seen as beginning to espouse the type of nationalist rhetoric already employed by other post-communist Eastern EU states Hungary and Poland, while the country’s most powerful man, Dragnea, recently accused the EU of trying to deny his country “right to hold its own opinions”.
The European Commission, the EU executive, has been urging Romania’s Cabinet to do away with the attempted judicial reforms, arguing they undermine tackling high-level corruption, an absolutely crucial issue in the post-communist EU states where Romania actually achieved major progress over the past decade.
Romania is going to assume the six-month Presidency of the EU from Austria on January 1, 2019, which will leave Croatia, the latest newcomer to the EU who joined only 2013, as the only EU member state yet to hold the Presidency for the first time.
Croatia’s EU Presidency term is scheduled for the first half of 2020, after Finland succeeds Romania in July – December 2019.
(Banner image: Romanian govenrment)