Friday

22nd Mar 2019

Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency

  • Klaus Iohannis (l) with EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo: European Commission)

Romania will be unable to manage its EU presidency next year, the country's head of state has warned.

"Romania takes over the presidency of the EU Council in 2019 - a very honourable and demanding position, especially for the government - but we're not prepared for it," the country's president, Klaus Iohannis, said on Monday (12 November) at a meeting of local mayors in Bucharest.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Liviu Dragnea is barred from holding office due to a criminal conviction (Photo: Partidul Social Democrat)

"It's the 12th hour [and] we're totally unprepared," he said.

"A few weeks ago, we said we'd do it reasonably, but in the meantime things went mad - it's unclear at the government who the responsible people are ... people who should be dealing with the EU presidency resign or they're dismissed," he added.

He said it was a "political necessity" to replace the government, which he called a "crash of Romanian democracy".

"There is no prospect of good governance and involvement in European affairs. This is very serious," Iohannis said.

Romania is due to take over the rotating EU chairmanship from Austria on 1 January, for six months.

The tasks include preparing the agendas of member states' meetings at the EU Council in Brussels, chairing talks, and organising EU-themed symposiums at home.

They also include speaking on behalf of EU states at the European Parliament and in talks with European Commission officials.

Romania joined the EU in 2007 and its upcoming presidency, its first ever, was meant to show off its credentials on the EU stage at a time when it is angling to be let in to the EU's passport-free Schengen travel zone, as well as to shake off long-standing concerns on corruption and abuse of rule of law.

Iohannis spoke out three days after the minister in charge of preparing for its EU chairmanship, Victor Negrescu, resigned.

The minister left his post because the government was unhappy with his work in building relations with the EU commission, Rovana Plumb, the minister in charge of EU funds and acting education minister, said at the time.

Iohannis' mention of the "crash" in good governance referred to the fact the country was nominally led by prime minister Viorica Dancila, a former MEP, from the centre-left Social Democratic Party.

But the real leader is widely said to be the party chairman, Liviu Dragnea, who is barred from holding office due to a prior conviction for electoral fraud.

For his part, Dragnea lashed out at Iohannis moments after the president spoke at the mayors' meeting.

"Do not be fooled by the lies of Iohannis," he said at an impromptu press briefing.

"The government is ready to manage the presidency of the EU Council. Iohannis has done the country a major disservice," he said.

The president had "no proof" to back up his words, Dragnea added.

He also attacked Iohannis personally, saying that prosecutors had 17 ongoing "criminal files" opened against him linked to his official declaration of interests and statements of personal wealth.

EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press

Romania's data protection authority has threatened a €20m fine against reporters investigating high-level corruption. The European Commission has since issued a warning, telling Romanian authorities to give press exemptions when it comes to privacy rights.

Romania 'using EU data protection law to silence journalists'

An award-winning journalism outlet in Romania is being threatened with fines by the country's data protection authorities - for having disclosed connections, on Facebook, of powerful politicians and a firm embroiled in scandal.

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  2. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  3. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  4. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  5. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  6. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  7. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May
  8. Juncker suggests emergency Brexit summit next week

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us