Saturday

20th Apr 2019

Centre-right leaders in Romania for political showdown

  • Angela Merkel and other centre-right leaders will meet in the Parliament building (Photo: European People's Party)

Angela Merkel is joining other centre-right leaders in Bucharest on Wednesday (17 October) for a party congress, even though local politicians seem nowhere near to burying the hatchet on recent infighting.

Compared to last week's protests in Greece, the dozen-or-so people chanting "Merkel, Romania is not yours" on Tuesday evening in the old part of the city looked peaceful and harmless.

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

Some of them were pensioners who had already taken part in bigger anti-austerity rallies earlier this year which led to the resignation of the centre-right government.

After centre-left Prime Minister Victor Ponta's failed attempt to impeach and oust centre-right President Traian Basescu from office this summer, the local political scene has remained as divided and bitter as ever.

The sharp pro-Basescu or anti-Basescu feeling is also a feature of Romanian society.

"Our coalition welcomes anyone who wants to support us in getting rid of Traian Basescu. We have assumed it as a strategy not to start asking people who are with us in this fight 'why don't you first go to school, why don't you wash your hands'," Ponta said on Monday during a TV show.

He was defending his coalition's choice in accepting as a member George Becali, an MEP and the owner of a football club, whose poor education has not prevented him from rising to prominence, despite racist and sexist comments.

On Wednesday, the centre-left coalition (USL) now in government is staging a parallel event - the launch of their candidates for general elections on 9 December.

But media focus is on the European People's Party (EPP) congress, where 1,200 guests are expected along with leaders such as Germany's Angela Merkel, Spain's Mariano Rajoy, Poland's Donald Tusk and eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as the heads of the EU commission and council, Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy.

The EPP event - a regular gathering ahead of EU summits - is this time taking place in the gigantic Romanian parliament building, a reminder of Communist times when Romania's dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu levelled a large part of the centre to erect the "House of the People," still the world's second-largest building after the Pentagon.

The EPP event is being seen a sign of support for Basescu, after a similar party congress of the European Socialists due to take place in Bucharest last month was moved to Brussels.

The snub for Ponta came after his failed attempt to oust Basescu, which involved ignoring verdicts by the constitutional court and which caused outrage in the EU capital.

Overt backing of Basescu is not welcomed in all corners of EU politics, however.

For his part, Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament tweeted: "Why is Barroso attending a Basescu rally in Bucharest when the EU commission has to be impartial in evaluating Romania?"

Romania, as well as Bulgaria, are the only EU members to still be under pre-membership-style monitoring of their judicial systems amid concerns about corruption and the failure by highly-politicised courts to tackle it properly.

Abuses of power - more subtle during Basescu's government and more blatant since Ponta came to power in May - have raised red flags in the EU as to the state of democracy and rule of law in the country.

But the problems have also shown the limitations of EU powers when it comes to a member of the club. And meanwhile, the political infighting in Romania goes on.

EU commission plans bolstering rule of law toolbox

As EU concerns over rule of law in some member states grow, the commission opens a debate on tools to discipline unruly member states. The EU executive has launched a new probe against Poland, and put Romania on the spot.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us