Monday

26th Jul 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us