Sunday

19th Jan 2020

Romanian president and PM at war over commission pick

  • Romania's previous government collapsed after the rejection of its previous candidate for the EU Commission. Now there is a new row in Bucharest (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, has accused the caretaker prime minister Viorica Dancila of being "irresponsible" for announcing a commissioner-designate for the new EU commission - while Bucharest is expecting a new government to be formed next week.

Dancila on Tuesday (29 October) said the socialist Victor Negrescu, a former MEP and ex-minister, was her choice to join the team of president-elect of the EU commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

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However, Iohannis has now called on Dancila to stop the process, saying that the caretaker government has no power to make such an announcement.

"Only a new government, endorsed by the parliament has the full legitimacy and obligation to send a European commissioner proposal to Brussels," he said, adding that it was essential that the Romanian parliament gives green light to a new government as soon as possible.

Iohannis described Dancila's nomination as an "irresponsible act of defiance towards Romanian citizens and our European partners".

But Dancila used Facebook to respond to him, attaching a letter received on Monday from von der Leyen, that requested Bucharest come up with a new proposal "without delay".

According to some media reports, there was some consensus in Bucharest on waiting to provide a new name to EU commission until the new government was formed. That new government is expected to be approved at the beginning of next week.

No government, no power

Immediately after the European parliament rejected the previous Romanian candidate, Rovana Plumb, Dancila's government collapsed after losing a no-confidence vote.

That put an end to the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD), which has been in power since 2016.

The opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) and its allies are expected to form a government on 4 November, with Ludovic Orban as prime minister, as they hold the parliamentary majority.

With the new government, a name from the European People's Party (EPP) was expected in Brussels.

The PNL reportedly plans to propose Siegfried Muresan (EPP), according to German magazine Der Spiegel.

So the nomination of the socialist Negrescu has generated a general discomfort in the EPP group, EU officials told EUobserver.

According to senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre, Paul Ivan, "polarisation is increasing in Romania, where there is no willingness to reach a political agreement".

A presidential election to be held in Romania on 10 November (with a possible second round on 24 November) is one of the main reasons for this political toxicity.

"That should be understood in Brussels," he said, adding however that "Romania is aware of the urgency of appointing a new commissioner".

But "there should be also awareness in Brussels of the situation in Romania" since this political pressure on Bucharest is damaging for both Romania and the EU, Ivan added.

Pending commissioners

Meanwhile, the new French and Hungarian commissioners-designate, Thierry Breton and Oliver Varhelyi, still need to be approved by the European parliament.

Their names have been forwarded to the EU Council and the parliament after von der Leyen interviewed both of them on Monday and confirmed she agrees with the appointments.

Breton will appear before the legal affairs committee to check possible conflict of interests on 12 November, according to French media. However, sources close to the committee would not confirm the date.

Additionally, the UK prime minister Boris Johnson might designate an EU commissioner to work in Brussels until January 31, 2020, following the third Brexit extension recently confirmed - at least providing there are no further extensions or if the UK decides to leave ahead of that date.

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