Romania “not ready” to take over EU presidency, president claims

Romania “not ready” to take over EU presidency, president claims
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest November 12, 2018

Romania is not ready to take over the EU presidency in January next year, President Klaus Iohannis said on November 12. 

“You know that as of January 1, 2019, Romania will take over the presidency of the EU Council, an extremely important position, an extremely honorary position, an extremely demanding position, mostly for the government. In my opinion, we are not ready for such a thing,” Iohannis said.

On October 9, Romania's EU affairs minister Victor Negrescu unexpectedly resigned, but claimed that Romania’s preparations to take over the EU presidency are going according to plan. 

However,  unnamed sources from the foreign ministry told Adevarul daily the organisation of the presidency is a "fiasco" and Negrescu did not want to be held responsible for it.

Other unnamed sources from the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) told the daily that Negresu resigned due to increasing tensions between himself and PSD leader Liviu Dragnea.

According to the sources, Negresu has sent Romanian officials in Brussels a series of messages in which he complained he had been “sabotaged” by Dragnea, EU Funds Minister Rovana Plumb and Finance Minister Eugen Teodorovici. Diplomatic sources indicated that Dragnea was unhappy that Negrescu was too close to some EU leaders and has not supported the PSD’s cause in Brussels.

Romania's first council presidency comes at a critical time as it will oversee the UK's expected departure from the union. The latest scandal has fuelled speculation that despite Bucharest's high hopes of the upcoming EU Council presidency, the spotlight it places on the country could backfire. There were similar problems in neighbouring Bulgaria which held its first EU Council presidency in the first half of this year. Mass protests over plans to develop the Pirin national park, and a racist jibe made by one of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's far-right junior coalition partners to a German MEP turned the opening weeks of the presidency into a PR disaster. 

Speaking on November 12, Iohannis also called for the replacement of the government which he called “an accident of democracy.”

“There is no perspective of good government, there is no perspective of good involvement in the European affairs,” the president said. 

Viorica Dancila is Romania’s prime minister, but the government is basically run by Dragnea. Dragnea himself was not able to take over the prime minister post because he had received a suspended jail sentence, instead appointing a series of proxies. Dancila is the PSD’s third prime minister since it returned to power at the end of 2016. The previous two premiers were forced to leave their posts after their relations with the party leader became tense.

In April, the president said he was withdrawing his support from Dancila and asked her to resign amid growing dispute over her government’s plans to move the Romanian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The president’s statement latest fuelled the conflict between Iohannis and Dragnea, who called the president’s words “alarming lies”. 

“He has been lying to us for two years that there are no money for pensions, that we cannot hit the 3% deficit target. They are nothing but alarming lies as we have achieved all we have assumed in the governing programme. This is going to happen from now on too. The government is prepared to manage successfully the presidency of the EU Council,” Dragnea said, according to