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Juncker’s New Year Message to Bucharest: Get Real

Commission boss’s less than welcoming remarks signal a torrid time ahead as Romania takes over EU reins.

2 January 2019

Romania is launching its term in the European Union presidency on the same strident note it sang amid grumbling out of Brussels last month.  

 

“Romania is under special [EU] monitoring. Romania is treated like a second-rate nation by some EU officials,” former Defense Minister Mihai Fifor of the ruling Social Democratic Party wrote Sunday.

 

We “will no longer take being scolded or sanctioned for things that happen everywhere in Europe,” Fifor added, The Associated Press reports.

 

Fifor’s remarks echo those of other high officials last month, as some EU officials voiced concern over the government’s pushing on with judicial reforms and laws some see as designed to let top Social Democrats escape corruption charges.

 

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker added fuel to the fire last week, telling Germany’s Die Welt that even if Romania was "technically well prepared" for the presidency, the "Bucharest government has not fully understood what it means to preside over the countries of the EU,” AFP writes.

 

Bucharest is taking over the largely administrative presidency as the bloc faces the challenge of handling the UK’s exit, and with elections to the European Parliament coming in May.

 

The EU presidency "requires a willingness to listen to others and a willingness to put one's own concerns in the background. I have some doubts about this," Juncker also said.

 

Banner announcing the Romanian EU Council presidency. Image via ro2019eu/Instagram.

 

AFP writes that the Commission’s beefs with Romania’s leftwing government are similar to its disputes with the nationalists in power in Poland and Hungary, both of which have been given numerous warnings they risk sanctions for rule of law violations.

 

Concerns over what Brussels deemed incomplete measures against political corruption and organized crime have kept Romania, and Bulgaria, under special EU monitoring since they joined the union in 2007. 

 

The Commission argues that a government proposal to clamp down on abuses by judges and magistrates would undermine the fight against corruption.

 

EU officials "have the feeling, perhaps justifiably, that these reforms are for the benefit” of Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea, political scientist Andrei Taranu told AFP.

 

 

 

  • Politico’s mini-guide to Bucharest for the Eurocrats who will soon descend on the city seems stuck in the attitudes of the 1990s, while also containing an accurate warning about the city’s horrendous traffic.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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