Romania’s dubious EU presidency

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While Romania has already been at the helm of the European Union for a week, the effects of this momentous event have yet to register. The debate whether Romania is equipped to handle the task goes on, as do domestic political rifts but there is hardly any information regarding what the country would like to achieve in these six months, whether it has any priorities or is just playing for survival.

Jean-Claude Juncker has made it clear that Brussels doesn’t have high hopes: he said that while Bucharest will technically be able to perform the task, it does not comprehend the essence of the task. From a Romanian perspective the situation is also confusing: while in theory President Klaus Iohannis should be leading the proceedings, the task has fallen to Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă. She has almost no credibility or respect, not to mention the members of her cabinet, some of whom are barely semi-literate and have nothing to do with the sectors they are in charge of. As a consequence, they will hardly be able to steer specialty policy debates and, lacking any credibility, would be unable to reach any consensus.

We don’t know yet what Romania wishes to achieve during its presidency. It is customary that every nation sneaks in one or two points in its agenda that are of national interest. Hungary – during its 2011 tenure – had the Danube strategy and the EU Roma strategy. Bulgaria focused on the EU accession of the West Balkans countries and managed to start negotiations with Macedonia and Albania. The outgoing Austrian presidency was intent on border protection and halting migration. The Romanian program includes a few barely defined sentences about the Eastern Partnership and the Black Sea, but nothing really tangible.

Even Romania’s dream of hosting as many major meetings as Austria did seems increasingly unlikely: some summits have been cancelled and the only one still on the table is only mentioned in the context of which Romanian dignitary should host it. It seems as though Romania faces the same conundrum in its presidency as with its EU membership in general – it insists on deserving it but has no idea what for. It is most unlikely that it will profit from it and we can only hope that it will keep the damages to a minimum.



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