As the eastern European country grapples with ongoing political infighting and lawmakers’ abuses of power EU critics point to Romania’s appointment as current boss of the European Union to be indicative of the deep-seated problems facing the European Union as it struggles to run itself. As if predicting an embarrassment for Brussels down the line Jean-Claude Juncker rebuked Romanian politicians on Friday for their squabbling, a month after he cast doubt on the county’s ability to preside over the soon-to-be 27 member bloc. He said: “I encourage the Romanian authorities to put an end to the internal disagreements and disputes that there may be within Romania.”
The European Commission President went on to say “it’s very important” for the Romanians to put domestic affairs aside and focus on a path forward for the EU, as he spoke at a news conference alongside Prime Minister Viorica Dancila.
He added: “I heard the prime minister tell me that she has a clear wish not to cast any shadows on the Romanian presidency by exporting internal difficulties to Europe.”
Romanian Senate president Calin Popescu-Taricean attacked politicians for behaviour he said risks taking the country back to the dark days of communism which ended in 1989 when dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was toppled in a bloody revolt.
The former prime minister warned that many in Romania had barely moved on from the totalitarian era imitating habits used by those in power during the years of Stalinism which isolated the country and dragged its people into cycles of poverty.
He said: “As a reminiscence of the communist past, some institutions and decision-makers are still holding on to the unchecked power they have previously indulged in.
“These actors have simply replaced the ideology of socialist legality with that of the rule of law, keeping their habits and claiming the same unaccountability they collectively enjoyed before 1989.”
He added: “I hope that during the presidency of the Council of the European Union, the authorities of my country will be able to shed more light on this paradox.”
Despite making progress from its dark past since joining the bloc in 2007, critics remain unconvinced of Romania’s commitment to leave its totalitarian past behind.
Taking charge of the bloc for the six-month rotating presidency is no easy feat, particularly at a time of great uncertainty caused by Brexit which leaders are not certain will happen on the March 29 deadline.
Brussels and Bucharest have had strained relations for some time, and EU officials have grown weary of Romania’s most powerful man – Liviu Dragnea – the leader of the Social Democrats.
The strongman was barred from becoming prime minister when his party won power in 2016 because of a fraud conviction for vote-rigging and Brussels warned that granting him amnesty would lead to a crisis between the EU and Romania.
EU leaders will gather at a summit in the Transylanian city of Sibui on May 9 to discuss how the bloc should pave the road forward post-Brexit and come up with ideas which are expected to form the basis of new Council conclusions.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, of the centre-right National Liberal Party, said on Friday the summit will be “the landmark of our presidency”, and will focus on “preparing the future strategic priorities” of the Union for the next five years.
As the country’s rocky political landscape continues to blight it’s moment in the spotlight, it remains to be seen if Romania can defy its critics and lay a solid foundation on the road to the future.
This week Mr Dragnea filed a lawsuit against Brussels after Romania’s anti-corruption directorate (DNA) accused him of a €21 million scam, based on accusations against him on investigations by the European Commissions’s anti-fraud office, OLAF.
DNA said the funds fraud was linked to Tel Drum, a road construction company, which it alleges Mr Dragnea used as a means to enrich himself, his family and local businessmen.
The case was filed at the European Court of Justice.