Meeting in Brussels, the political assembly of the EPP (see background) confirmed yesterday (3 September) that its 21st Congress will be held in Bucharest. The EPP holds its congresses once every three years.
Last week, the centre-left PES decided to move its congress from Bucharest to Brussels. The leader of the Romanian Social Democrat party PSD asked for the congress to be moved. In an 'Open letter' dated 31 August, he wrote:
“Unfortunately, on the European scale, because of the unconditional support from the EPP [in favour of President Traian Băsescu] and our inability to explain to the media the constitutional and political circumstances, the information issued by Train Băsescu’s team were successful and affected the country’s international image, as well as the image of the government which I lead. …
“For this reason, I decided to propose that the PES congress be held in Brussels, and not in Bucharest. I consider that the image of PES, its relations with European media and its major political goals are more important than the interest of one member party such as PSD.”
Before that, the French Socialist Party, meeting on 25-26 August for a “Summer University” in La Rochelle, opposed holding the congress in the Romanian capital over concerns about the conduct of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who is the leader of the PSD.
A competitive bid
Holding the EPP congress in Bucharest is not necessarily a provocative act against PES. Bucharest was selected as site of the congress one year ago. As EPP spokesperson Kostas Sasmatzoglou told EurActiv, venues for congresses are decided under calls for proposals, and Bucharest was the most attractive.
EPP made an unusual gesture, congratulating PES for the decision to abandon its plans to hold its congress in Bucharest.
“I welcome the decision of the leadership of the Party of European Socialists to cancel their Congress in Bucharest and to move the venue to Brussels. The PES decision clearly shows that Socialist heads of government and party leaders placed European values above partisan considerations," the EPP President Wilfried Martens said.
One of the most important decisions of the Bucharest congress is to elect new leaders. An open call for proposals for members for the EPP presidency is open as from today (4 September), Sasmatzoglou said. Martens, a former Belgian prime minister who co-founded the EPP, has been its president since 1992. There is no requirement that he should step down.
In Bucharest, the EPP congress will be hosted by Romanian President Traian Băsescu, who has last week returned to office following an attempt of the ruling coalition led by Ponta to oust him from power. It would not be surprising if Băsescu would be elected to the EPP presidency, sources told EurActiv. He could replace another East European – Rumiana Jeleva, the unsuccessful candidate for a European Commission post from Bulgaria. But a source in Romania said this was not possible, as the President had to remain neutral under the country's constitution.
The venue for international congresses is the Romanian Parliament, a former palace built under Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu.