For Romania’s president, the ‘Road to Sibiu’ could also lead to Brussels

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is welcomed by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk (L), at the EU Council in Brussels, Belgium, 31 January 2018. [Aris Oikonomou/EPA/EFE]

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is being considered as a possible replacement for European Council President Donald Tusk when his term expires in December 2019, according to local media reports.

However, Iohannis’s own ambitions are less clear at this stage, according to Hotnews.ro, a news website, which quotes several unnamed sources in Brussels.

The Romanian President is expected to run for re-election in November 2019, although he has not signaled his intentions yet.

“If Michel Barnier, the Commission’s chief negotiator for Brexit, becomes Commission chief in 2019, Iohannis has the best chance at the European Council,” said a Brussels source quoted by Hotnews.ro. The president’s office declined to comment.

The outcome of the 2019 European Parliament elections will of course weigh heavily in the final decision. But the news site adds that “there won’t be big surprises there”, as the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is expected to win the most seats against the Socialists.

President Iohannis is not politically affiliated but has his political roots in the centre-right, making him a potential candidate.

Iohannis was first elected as mayor of the city of Sibiu in 2000, representing the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania. Although the German population of the once predominantly German-speaking city of Sibiu had declined to a tiny minority, Iohannis won a surprise victory and was re-elected by landslides in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Iohannis then became the leader of the EPP-affiliated National Liberal Party in 2014, after having served as leader of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania from 2001 to 2013.

Today, Sibiu is frequently mentioned as part of efforts to reform the European Union and the eurozone. The “Roadmap for a more united, stronger and more democratic Union” is also referred to as “The road to Sibiu”.

An EU summit there will be held in the Romanian city on 9 May. This will be the last for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker before the European elections.

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Juncker calls Sibiu by its German name, Hermannstadt, and likes to joke that the language spoken there is not German, but Luxembourgish.

A Romanian professional with long Brussels experience told EURACTIV that Iohannis could be a good solution to replace Tusk, being Romanian, but also “Germanic”, and representing the East of the EU which is usually under-represented in EU institutions.

Last but not least, Iohannis speaks German, English and French.

“For Iohannis, the ‘Road to Sibiu’ could be the beginning of his road to Brussels”, the Romanian professional  said.

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