Romania slams EU ahead of taking rotating presidency

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila (L) and Liviu Dragnea (R), President of the Romanian Parliament's Deputy Chamber and the leader of the main ruling party PSD (Social Democracy Party) stand still during the national anthem that opened the meeting of the PSD National Council at the Parliament Palace in Bucharest, Romania,16 December 2018. [Robert Ghement/EPA/EFE]

Leaders of Romania’s left-wing ruling majority on Sunday (16 December) accused the European Union of “discriminatory” treatment, two weeks before the eastern European country takes over the bloc’s rotating presidency.

“Romania will no longer accept being treated as a second-rate country”, Liviu Dragnea, leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party, told hundreds of party members in Bucharest.

“We love and respect them (EU leaders), but we want to be entitled to our own opinions”, he continued.

Romania, one of the EU’s poorest members, takes over the six-month presidency — which coordinates the European Union’s agenda and meetings — from Austria in January.

But doubts have been raised about whether it should do so given tensions between President Klaus Iohannis and the Social Democrat government led by Viorica Dăncilă, a former MEP who Dragnea cherry-picked for the role.

Romania’s backbencher MEP Viorica Dăncilă to be Prime Minister

Romania’s ruling Social Democrats on Tuesday (16 January) put forward European Parliament lawmaker Viorica Dăncilă to become prime minister, after power struggles within the party forced out the second premier in seven months.

Last month the European Commission adopted a highly critical report on the judicial reforms brought forward by Romania’s left-leaning government.

Commission lauds Bulgaria, castigates Romania on judicial reform

The European Commission published on Tuesday (13 November) reports on Bulgaria and Romania under the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), commending Bulgaria for progress made and lambasting Romania for backtracking. Both countries, however, were warned to uphold media freedom.

According to Brussels, the measures risk undermining the independence of judges and prosecutors.

Local media reports that the left-wing government is bound to adopt a controversial emergency ordinance in January of next year which will grant pardon and amnesty for a number of corruption cases.

A similar attempt, made in January 2017, sparked the biggest street protests that Romania has ever seen after the collapse of the communist regime in 1989.

“I can no longer accept all the lies coming from the West saying that we make laws for our own benefit”, said Dragnea.

Liviu Dragnea led the PSD to a sweeping victory in 2016 elections but could not become prime minister owing to legal troubles that include a two-year suspended prison sentence for vote-rigging in a 2016 referendum.

Romanian ruling party leader sentenced, thousands rally against his government

The head of Romania’s ruling Social Democrat party, Liviu Dragnea, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison by the Supreme Court yesterday (21 June) for inciting others to abuse of office, prompting thousands to rally against his government.

In June, Dragnea was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in connection with a fake jobs scandal, a conviction he has appealed.

He is also suspected of having used false documents to obtain EU funds.

Dăncilă echoed Dragnea’s criticism towards Brussels.

“I will ask that my country will be treated with dignity and respect so that we won’t accept sanctions, as has happened in the past, (…) just because we are are a country from eastern Europe”, said Dăncilă.

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