Romania’s shift at the helm of the Council

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila.

This article is part of our special report Romania’s EU presidency: A glance back.

Romania’s EU presidency was a successful mandate, showcasing the country’s commitment to the EU project, writes Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă.

Six months of uninterrupted work, in addition to more than two years of preparations beforehand, have come to the end on 30 June 2019. This has been a remarkable period, marking Romania’s first mandate at the helm of the EU Council.

It was a unique experience, putting together our country’s sense of commitment, determination, long-term vision as well as capacity to work hard and deliver.

From the outset, a Romanian successful mandate was more than a political project, it was above all the highest expectation of the Romanian citizens. For Romanians, an efficient Presidency of the EU Council was evidence of their commitment to Europe.

Our aim from the very beginning was that of a Presidency which delivers for the EU citizens and gives especially the young people a sense of security concerning their future development and opportunities.

The program of our Presidency was structured into four pillars: Europe of Convergence, Safer Europe, Europe as a stronger global actor, Europe of common values. These strategic pillars have been approached in a cross-cutting and coherence-based approach, creating synergies an maintaining the red thread of cohesion throughout our priorities.

Romania’s mandate as Presidency of the EU Council came in a unique moment in time, marked by the European elections, though negotiations on the next Multiannual Financial Framework or intricate evolutions on Brexit.

Against this background, the Union needed a new vision post 2020 and a refreshed commitment to a joint future. We perfectly understood these implications and the Romanian government stood ready from the very beginning to act as an enabler in this crucial moment for the European Union.

In this capacity, Romania represented the interests of all member states in the negotiations with the European Parliament. With hard work and intense efforts, we succeeded to deliver beyond expectations, reaching the remarkable result of 90 legislative files concluded in 100 days.

These pieces of legislation bring tangible benefits to the European citizens such as guaranteeing equal opportunities, social protection and inclusion, boosting EU competitiveness and strengthening the Single Market, encouraging digitalisation, innovation, decarbonisation and promoting sustainability, connectivity and research, ensuring the efficient functioning of the financial sector, making Europe a safer place for its citizens or preparing the Union for any Brexit scenario.

Also, in our vision, a strengthened role of the EU as global actor could not be separated from an ambitious enlargement policy, therefore we worked intensively and succeeded to channel the discussions in a positive direction.

Furthermore, Romania envisaged cohesion as a common European value, an expression of unity among countries and regions across Europe. The approach we followed was based on the fact that the promotion of economic and social convergence is essential to the Union’s harmonious, balanced and sustainable development, which can only be achieved through narrowing the development gaps among various regions and creating genuinely equal opportunities for all citizens.

The Romanian Presidency has also strongly stood against a multi-speed Europe, as this would hamper EU’s sustainable and coherent growth, putting the future of the EU project in danger.

We also strongly believe that this cannot be separated from the perspective of Romania’s accession to the Schengen area, given the common objective to guarantee the security of all European citizens and their free movement.

A cohesive and strong Europe is one that guarantees equal opportunities for the development of all its citizens, ensures their safety, social protection and inclusion, and guarantees fair and non-discriminatory access to all the benefits of the Single Market.

In this sense, the Romanian Presidency has highly prioritized and succeeded in fighting for the protection of citizens’ social rights and employment, as well as guaranteed that nobody is left behind with regards to the advancement of digitalisation and requirements for new skills.

Through key achievements on new EU laws such as Work-Life Balance, Transparent & Predictable Working Conditions, the European Labour Authority, and reducing exposure to carcinogens at work, we ensure that all citizens benefit from fairness & social justice: the right to quality jobs, healthcare, lifelong learning and gender equality.

We have involved young people in EU decision making because a secure future is being built through accountability. The Youth Council under the Romanian Presidency drew essential conclusions on young people and the future of work, as well as adopted a resolution on the governance of the EU Youth dialogue.

The Presidency ensured that the EU ministers’ policy debate on the topic of ‘Young people as agents of democracy in the EU’ was introduced by two teenagers in their capacity as youth representatives.

The Romanian Presidency has also made it a key-criteria the involvement of all stakeholders, such as social partners, private and public organisations, in consultation and debate because a strong and fair Europe is one where everyone’s views are considered and their rights’ respected.

During our Presidency, we showed a fearless determination to fight anti-Semitism in Europe. I hope that our projects aimed to promote education, research and memory of Holocaust will be continued and materialized.

The fight against disinformation and the spread of fake news, especially in the context of the European elections in May, were at the core of our action. I strongly supported and I was personally involved in several awareness raising public events organized both in Brussels and Bucharest.

The six months spent in the role of impartial mediator have proved that Romania is a genuine consensus-builder, whose strength lies in the ability to listen, in the respect towards others, and in the quality of being a reliable partner on the long run.

It has also shown that Romania can be particularly effective and propose feasible solutions, even in the most difficult of situations. All along this mandate, we had good friends and partners on our side.

The valuable support provided by the General Secretariat of the Council, and the excellent cooperation with the European Commission, the European Parliament and all the other EU institutions and bodies contributed decisively to a successful mandate.

Last but not least, I can say that the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council was a true diplomatic marathon, an endurance exercise that tested our expertise, negotiation skills, stress resistance and, above all, team spirit. At the end of this journey, I am proud to say that the Romanian administration has successfully passed this test.

I am confident that we leave behind a strong legacy for the next chapter of the EU construction. Building on this new experience, we will continue to work hard for the consolidation of the Union and the strengthening of its policies, as well as to promote solidarity and unity among EU member states.

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