The upcoming Romanian EU presidency is an important one. On Romania’s watch, the UK is supposed to leave the Union on 29 March and European elections will be held in the remaining 27 countries on 23-26 May. To top things off, an iconic EU summit will be held in the Romanian city of Sibiu on 9 May.
This summit may reveal if the EU has the will to survive and the ambition to reform. What is clear is that the Commission wants a hurdle-free presidency to maximise the chances for Jean-Claude Juncker, who is not seeking re-election, to leave a highly-regarded political legacy.
But the Romanian Presidency is risky. It cannot be excluded that the government in Bucharest may fall as early as next week. And even if it survives, it may not be for long.
Actually, the EU might be better off if the Romanian government were to collapse before 1 January. This would give a chance to Finland, the next presidency on the list, to jump right in and take over from Romania. After 1 January, that will no longer be possible.
We have already seen governments collapsing under presidencies, and some of you will certainly recall the case of the Belgian Presidency, which unfolded (successfully) in 2010 in the absence of a government (under caretaker Prime Minister Yves Leterme).
But Romania is not Belgium. A better example could be the Czech Presidency in 2009, during which Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek made a series of blunders and eventually resigned.
The many gaffes of the Czech Presidency could be symbolised by the controversial eight-tonne sculpture ‘Entropa’, conceived as a depiction of EU countries on the basis of widespread stereotypes.
In this sculpture, France was symbolised by a poster declaring “On strike!”, Poland by Catholic popes planting a flag symbolising homosexuality in a parody of the iconic Iwo Jima sculpture. Italy was a football playground where players are seemingly masturbating, and Germany a swastika-shaped highway jam.
Bulgaria was particularly offended as it was represented as a “Turkish toilet”, a simple hygienic facility comprising two footsteps and a hole. As the country had been under the Ottoman rule for some 500 years, the allegory proved all the more offensive and triggered mass resentment. So much for Entropa, it was dismantled on Bulgarian request.
If the EU is an airplane, the country holding the rotating presidency is not exactly the pilot, but rather the co-pilot. But the way the co-pilot behaves can also put the airplane and its passengers at risk.
Our take this time is that after all EU members have had a go at the presidency (last to go is Croatia in 2020), it would be wise to change the treaties and get rid of this bureaucratic extravaganza.
by Alexandra Brzozowski
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Views are the author’s