Von der Leyen Commission hangs on Romania politicising

Designated prime minister Ludovic Orban, the president of National Liberal Party (PNL), speaks during the meeting of the National Political Bureau of the PNL, held at the Parliament Palace, in Bucharest, Romania 24 October 2019. [Robert Ghement/EPA/EFE]

Romanian lawmakers will hold a vote of confidence on Monday (4 November) for the centrist minority cabinet of Prime Minister-designate Ludovic Orban, the outcome of which risks extending a policymaking vacuum in the European Union.

The new European Commission team had been due to take over on 1 November, but a political tug-of-war in Bucharest that prevented it from nominating a viable commissioner risks pushing that missed deadline beyond the start of December.

The Commission comprises one representative from each member state and it holds powers including negotiating trade deals, policing members states’ finances and proposing bloc-wide laws on a range of topics including the environment and migration.

Should Orban lose the vote, the country’s president would have to nominate a new premier, likely further delaying Romania’s pick for the Commission – jeopardising the timely approval of the entire new team.

Romania’s President appoints Ludovic Orban as PM-designate

Romania’s centrist President Klaus Iohannis said on Tuesday (15 October) he had appointed opposition Liberal Party leader Ludovic Orban as prime minister-designate to form a transitional government until a parliamentary election next year.

Orban’s opposition Liberal Party spearheaded the no- confidence vote which led to the collapse of the Social Democrat government on 10 October.

While Orban said late on Sunday he was confident his government would be approved, the vote yet might be postponed because the ousted Social Democrats and smaller Pro Romania grouping have said they will boycott the meeting.

Without them, not enough lawmakers would be present and the vote would have to be postponed until after a two-round presidential election on 10 November and 24 November.

“We do not understand the PSD boycott,” Orban told reporters late on Sunday. “Despite it, I am confident that tomorrow we will give Romania a legitimate government.”

The two-house parliament is due to start the debates at 1200 GMT, followed by the voting session.

Romania relies on fifth time lucky with Commissioner pick

Bucharest’s fourth attempt to name a European Commissioner has  failed, after President-elect Ursula von der Leyen decided that Romania’s interim government did not have the right to nominate someone.

Aides to Orban told Reuters on Tuesday he would name his country’s candidate for the Commission after the vote, if successful.

If Orban’s cabinet is not approved, some analysts expect President Klaus Iohannis and the outgoing Prime Minister Viorica Dancila to compromise on a Commission proposal.

“I would expect the two main political forces in Bucharest to try to reach a compromise on this issue in order not to damage the country’s image,” said Paul Ivan, a policy analyst in Brussels at the European Policy Centre (EPC).

“Blocking the rest of the EU is not a desirable position for Romania and Bucharest knows this.”

If approved, Orban’s cabinet would be in place until a parliamentary election next year but is likely to struggle to gain support from opposition lawmakers for its measures.

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