Romania relies on fifth time lucky with Commissioner pick

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis insisted that the interim government did not have the legitimacy to name a Commissioner candidate. [Photo: EPA-EFE/ROBERT GHEMENT]

Bucharest’s fourth attempt to name a European Commissioner has failed, after the incoming  European Commission decided that Romania’s interim government did not have the right to nominate someone.

The Commission said on Wednesday (30 October) the caretaker government of Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, who was toppled in a no-confidence vote earlier this month,  cannot nominate former MEP Victor Negrescu (S&D group) without the approval of President Klaus Iohannis. 

Dăncilă proposed Negrescu in a letter sent to Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday, after the  Commission President-elect urged Romania to make its nomination as soon as possible in her own letter sent on Monday.

But Iohannis, who hails from the centre-right EPP group, railed against the decision, insisting that the acting PM had “no legitimacy” to make the decision. The president also said in September that Dăncilă had not consulted him on Rovana Plumb, Romania’s initial candidate.

The two political rivals will contest the upcoming presidential election next month.

“This new proposal from the interim government has not been coordinated with the president. Given the obvious challenges and likely events coming forward, we need to make progress,” a Commission spokesperson told reporters.

“Whoever is named by Romania must be acceptable to the president and must get through the European Parliament too. There are doubts in Romania as to whether the name put forward was done in a legitimate way,” the spokesperson added.

Questions are now being asked why the incoming Commission made its request for a nomination to the interim government, given the reaction today.

Negrescu is not the first candidate to fall by the wayside before even facing their Parliament hearing. Plumb, von der Leyen’s pick as transport chief, was struck down by the EU assembly’s legal affairs committee over a conflict of interest.

Legal Affairs committee confirms Trócsányi and Plumb rejection, hearings suspended

The European Parliament will not be hearing Commissioner-designates for Hungary, Laszlo Trocsanyi, and Romania, Rovana Plumb, after the Legal Affairs committee concluded on Monday (30 September) they are not apt for the job due to a conflict of interest. 

Other failed nominations include former MEP Dan Nica and state secretary for European affairs Gabriela Ciot, neither of whom were accepted by von der Leyen. Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea has also claimed that she was asked to take up the post but refused.

The lack of Romanian name is currently the main obstacle to the new Commission’s quest to take office on the new deadline of 1 December. A vote on the full college is pencilled in for 27 November but the timeframe is in doubt and even Commission officials are increasingly considering a new deadline on 1 January.

France’s replacement for the felled Sylvie Goulard, Thierry Breton, was confirmed by von der Leyen at the start of this week, as was Hungary’s pick, Olivér Várhelyi. However, the Commission refused to say whether Budapest will controversially keep the enlargement portfolio.

Negrescu was actually the fifth nomination for Commissioner this year already, after Romania sought to install Mircea Pașcu in place of the departed Corina Crețu, who had vacated her position in the Juncker Commission to take up a seat in the new Parliament.

Bucharest ultimately withdrew Pașcu’s candidacy after pressure told on the government to see out the last month of this EU executive without representation.

Romania withdraws substitute Commissioner pick after pressure tells

Romania has dropped its insistence on having a replacement Commissioner join Jean-Claude Juncker’s outgoing administration for the final two months of its mandate. 

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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