Romania’s socialists face collapse as EPP waits in the corner

MEP Muresan: "She subordinated everything toward a strategy to become president of the party and candidate for the presidential elections." [European Parliament]

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Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă may be hoping that she has convinced enough people not to vote against her in a no-confidence motion against her socialist government, which is set to take place today (10 October).

But it seems that this time, the vote will be a close one. This is because the opposition has a higher chance to overthrow the government compared to the times’ such motions were previously launched. Brussels has adopted a “wait and see” approach, probably since the Romanian Commissioner who will take over transport has not been confirmed yet.

The socialists lost their majority after liberal ALDE, a junior partner in the government, left the coalition. Dăncilă, a former MEP, is currently the party’s candidate for the presidential elections in November.

Dăncilă was seen as a puppet of Liviu Dragnea, the former leader of the PSD who is now in jail for corruption.

Over the past weeks though, PSD has gathered the support of individual MPs, such as disgruntled ALDE members or even former PSD members that left to join other parties. Moreover, Dăncilă has tried to keep her party ‘tight-knit’ with both promises of government funding for local authorities and threats of possible corruption charges if PSD loses the power.

If she loses the vote, Viorica Dăncilă could consider her political career to be over, as she would not stand a chance in the presidential elections next month. But if she secures the parliament’s confidence again, she could stay on as prime minister until the legislative elections in the fall of 2020, as it is hard to believe she could beat president Klaus Iohannis, who is running for a second term. Iohannis, a close ally of Angela Merkel, has the clear backing of Brussels.

But if she stays on, Dăncilă will have another headache, which comes from a place she knows very well: Brussels. Romania has no candidate for the next Commission and it could even lose the transport portfolio it obtained from Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen.

Dăncilă proposed two former colleagues for the Commissioner post – Rovana Plumb and Dan Nica. Von der Leyen selected Plumb, but the JURI committee rejected her due to a conflict of interest.

The PSD explored many names for her replacement, but ultimately insisted on Nica. However, Nica cannot be considered an expert in the transport field and appointing him would also break the Commission’s gender balance von der Leyen strove for.

Romanian media reported that the Commission President-elect rejected Nica, but Dăncilă said that the information was not true on Wednesday (9 October). However, even PSD insiders confirmed that Ursula von der Leyen told Dăncilă that Nica is not an acceptable proposal. But the PM insisted with his nomination.

Romanian MEPs from the European People’s Party (EPP) group, which includes most of the parties that signed the motion of no-confidence, are claiming that von der Leyen is waiting for the results before making a decision.

But things will get even more complex if the government collapses because forming a new government could prove even more difficult than finding the votes for Dăncilă’s dismissal.

Dăncilă said she would stay on as a caretaker PM until a new government is formed, but President Iohannis is the one who selects the interim PM, and it is almost certain he would select another PM.

In any case, Iohannis could have a say in picking the next candidate, but he has not announced any name so far. After Plumb’s rejection, Iohannis invited Dăncilă for consultations over the selection of Romania’s next commissioner, but the PM declined and went on with Nica.

EPP stands ready to govern, pick Commissioner. Contacted by EURACTIV.com, Siegfried Muresan, an influential MEP of the National Liberal Party (EPP), lashed out against PM Dăncilă, accusing her of playing party political games at the expense of the country.

“She subordinated everything toward a strategy to become party president and candidate for the presidential elections,” he said. Muresan said that current President Iohannis was “by far the most credible politician in Romania at EU level” and is clearly leading all polls. According to him, it is highly likely that Dăncilă won’t make it to the second round, especially if her government collapses. “The socialists are at their weakest point,” he said, adding all attempts at mass pardoning and weakening the country’s criminal code, failed.

He said the current PM should have secured a Commission vice-presidency, as all other new EU member states have gotten so far. Instead, he said, she dealt with securing her party’s leadership at the expense of the Romanian people.

Referring to the no-confidence motion, he said the result would be narrow but it has high chances to succeed. “Our National Liberal Party managed to unite all forces against the socialists. We needed 233 votes to file a no-confidence vote and we got 237,” he said, adding that the formulation of an EPP-led government is very likely in the event that socialists fall apart.

“She knows that she cannot win the presidential elections. Even if she gets into the second round, the current president of the country, who was also a former president of our party, will smash her,” Muresan said.

“Under no circumstances, will Iohannis appoint a socialist interim PM. We are now leading the polls, we are the biggest opposition party and we are the winners of the EU elections. We are also campaigning for the president of the country and we are by far the closest party that aligns with his pro-EU agenda,” Muresan said.

“If we have the majority to oust the government, we believe that we can also find the majority to install a PM, it will be difficult, but it won’t take much of time,” he added.

The time will be a crucial factor for picking a Commissioner. Muresan said it also depends on how the other hearings will go. “If the French candidate fails Friday morning, then there will be a completely new political situation in Romania. We will not have much time after Friday, but the President will move quickly,” Muresan said.

“But no socialist will have the legitimacy to work in the Commission for the next five years. It’s also not in the interest of the Commission to have a member who will not be able to get anything done with the president and the PM of the country,” Muresan concluded.

[Bogdan Neagu | EURACTIV.ro, Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)

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MADRID

Plan to mitigate US tariffs impact. Spain’s acting socialist PM Pedro Sánchez has unveiled a plan to reduce the impact of US tariffs on Spanish agri-food products, in particular for cheese, wine and olive oil, EURACTIV’s partner EuroEFE reported on Wednesday.

Sánchez asked Brussels to deliver a firm response regarding the latest US trade measures on Wednesday (9 October). He also assured an action plan will be put in place very soon for the agri-food and livestock sectors in all affected autonomous communities in Spain. “Each plan with its own instruments”, he said.

Read also: Athens pushes for its ‘white gold’ to be exempted from US tariffs

The plan would include a considerable reduction of red tape to access EU and national subsidies for individuals and businesses affected.

Meanwhile, Spain’s acting Agriculture Minister, Luis Planas, met with Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan on Wednesday in Brussels. He asked them for support from the EU. Although it is not good for anyone to enter into a trade war with the US, interests “must be defended firmly” and that requires “consensus,” he said.(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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PARIS | ATHENS

EU front against Ankara. France’s European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said on Wednesday that France, the UK and Germany called on the United Nations Security Council to meet and discuss the Turkish offensive in northern Syria. The statement was made right after the beginning of the Turkish offensive.

She said the three countries were also finalising a joint statement to “strongly condemn” the Turkish offensive but said that a separate EU statement had yet to be agreed on because some countries had not signed up to it.

Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with Skai TV in Athens, the co-president of Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) said Erdoğan’s objective is the genocide of the Kurdish people and called on the international community to take immediate action. “It is not enough for democratic states to tell Erdoğan not to do so or that he is dangerous. No. It is time for the Kurdish people to be rewarded for what they have offered to humanity,” he said, referring to Kurds’ fight against ISIS.

Regarding the US, he said that Washington has always told Kurds “we will be there for you to protect you”. He added that Kurds are in contact with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to coordinate the next steps.

(EURACTIV.FR, Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)

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ROME

Sailing skies over Italy. Italy’s government is still looking for investors to rescue the struggling national airline Alitalia. German flag carrier Lufthansa decided to jump in the race, an Italian source told Reuters. Other potential candidates to take over Alitalia are the railway group Ferrovie dello Stato, the US airline Delta and the infrastructure group Atlantia. (Gerardo Fortuna| EURACTIV.com)

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WARSAW

The coal battleground. “Poland must move away from coal. It will be painful, but the rest of Europe must say – we are with you, we will find unlock the funds to help you in this process. And I say this as a grandson of miners,” said Frans Timmermans during the hearing in the European Parliament. Timmermans will be in charge of a Green New Deal in the new EU executive and his words indicate that in the coming years, his battleground with the Polish government will switch from the rule of law to energy and environmental policy. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)

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BRATISLAVA

Slovakia will not join the voluntary system of distribution of migrants saved at sea, said the interior minister Denisa Saková after a JHA Council meeting on Wednesday. According to Saková, the initiative of France, Italy, Malta and Germany entails potential risk factors and can encourage increased migration. “We can help countries that are hit by migration, in detention camps and asylum centres, but we are not in favour of increased pressure because of migration, neither on the Mediterranean route nor through the Balkans,” the minister added.  (Zuzana Gabrižová |EURACTIV.sk)

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PRAGUE

Chinese warning. The decision of the Prague City Council to terminate a partnership treaty between Prague and Beijing was identified by the Chinese embassy as a breach of faith and damage to Chinese-Czech relations. The Chinese ambassador called on the Prague municipality to change its approach; otherwise, he feels the Czechs will harm their own interests. (Ondřej Plevák|EURACTIV.cz) Read more on Reuters

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SOFIA

Bulgaria’s support for North Macedonia is conditional. Bulgaria’s government will support the recommendation of the European Commission to start pre-accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia. However, according to a document to be discussed in parliament, there are a number of conditions. The document says Bulgaria should not allow the integration of the Republic of North Macedonia into the EU to be accompanied by European legitimation of a state-sponsored ideology on an anti-Bulgarian basis.

Starting the negotiations should not be interpreted as a guarantee of membership, but as a positive driving force for the acceleration of the reforms, strengthening of the rule of law and maintaining good neighbourly relations. The Republic of North Macedonia should “suspend and refrain from” a policy supporting and promoting claims for recognition of the so-called “Macedonian minority” in Bulgaria. (Dnevnik)

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ZAGREB       

Teachers threaten coalition. “The HNS (RE) will not stay in the government unless the job complexity index and teachers’ wages are raised because this is the party’s priority”, said Ivan Vrdoljak, the party president. The teacher’s union has announced massive strikes because the government had entirely rejected union demands for the job complexity index in the education sector to be amended. Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović said the unions rejected the government’s offer of a 2% wage increase as of 1 October and 1 June 1 in 2020.

HNS is a coalition partner of HDZ (EPP) and appointed Minister of Education Blaženka Divjak. But, the minister has been a thorn for HDZ for a long time because she opposed free textbooks for religious education. And now HDZ has enough MPs in the parliament to govern without HNS. EURACTIV.hr reports that the right-wing faction of HDZ would more than welcome a government without HNS. (Željko Trkanjec |EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]

 

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