In an interview with the German outlet Welt am Sonntag European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has doubted Bucharest’s ability to take over the union presidency, saying the country’s “government has not fully understood what it means to chair the EU countries”. The top EU official pointed out that Romania is technically well-prepared, partly thanks to his commission’s assistance, but questioned its ability to play the role of diplomatic go-between among member states, which the presidency entails.
“For judicious negotiations, you also need a readiness to listen to others and the firm will to put your own wishes aside. I have some doubts there”, Juncker concluded.
He also reprimanded Bucharest for its internal political divisions due to a stand-off between the country’s President Klaus Iohannis of the National Liberal Party, elected in 2014, and leader of the governing Social Democratic Party Liviu Dragnea, who came to power in 2016. According to Juncker, in this situation, Romania cannot act as a “compact unit”, the bloc now strives for.
"A united front is needed at home in order to promote the unity of Europe during the presidency of the Council”, he told the German newspaper.
Earlier, Romanian head Iohannis admitted his country was not ready for the EU presidency, which resulted in his political rivals’ calls to prosecute him for treason.
Juncker’s remarks sparked criticism from Romanian member of the European Parliament Maria Grapini, representing the Social Democrats, who branded the official “duplicitous.” According to the lawmaker, as cited by the Mediafax news agency, earlier, the EU Commission President told Romanian officials in Brussels that it was “clear… that Romania was up to the presidency”.
“You can’t say it’s black today and tomorrow it’s white”, the Romanian parliamentarian pointed out.