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Bucharest
April 16, 2021
EDITORIAL

The first 100 days

President Klaus Iohannis has completed the first 100 days of his term in office.

Balanced, calculated, elegant in attitude and conduct, civilised in his dialogue with any interlocutor, with a correct and pertinent rhetoric regardless of the topic under discussion and the interlocutor, Iohannis seems to have successfully passed the fire trial of his first 100 days as head of state. He has conducted himself and acted impeccably, has not derailed from the limitations and prerogative set by the Constitution at all. He could not become the object of the criticism of not even the most sceptical opponents or analysts who were very eager to see his smallest mistake and drastically tax it.

To the disappointment of his detractors, Iohannis not only has not made any major clumsiness, blunders or amateurisms that would have easily turned him into the favourite target of critics during this grace period of 100 days which is usually granted to top ranking officials to settle in, but has passes test after test, be it inspired moves in internal affairs or in foreign politics. And the fact that so far he has acted irreproachably is undoubtedly his personal merit, because he entered the clothing as president of the country very quickly, but also of the team of advisors he knew how to select in a very professional manner.

Installed at the Cotroceni Palace after his predecessor had been a playing-president who had often forced the Constitution to its limits, Iohannis, from the very beginning as he said in an interview offered on the very first days of his term, intended to be a mediating president, a referee and an integrator.

The lapse of these 100 days fully demonstrates that Iohannis has so far kept that promise. By far he has demonstrated that he is a factor of equilibrium in the dialogue with all the institutions of the state and representatives of political parties, unlike the always conflicting Traian Basescu who, when there was no conflict to engage in, would always invent one with the media, Parliament, prime minister, opposition and so on.

Moreover, President Iohannis has passed the fire trial of the first 100 days also from the point of view of bringing civilised and constructive dialogue back to the forefront of public life, contributing to replacing the presidential institution to the high level of prestige and image this fundamental institution of the country should normally have. An institution Traian Basescu left with a prestige and credibility much dented and stained.

At the domestic political level, Klaus Iohannis has already successfully initiated a series of consultations with the political parties represented in Parliament, finalised with finding a consensus on fundamental issues pertaining to the national interest, such as increasing the defence budget. A decision that was unanimously hailed by our foreign partners, all the more so as Romania, a current Eastern border country for NATO and EU, plays an important role as a factor of equilibrium in the unstable regional context created by the Russian-Ukrainian tensions.

Although he ardently wants a new government and prime minister, but also a new majority in Parliament, built around his soul party, the National Liberal Party (PNL), with which he can cooperate to materialise the objectives of his presidential programme, Iohannis has so far proved in his institutional relations with Victoria Palace and with PSD Prime Minister Victor Ponta maturity, decency and a fair and responsible behaviour.

During the Traian Basescu decade, the whole country and society had become fatigued after the permanent institutional and political state of war between the two Palaces (Cotroceni and Victoria) when the government was led by premiers the former president disliked, namely Calin Popescu Tariceanu and Victor Ponta. A war that, besides the fact that it was but positive for the country and society, was often dotted with gross insults and offensive manner of address not worthy of the office as head of state which, by definition, would have first imposed a certain stature and dignity.

In antithesis, as we were stressing above, the current president proves elegance, wisdom and is the promoter of a civilised and normal institutional relationship of civilised dialogue and cooperation. An attitude which cannot be different than constructive and beneficial for installing a climate of stability and normality.

Quite often during these three months since Iohannis’ installation to office, the prime minister has repeatedly said how satisfied he was with the normal dialogue he was having with the head of state and with the constructive institutional cooperation with Cotroceni Palace, unlike the recent time of sad remembrance when he always had to adopt a defensive position in front of the attacks and offences of the ex-president, by that consuming precious time and energy resources that could have been better used on more constructive things for the country and society.

The same praising and appreciative words came from Premier Ponta recently after the first meeting of the Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) chaired by Klaus Iohannis, which had unfolded in the most constructive and professional manner possible compared to other meetings of the institution presided over by the ex-president, which were abundant in tensed moments and atmosphere.

The role of factor of equilibrium President Iohannis assumed ever since the beginning is all the more so important as the taking over of presidential prerogative coincided with a rather unusual moment for the Romanian society, when the justice and anti-corruption effort function at maximum speed.

Practically Iohannis started his term in a cleansing period or better said moral revolution of the society, produced by the wave of arrests in the last six months since DNA has been investigating the major corruption dossiers involving extremely important and influential persons in the structures of the state, former or current officials.

Now more than ever before, during this period of moral sanitation of the society, of purging major corruption or its connexions with the top state structures, a president who carefully observes the phenomenon is needed, one who, using his constitutional levers can oversee the normal operation of the powers of the state while securing a balance in the society.

There has been no public speech of the president, be it in Parliament or during the work report meetings of the main institutions with judicial competence of the state – Superior Magistracy Council (CSM), Office of the Prosecutor General, National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA), DIICOT etc, where the president did not emphasise that no one is above the law and that the competent state institutions must be let do their job without the tiniest trace of immixture or pressure from the exterior of the judicial system.

But that was all, unlike his predecessor who, in his public addresses would threaten his opponents (politicians or journalists) more or less bluntly, appearing on TV in prime-time. And not just anyhow, but exactly before the judiciary was due to make decisions in matters concerning his enemies, making allusive statements sending subliminal messages to the institutions or persons that were supposed to receive them.

Things are different with President Klaus Iohannis or, better said, they have entered the much desired normality from that point of view. However, the president did react expressing his disappointment with the result of the vote on the Vosganian case in the Senate or Borbely case in the Chamber of Deputies, hampering the criminal investigation of the two politicians.

Another test successfully passed by the head of state during this period is the appointment of the new head of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), Eduard Hellvig, a choice that was applauded not just in the country but also by the international partners of Romania in NATO and the EU. And he will definitely do just as well when it comes to making an equally inspired choice for a new chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE).

At a foreign political level, through the visits and contacts he has had so far these first 100 days, President Iohannis reconfirmed the major lines of Romanian foreign policy. His visits to Chisinau, Kiev, Warsaw, or receiving of Bulgarian President to Bucharest reconfirmed Bucharest’s interest in tightening up cooperation with the neighbouring countries and willingness to have an active regional role as a stabilising factor in an area that has become very sensitive due to Russia’s expansionist thrust in Ukraine.

At the same time, as far as Republic of Moldova and Ukraine are concerned, President Iohannis has reaffirmed not only Bucharest’s interest in good neighbourhood relations, but also its wish to support the European roadmap of both states. Regarding relations with Bulgaria, as he has recently highlighted during a dialogue with President Plevneliev in Bucharest, apart from the good neighbourhood interest, they also carry another important stake, which is a better cooperation of the two countries which are in a tandem with concerted steps for their entry to the Schengen Area.

Through visits to Paris, Berlin and Brussels, the message passed by Iohannis was that, to Romania, the relations with the two capitals continue to be of strategic and priority interests both at a bilateral level and in the European Union. Romania’s wish to make progress in respect of its accession to the Schengen Area was reiterated to both President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel, but also to EU leaders  – Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.

Not least, we should remind of the praising of Romania for its merits in the role played internationally, especially as a member of NATO, where it is a model of assumption of commitments, by the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg. In addition, both Victoria Nuland Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State  or the FBI Director James Comey during their visits to Bucharest, commended the excellent operation of the Strategic Partnership with Romania at a political, intelligence or military level. A strategic relationship that will improve even further once the missile defence system at Deveselu becomes operational this year.

It’s been 100 days, and only this many visits or international contacts could happen so far. More are definitely in preparation and will follow soon, and these messages on Romania’s priority and strategic interests in foreign affairs will be reiterated by the head of state to other European leaders or on different continents, in countries with which Romania promotes dynamic relations of cooperation. Messages, the president has as a matter of fact presented also in his excellent address on foreign policy priorities for Romania to the diplomatic corps accredited in Bucharest a few weeks ago, a speech that was appreciated in the unison by all participants.

 

 

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