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January 23, 2022

Romanian delegation at the opening ceremony of the European Games in Baku: Premier Ponta’s latest foreign visit sparks controversies again

After recently traveling to the Gulf States without filing a prior notification to the Presidency, thus generating a reaction from President Klaus Iohannis, Premier Victor Ponta’s latest foreign visit has taken the Presidency by surprise and has sparked controversies.

Victor Ponta’s presence in Baku on Friday, at the opening ceremony of the European Games, has generated a dispute with the head of the Presidential Chancellery. Dan Mihalache stated that the Premier has made a foreign policy mistake by attending an event that the leaders of Western countries have boycotted as a protest against the policy of Azerbaijan’s President, who is accused of human rights violations.

A month ago, after conducting a visit in the Gulf region, a visit the Presidency had not been informed about, the Premier promised in talks with the Head of State that such situations will be avoided in the future.

The most important leaders of European countries have decided not to attend the ceremony in Baku, as a protest against the policy of Azerbaijan’s President, accused of imprisoning his political opponents. Developed European countries were also dissatisfied with the Azeri President’s intention to close OSCE’s offices in Baku.

Leaders loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin were however in the stands. Belarus’s President Aleksandr Lukashenko, considered the last dictator of Europe, honored the invitation. So did Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, whose regime is considered one of the most oppressive in the world.

The Romanian Premier’s visit to Baku, coming immediately after he went through a no-confidence motion and despite the fact that he has a medical problem, took Romania by surprise considering he was expected to attend the summit of European socialists in Budapest and the government had not announced any change of plans. In the live broadcast from the opening ceremony of the European Games Premier Victor Ponta was seen sitting behind Vladimir Putin. PSD National Council President Rovana Plumb took Ponta’s place at the event in Budapest.

Nevertheless, the Azeri press knew early on about Victor Ponta’s visit and had already announced on Friday afternoon that the Romanian Premier would attend the ceremonies. Moreover, Victor Ponta was photographed when arriving at the Heidar Aliev Airport where he was welcomed by representatives of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and of the European Games Baku 2015 Committee.

Usually open to communicating on Facebook, the Premier wrote nothing about his visit in Baku. On the other hand, he posted a message congratulating Bulgaria’s Sergei Satnishev for his reelection as president of the European socialists. Sergei Stanishev was present in Bucharest in 2012 when the Social Liberal Union (USL, the former alliance between PSD and PNL) launched its elections campaign through a grandiose party rally at the National Arena.

President Klaus Iohannis, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday in Neptun, did not make any public comments about the Premier’s visit in Baku.


Dan Mihalache: It’s a foreign policy mistake


The Head of the Presidential Chancellery explained why he refused to attend the ceremony in Baku: “I would have liked to be present there, in Baku; there are 147 Romanian athletes taking part in this competition, but we also take into account the opinions of our colleagues, friends from the European Union. There are human rights violations in Azerbaijan, there are other issues that can be discussed,” Dan Mihalache said on Digi24.


PNL’s Gorghiu: Ponta feels the need to compromise Romania


The Premier’s controversial visit to Baku has become a political dispute between ruling power and opposition leaders.

“Ponta compromises anything through his presence, the fact that he attended an event European leaders have refused to attend goes beyond the level of political lack of caution, it’s in cascade, he feels the need to compromise Romania,” PNL Co-President Alina Gorghiu accused.


PSD’s Plumb: Premier made a normal and natural gesture of being by the Romanian athletes’ side


In reply, Rovana Plumb came to Premier Ponta’s defense and stated that what he did was “a normal and natural gesture of being by the side of Romanian athletes. In what concerns the discussions between institutions, I don’t want to comment this issue, I understood that a representation from the Romanian President was also in Baku, each state decided the level of representation for this athletic competition,” Rovana Plumb, President of PSD’s National Council, tried to offer explanations.

Pro Democracy Honorary President Cristian Pirvulescu criticized Victor Ponta’s gesture against the backdrop of the current geopolitical context. “I believe his presence close to Erdogan, apart from what is going on in the EU, is not a good signal for the partners across the Ocean either. Because relations between the US and Turkey are not good. Let’s say he is a great lover of sport and makes mistakes. One expects a politician to react as a politician, you take the allies into account. Russia is not seen as a great friend by citizens either, let along by our allies!” Cristian Pirvulescu stated on Digi24.

Former Culture Minister Razvan Theodorescu came to the Premier’s defense too. “I don’t believe it hurts him. (…) Putin is a leader that cannot be neglected here in our vicinity and if he went


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