President Klaus Iohannis has left Bucharest on Wednesday to participate to the extraordinary informal meeting of the European Council. Afterwards, President Iohannis will go to New York, where he will be attending a United Nations summit.
The EU extraordinary summit takes place at Germany’s request, amidst an ongoing migrant crisis, one day after an extraordinary meeting of the interior ministers on the same topic.
The UN General Assembly meeting will be taking place from 15 September to 6 October, in New York, the main topic being the post-2015 United Nations agenda that will set the international organisation’s strategy for the next 15 years.
The European Union has approved on Tuesday in the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) ministers’ meeting, with a wide majority, the distribution of 120,000 refugees among the member states. Romania is set to receive 2,475 refugees out of the 66.000 extra-community nationals redistributed from Italy and Greece under the temporary quota system approved by the JHA Council on Tuesday. The total number of immigrants allocated to Bucharest so far is 4,837.
Vice Prime Minister for National Security and Internal Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea has presented on this occasion the mandate entrusted to him by President Klaus Iohannis and by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, voting against the draft of the decision enforcing compulsory quotas of immigrants, the Interior Ministry informed in a release.
Asked whether Romania has the money to receive a larger number of refugees, Ponta said “it’s not a matter of money” but of “our logistical capacity and in the possibility to integrate them into society”.
‘Immigrant management is not complicated. We wanted to voluntarily participate’
President Klaus Iohannis announced before heading to the informal meeting of the European Council on Wednesday that he will restate Romania’s position on “a balanced ratio between solidarity and responsibility” in the matter of voluntary immigrant quotas.
President Klaus Iohannis said, on Wednesday, that he regretted the JHA decision allocating another 2,475 migrants to Romania had not been consensual, based on negotiations, but by majority vote and noted that the JHA decision would not be possible to overturn on the European Council.
‘We regret and I regret the fact that these decisions were made by majority vote rather than consensually, after negotiations. I don’t think that the distribution of compulsory quotas by vote is going to resolve the issue. This mathematic distribution does not take account of a series of very important factors’, Iohannis said during a press conference.
He added that the minister of interior had participated in JHA ‘with a perfect mandate from the Government, strengthened by the CSAT decision’.
The head of state pointed out that Romania’s position was still against the imposition of compulsory quotas of refugees and that the same point of view had been supported since March.
Iohannis also said that the decision made by JHA on Tuesday evening would not be re-discussed and ‘re-voted’ on during the European Council meeting in Brussels where he would also participate.
‘This JAI decision is not going to be discussed on the European Council today, it needs no re-voting on the Council. I understand there are countries that wish to challenge it. We will wait for the result’, Iohannis added.
President Klaus Iohannis said, on Wednesday, that, ‘in reality’, the number of refugees allotted to Romania, under the JAI decision, was not high and ‘can be easily managed’. He said the issue was not the number of immigrants, but the principle of imposing binding quotas.
‘The number of refugees, in reality, is not big, it can be easily managed by Romania’, said the president during a press conference at Cotroceni, before departing for Brussels, where he was to attend the European Council.
Iohannis also said that the refugees ‘would not be received in the next weeks, but most likely over a year’.
‘The matter can be easily managed by Romania. Our position is still one of voluntary participation. I don’t think these binding quotas are a solution’, Iohannis also said, finding that ‘the Government can find the best ways not only for receiving and finger-printing the immigrants, but also for taking steps towards their integration’.
The president stressed that the problem was not the number of refugees allotted to Romania, but the fact that compulsory quotas had been imposed, although Romania supported voluntary participation.
‘The management of immigrants is not complicated, what’s complicated is the principle, because we wanted to participate in a voluntary manner. It’s all about the principles by which the European Commission operates’, Klaus Iohannis added.
Iohannis on Romania – Hungary conflict: ‘A more reserved position would have been advisable’
President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday, asked about the touch exchange of lines between the Romanian and Hungarian officials, that a more reserved position would have been advisable on both sides and that such a dialogue complicated the bilateral relations.
Asked to comment on Hungary’s intention to build wall along its border with Romania and the subsequent dialogue between the Romanian and Hungarian officials, the president said a more restrained position would have been advisable on both sides.
I think a more restrained position would have been advisable on both sides. I don’t think anything can be resolved with this exchange of retorts. On the contrary, it complicates the bilateral relations. The way the dialogue went, it was outside the diplomatic etiquette’, Iohannis added.
Following Hungary’s decision to build a fence at the border with Romania, PM Victor Ponta and Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto exchanged corrosive words.
PM Ponta said Hungary’s attitude in the refugee crisis was non-European and a shame on Europe. The Hungarian official answered it was ‘Europe’s shame that Victor Ponta, who was subject to criminal investigation, constantly lied and defamed a neighbouring state’.
Talks with US Vice-President Joe Biden
President Klaus Iohannis also said on Wednesday that, on the sidelines of his US trip there would also be a meeting with US Vice-President Joe Biden, at the White House. ‘I will have the special pleasure to meet with the Vice-President of the United States, Mr. Biden, at the White House, on the sidelines of my trip to the US. This first official meeting will be grounded on the firm objective of strengthening the partnership between Romania and the United States of America’, Iohannis told a press conference.
Iohannis also said he would participate in a number of summits, including a meeting on the deterrence of Daesh/Islamic State, invited by US President Barack Obama.
“This prime minister will never participate in the European Council”
President Klaus Iohannis says he does not have to ask a Parliament’s mandate to participate in the European Council meeting on Wednesday; he vowed not to allow Prime Minister Victor Ponta to participate in such events in the future.
The President was asked whether he should not have to ask the Parliament for a mandate, under a specific law. He answered, “That paragraph refers to the situation of the prime minister participating in the European Council. Well, the prime minister does not participate and will not participate; this prime minister will never participate in the European Council.”
PM Ponta: President’s participation in European Council is futile, ruling party leader disagrees
Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on Wednesday at the Parliament Palace that he didn’t count on the fact that President Klaus Iohannis would manage to impose Romania’s position on immigrants, noting that the Government would prepare for taking all necessary measures.
‘Maybe President Iohannis, today, at the European Council, will win and impose Romania’s point of view. However, since I cannot count on that, I am counting on the fact that, afterwards, we will need to do the work and I want to send a very clear message that the Government will prepare itself for taking all the necessary measures. This means a European and balanced attitude, not a xenophobic and chauvinistic one like our neighbours’, we should be logistically ready, and from the point of view of all the measures that we need to take’, Victor Ponta said during the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The premier also said that the ‘efforts’ for taking the necessary measures would be co-ordinated by Deputy Prime-Minister Gabriel Oprea.
‘Of course that the efforts will be co-ordinated, as they have been so far, by Deputy Prime-Minister Oprea, but al ministries and institutions will need to join in, because when there is work to do, they always turn to us, when it’s about making statements, that’s the prerogative of other people. We are in charge of the labour and implementation part, both things that we like and things that we do not like’, Ponta said.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Tuesday night said that the European Council might change on Wednesday the decision made on Tuesday by the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) extraordinary Council on the mandatory refugee quotas; he added that Vice Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea has accomplished the task he had from the Supreme Council for Country’s Defence (CSAT) in a “very good and normal” way.
Liviu Dragnea contradicts PM Ponta: “Romania’s President never goes to the European Council in Brussels uselessly”
The Social Democrat Party (PSD) interim chair, Liviu Dragnea, prompted by media, begged to differ.
“I have another approach. I believe that Romania’s President never goes to the European Council in Brussels uselessly. He presents Romania’s position, which is good to be known. (…) We cannot say one goes in vain to a meeting with the European leaders,” Dragnea said, also at the Parliament Palace