Romania’s Presidency at the Council of the European Union takes place at a “difficult” time for Europe, said, on Friday, the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, during the meeting of the College of Commissioners with President Klaus Iohannis, which took place at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace.
He recalled the “noteworthy” moment for the European Union when Romania’s Accession Treaty was signed.
According to Juncker, Romania’s Presidency at the Council of the EU must offer hope.
“Romania’s Presidency takes place at a difficult moment for Europe, reason for which the Romanian Presidency will know several different episodes, but will also see effects in results. The Commission has presented all the legislative initiatives it must present. (…) The co-legislators must conclude these dossiers before the European Parliament elections – I am thinking of the agreement in principle on the multi-annual financial framework, an extremely difficult subject that the Romanian Presidency will have to deal with, because we cannot afford to interrupt the process already launched. Otherwise too many programs could be affected,” said the European official.
He added that the Romanian Presidency will also have to deal with the stability of the Union post-Brexit.
“Thus, the Romanian Presidency, with elegance, will have to know to manage this difficult period – that coming after Brexit. I have full trust in the Romanian authorities, in you, Mr. President, that you will know how to manage that difficult, if not tragic, stage, because it’s about the departure of the United Kingdom, which for me is a sad event, that Europe did not need, but democracy is what it is – we cannot prevent those who want to do it. (…) It will be in fact, a break with Europe and it will be a syncope in the history of our continent, which we could have spared. Thus, the Romanian Presidency must ensure stability and offer hope,” he added.
Juncker also deemed the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU as being one of democracy, given that during the mandate the elections for the European Parliament, during which the “Romanian Presidency needs to be firm and strong,, adding his plea for cohesion and consensus at the national level, emphasizing that they are aspects that Romania needs in order to have a successful Presidency.
“We mustn’t export internal conflicts to Europe”
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker on Friday voiced his conviction that there are high chances that Romania holds a successful first Presidency at the EU Council, but he underscored at the same time that internal conflicts mustn’t be exported to Europe.
“I believe the Romanian Presidency will be able to have a very significant contribution to prove that all those who pretend that there are two blocs in Europe, those from the west and those from the east, that there is an internal fragmentation, to show them they are wrong, that Europe breaths with two lungs and that Europe, during the Romanian Presidency and afterwards, can act orderly and of an organised manner. It would be good to have inside your country an atmosphere and spirit of consensus allowing Europe to progress. We mustn’t export internal conflicts to Europe and we cannot engage in a pointless conflict, because it will lead to many internal and external problems. Romania wants to be useful for Europe and that is why it must establish on an internal level the preliminary requirements allowing it to have a successful presidency. Therefore, I believe that the first Romanian Presidency has all the chances to be a great presidency,” Juncker told a joint press conference with President Klaus Iohannis at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace.
Juncker mentioned that he has always endorsed Romania’s path to the European Union and that in December 1997 he was the President of the European Council that launched the accession process for other states. He added he doesn’t regret the decision made then, as he believes that “without Romania, the European Union is not complete.”
“I believe we owe a lot to Romania, but Romania, in its turn, owes a lot to the European Union. On behalf of the European Council, in Luxembourg, in April 2005, I signed the treaty on Romania’s accession to the EU and I have never had the slightest regret on this act,” he also said.
Juncker pointed out that together with President Iohannis he agreed on a very good preparation of the meeting of the European Council in Sibiu, on 9 may. He added that this will be a meeting devoted to stability, taking into account that the UK would have left the EU by that date.
“We must prove to everyone, to those watching us from the outside, too, that the EU is relaunching now, it has a new beginning, it is a new stage in its long history, that has never had a very easy course. The Romanian Presidency will be a presidency that will provide new results. We, the Commission, have tabled the colleagues of the European Parliament and Council, a whole series of legislative proposals and we expect most to be concluded before the elections to the European Parliament. This means a lot of work for the Romanian Presidency and I apologize to the Romanian President that the EC has worked so fast and has managed to bring to the attention of the European co-legislator so many legislative initiatives,” he mentioned.
In this respect, Juncker added that the Romanian Presidency at the EU Council will also have to deal with the multiannual financial framework, after the Austrian Presidency has already covered the technical part of this process, adding that this process mustn’t be paused before the European elections.
In regards to Brexit, Juncker said that the EC representatives are in constant contact with the British PM and that the Parliament in London will draw conclusions on the texts proposed next week.
“I hope to have an agreement, I do not wish for the UK to leave without an agreement, because it would be a catastrophe both for the British citizens and for the entire European continent, that is why we must make all efforts, from now till Tuesday, until the vote in the British Parliament, for this important project not to fail,” he said.
“There mustn’t be compromises on rule of law essential aspects – amnesty would be a step back”
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker told a joint press conference with President Klaus Iohannis at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace on Friday that there mustn’t be any compromises in regards to the essential aspects of the rule of law, adding that these would be negatively affected in case Romania granted an amnesty.
Juncker thus replied to a question of the press, aimed at the statements made on Thursday evening, at the Romanian Athenaeum, where the EC President said that the European Union is formed of compromises, but when it comes to the rule of law and the fight against corruption “there is no possible compromise.”
“I wanted to bring to mind the European rules, this is about observing the necessary axes of the rule of law. I said that Europe is also made of compromises, but that there mustn’t be compromises on essential aspects, because these essential aspects would be negatively affected if an amnesty were to be granted, as some in your country have in view. If this came into force, it would be a step back,” the EC President explained.
He voiced optimism on Romania’s possibilities of becoming a Schengen member even during his mandate.
“When I shyly and modestly presented myself on 14 July 2014 before the European Parliament to request my investiture to the European Deputies, I said that during my Commission’s mandate we shall act so that Romania should become a member of the Schengen Area, and I don’t see why it couldn’t become. Also in respect to the CVM I said I would have wanted to conclude this mechanism during our mandate. However, we’ll have to carefully study the recent observations made by the Commission regarding Romania. I have also talked this matter with the Government,” Juncker said.
Iohannis: Romania holding EU Council Presidency – good opportunity to transpose commitment to European project
Romania holding the Presidency at the Council of the European Union represents a good opportunity to transpose our country’s commitment to the European project, Klaus Iohannis said in a meeting with the College of Commissioners, at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace.
“Holding for the first time the EU Council Presidency is an important moment for Romania, said Iohannis, adding that it is a good opportunity to transpose our commitment to the European project in all its dimensions and the support for the European values. We want to use this opportunity to see through the European commitments, to be stronger together and to build a more efficient and united European Union”, the head of state said.
According to him, the European Commission is an essential partner for the Romanian Presidency at the EU Council, as well as in the global cooperation among European institutions.
Iohannis voiced his appreciation for the EC’s approach in respect to the consolidation of the European project and the strengthening of the integration process to the benefit of all European citizens. He added that Romania fully shares this pro-European approach and that Romania’s stand has always been and will continue to be a position endorsing the European project and all the member states must bring their contribution to the construction of the European project in this context. The common efforts on a European level must focus on avoiding any divisions and discrepancies among member states to consolidate the EU and to prove its capacity of having a firmer role on the global stage, Iohannis believes, voicing conviction that through coordinated efforts the member states can contribute to a better Union and giving assurances on Romania’s will to contribute to the progress of the European agenda, of a constructive and consensual manner.
He added that Romania holds the EU Council Presidency in the context of some important and complex developments in Europe – the reflections on Europe’s future, the European elections, Brexit, migration and security, the negotiations on the future budget framework, the consolidation of the mechanisms in the Euro area, or EU’s external actions in an unpredictable environment in constant change.
President Iohannis emphasised that the discussions on Europe’s future will be a priority of the European agenda during Romania’s Presidency at the EU council, with the upcoming Sibiu Summit of 9 may 2019 focusing precisely on Europe’s strategic priorities for the period 2019 – 2024.
According to the head of state, the European context is a delicate one, determined not only by the perspective of organising the European elections, but also by the political atmosphere among and inside member states, which, in some cases, generates difficulties in reaching decisions on a European level.
In this context, he said Romania will make efforts to advance the European agenda based on consensus, as a honest mediator among all those interested, all participants, as its goal is to maintain unity and cohesion among member states, which is also reflected in the motto of Romania’s Presidency – cohesion, a common European value.
“We are well-prepared for difficult, but interesting period that we start”
President Klaus Iohannis also stated that the Presidency at the Council of the EU represents a particularly important moment which will remain in Romania’s history, showing that our country is well-prepared for this mandate.
“We are assisting to a moment of particular importance which will remain in Romania’s history – the inauguration of the first Presidency of the Council of the EU. (…) I’ve discussed, during strategic debates at the European Council, the European matters many times and I believe that we are well-prepared for the difficult, but interesting period that we believe will include results and which is starting now,” said the head of state, at the Cotroceni Palace, in the joint press conference with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
He mentioned that the discussions focused on important dossiers on the European agenda, but also general approaches which are extremely important in the coming period.
“We discussed today about Brexit, the multi-annual budget, migration, European security and how we will build a realistic optimist agenda, credible for the coming period,” Iohannis mentioned.
According to the head of state, the European Commission is a vital and important partner with which Romania has very good dialogue.
“We share the objective of a strong Europe, more united, more efficient and we are speaking here both on the internal level, inside the Union, as well as the external level. This will be the objective towards which our efforts will be oriented during the next six months,” said Iohannis.
In what regards Brexit, he showed that he desires an orderly retreat of the United Kingdom from the EU, and that efforts will be focused on facilitating the adoption of measures proposed by the European Commission, in order to ensure the EU is prepared adequately for Brexit in all scenarios.
He emphasized that the summit in Sibiu on May 9 will constitute a landmark for Romania’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, but also for the European Union as a whole, given its role in preparing the future priorities and strategic approaches for the period after the European Parliament elections.
“We discussed these matters, I agreed that the orientations that are to be drawn up on the occasion regarding the future of the European project must have a consensual basis and must respond to the expectations of European citizens,” said Iohannis.
He showed that he is very committed in what regards the Presidency of the Council of the EU.
“I know everyone here is very committed and determined to make a good… a very good show, to obtain what we propose, the finalization of many dossiers currently worked upon, the elaboration of a viable, credible strategy for the future of the EU,” Klaus Iohannis said.
“Romania doesn’t want to be in Schengen as a problem, but as part of a solution”
In addition, President Klaus Iohannis underscored that Romania doesn’t want be in Schengen as a problem, but as part of a solution for improving safety in the free movement area.
“Romania had this desideratum to get into Schengen and become member of the Schengen Area ever since the beginning and took the necessary steps to reach this goal”, said the President. “Initially, Schengen was an agreement that required meeting certain criteria, which criteria Romania did fulfill in 2011, but now adhesion depends on the vote of all the members of the Schengen Area, and thus the first questions and problems started to appear, which cause it that, although Romania did meet all the criteria required by the Schengen agreement, Romania and Bulgaria were not accepted as members. Since then, Romania has been trying to convince its friends and partners that it is a serious country, safe, which observes the rules imposed by the Schengen Area and relies on the EU values. Progress is still to be expected, said the President, but Romania hasn’t given up and will continue to discuss with everybody, in order to convince them that Romania doesn’t want to be in Schengen as a problem, but as part of a solution for improving safety in the Schengen Area,” said the head of state at the Cotroceni Palace, at the joint conference he held with the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker.
He specified that, in what concerns the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), the Government and Parliament must find the proper solutions.
In what concerns the CVM, explained the President, he had a first discussion with President Juncker after being elected President, in January 2015, one of the topics discussed back then being the CVM. They both agreed that the optimal choice was to conclude the CVM before the end of the Juncker Commission’s mandate. Romania must also play its part in this, said the head of state, and especially the Government and Parliament must find the best solutions in order to meet the conditions negotiated under the CVM. If this happens, then he said he will be optimistic in Romania’s chances to see the CVM concluded.
President Iohannis says rule of law not negotiable
President Iohannis used the opportunity to state that the rule of law is not something to be negotiated.
During a press conference he held jointly with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, he said that, for him, the rule of law is not something that could be negotiated. Discussions on justice laws and codes in Romania are very complicated and they have already been going on for two years, said the head of state, adding that he hoped all those involved would prove they are wise enough to bring this discussions to a good end (…) according to the expectations of Romanians, the Venice Commission and GRECO. For Romania cannot build a justice system that is not compatible with the other justice systems in the EU and, more than that, by joining the EU, Romania wanted to become part of a space of values and to stay there. And this space of values also includes the principles and basic regulations of a rule of law, he said.
He also showed that the discussion with respect to the rule of law will continue in Romania, while pointing out that he has no intention to deviate from the EU values and principles.
The head of state underscored that the problems related to the domestic affairs must not affect the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
This discussion, as everybody was able to notice, it doesn’t improve, unfortunately, Romania’s image and this is a problem that must be considered, he said, but, in respect to the European affairs, he was certain that together with the Government they will find the adequate approaches to reach the objectives that Romania established for its 6-month presidency of the Council of the EU. Our internal problems don’t have to affect the approach that Romania has while holding the presidency, which aspect, said the head of state, all parties understood.
“The Western Balkans’ place is with us”
President Klaus Iohannis also stated on Friday that the place of the Western Balkans is within the European Union, expressing his hope that progress will be swift and good in regards to Macedonia’s name change.
“The Western Balkans are an area which for us is in the immediate vicinity and regardless of the geographical positioning we are interested and concerned. Romania is convinced that this area’s place is with us. This general statement needs implementation that sometimes proves to be rather complex,” said Iohannis, at the joint press conference with the European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
He expressed his hope that in the matter of Macedonia’s name change progress will be swift and good, in order to “resolve one of the problems that made impossible substantial progress that could’ve been done”.
In his turn, the EC President expressed hope that this process will conclude successfully and in the terms provided for.
“In relation to this problem of the old name of the Republic of Macedonia, I am impressed by the courage of the two Prime-Ministers (e.n. – of Macedonia and Greece) and they bear this responsibility to history and I would like for this process to conclude successfully and in the terms provided for. I can only urge the two governments, the two Prime Ministers, the two Parliaments, to do what history requests they do,” said Juncker.