Romanian officials slammed European Union officials for treating it as "a second-rate" country as it prepares to take over the EU's rotating presidency starting from Jan. 1.
Signaling the fractious mood, a senior official of Romania's governing Social Democratic Party, blasted top EU officials including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. "Romania is under special [EU] monitoring. Romania is treated like a second-rate nation by some EU officials," Mihai Fifor, a Social Democrat leader, wrote Sunday.
He was referring to remarks made Saturday by Juncker in an interview with Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper. Junkcer, who heads the EU's executive branch, questioned whether Romania was ready for the political give-and-take of the role.
Even if the country is "technically well prepared," the "Bucharest government has not fully understood what it means to preside over the countries of the EU,"Juncker said in an interview with the newspaper die Welt. He said the EU presidency "requires a willingness to listen to others and a willingness to put one's own concerns in the background. I have some doubts about this." He also questioned the capacity of the country, faced with internal political tensions, to appear as a "compact unit" in Europe. There are long-running differences between President Klaus Iohannis and Liviu Dragnea, the chairman of the governing Social Democratic Party. Iohannis last month said Romania wasn't up to the presidency. Dragnea then asked party colleagues to find a way to prosecute him for treason over those remarks. The president has since struck a more optimistic note.
Romania took over the EU's rotating presidency for the first time since it joined the bloc in 2007, succeeding Austria. Its six months at the helm will include Britain's planned exit from the bloc in March and elections to the European Parliament in May. EU countries take turns occupying the presidency for six-month terms. The position involves setting the bloc's agenda and acting as a diplomatic go-between among the 28 members.