Last week, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila and the new Minister for EU Affairs, George Ciamba, went to Brussels for a scheduled meeting with all the Commissioners. The two stressed that everything is fine and that Romania is more than prepared to take the chair of the Council, despite previous comments to the contrary by the President (who later backtracked). Well, actually, what Mr Ciamba said was that Romania’s diplomats and bureaucrats are ready to steer the ship even with political turmoil back home. Which is another way of saying ‘our politicians are bickering among each other, but the grown-ups are handling the Presidency.’ That’s good, right?
In any case, this amounts to a tacit agreement between the Government and President to tone down their conflict for the sake of the country’s image over the next few months.
Meanwhile, some bad news for PSD as former PM Victor Ponta’s party, Pro Romania, ‘poached’ 4 MPs from the Social Democrats, leaving the ruling PSD-ALDE coalition without a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. The coalition is now short of two votes, but will most likely do fine by relying on support from smaller parties such as UDMR, who have played the role of kingmaker several times since 1989.
Speaking of bad news for PSD, pollster IMAS released it’s November figures. Since last week I presented the September and October figures without giving you a baseline to compare them to, below you can see the past 3 months of polls next to the 2016 parliamentary results.
The collapse in support for PSD has numerous causes which I’ve mentioned before. The party does have one major thing going for them, and that is, ironically, the weakness of their European family. As this rightly points out, there is an obvious rift between the values of Western Socialists and CEE socialists:
But given the overall decline in support for S&D parties across Europe, the S&D’s hands are tied. It won’t risk taking a stand against any PSD abuses. In many ways, their situation mirrors the EPP’s over Orban and Fidesz, unable to do anything about them because they’ve decided winning elections (or, more accurately, limiting their losses) is more important than upholding their own values. We’ll soon see how that works out for them.
Thus, while PSD is challenged at home, it can at least count on S&D to look the other way should they stumble through the next 6 months.
In unrelated news, Romania reportedly blocked draft conclusions from the agenda of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council. The conclusions included reference to Moldova’s rule of law situation, “including the invalidation of the mayoral elections in Chisinau,” raising ‘significant concerns’ about the country’s commitment to democratic principles, the rule of law, and human rights.
In June this year, courts declared the results of Chisinau’s elections null. Andrei Nastase, a leader of the opposition and a voice for reform, had won 52% of the votes. The invalidation of the results has been criticised as yet another abuse directed by oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, president of the Democratic Party. The Moldovan PM, Pavel Filip (Democratic Party), expressed his gratitude to Romania for blocking the vote, arguing that, had it gone forward, it would’ve constituted interference in the pre-election campaign (general election scheduled for February 2019).
Romania’s MFA justified its decision through a long and verbose statement that leaves the reader with more questions than answers. In essence, the statement tries to argue that the MFA blocked the draft conclusions because it has reservations ‘over the work format.’
Wait, did I say this was ‘unrelated news’? Somehow every move PSD makes seems to circle back to the rule of law and to ways of undermining it. Its support for Moldova’s government in the face of clear trampling of democratic principles is no different.
As I said in the beginning, everything is fine, just fine.
Every year, Ipsos conducts a study on the gap between perceptions and reality, on almost everything you can imagine: terrorism, teenage pregnancy, smartphone ownership, unemployment etc. What’s striking in this year’s study is the question on immigrants: when asked what proportion of people in their country they think are immigrants, respondents across the world tend to greatly overestimate. In Romania, a country with an immigrant population barely reaching 1% of the total, people estimate that figure is actually closer to 1/4. What could give people this impression, than 1 in 4 of people around them are not Romanian?
And finally, on the banter side of things, the Government announced an internship program at its Permanent Representation in Brussels, spanning the length of the Presidency. The hefty application file should include the candidate’s criminal record to prove that they’re law-abiding citizens. Which is weird because…