Romania’s political leaders are at loggerheads over the country’s nominee for the next European Commission, with the president accusing the caretaker prime minister of being “irresponsible” for putting someone forward for the job when she has no legal right to do so.
Viorica Dăncilă, who is caretaker prime minister after losing a confidence vote in the parliament earlier this month, on Tuesday said Victor Negrescu was her choice to join Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission. She told reporters in northern Romania that Negrescu, a 34-year-old former MEP and ex-minister, was the right fit for the job.
Officials close to von der Leyen’s transition team confirmed they received the nomination letter but flagged that it was not supported by the president of Romania.
“Given the challenges and opportunities ahead it is in our common interest that Europe moves forward without any further delay,” said an official close to von der Leyen’s team. “Whoever the Romanian candidate will be, he or she should be agreeable to the president-elect and should be able to gather the necessary support of the European Parliament. In light of the institutional situation in Romania, the proposed candidate should be agreeable for all major parties. Europe is now waiting for Romania.”
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis swiftly pushed back against the nomination, saying the caretaker government did not have the power to make the nomination and calling on Dăncilă to stop the process.
Romania is the last of the EU27 to nominate a commissioner (the U.K. has been told it must nominate a commissioner as the price for a Brexit extension).
He said in a statement that Dăncilă “refuses to understand that, with the loss of the role of prime minister, she has lost any legitimacy to make any proposal for the position of European commissioner.”
Iohannis accused Dăncilă of making “an irresponsible gesture, challenging both Romanian citizens and European partners.”
Dăncilă shot back, accusing the president of trying to sabotage the country’s interests. She said proposing a candidate for commissioner is the duty of the Romanian government, pointing to a letter that von der Leyen sent to her and Iohannis asking for a nomination “without delay.”
In that letter, which Dăncilă published on Facebook, von der Leyen said she “would encourage the Romanian government to present a female candidate,” a request she also made to Iohannis on the sidelines of the European Council summit this month.
Ludovic Orban, the leader of the opposition National Liberal Party who was tasked with forming a new government, also criticized Dăncilă for making the nomination, which he described as a “soap opera.”
Negrescu told POLITICO he didn’t want to comment on his nomination.
Dăncilă and Iohannis are rivals in a presidential election to be held on November 10. The parliament will vote on a new government on November 4.
On Tuesday, von der Leyen formally nominated France’s Thierry Breton and Hungary’s Olivér Várhelyi as members of the next Commission. That leaves Romania as the last of the EU27 to nominate a commissioner (the U.K. has been told it must nominate a commissioner as the price for a Brexit extension).
Bucharest’s first choice for the Commission, Rovana Plumb, was rejected by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee over conflict of interest concerns. Dăncilă proposed MEP Dan Nica for the job, after first putting his name forward at the same time as Plumb. However, von der Leyen did not nominate him.
However, asked at the Commission’s regular press briefing if the next Romanian nominee would get the transport portfolio, a spokesperson refused to confirm if that was the case. “It depends … who will be the candidate from Romania, and what his competences will be,” the spokesperson said.