Ahead of Romania’s rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union takeover on January 1, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker surprised many with a strongly worded statement that called into question the Eastern European nation’s ability to lead the Council, the first time that it will do so since joining the EU in 2007.
Juncker was quoted on December 29 saying Bucharest was “technically well-prepared” to assume the role ahead of a critical period for the bloc with European elections scheduled for May of next year. Juncker, however, added that he thought that Romania “hasn’t yet fully understood what it means to take the chairmanship over the (other) EU countries,” adding, “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.”
Bitter political divisions in Romania and the after-effects of multiple corruption scandals as dominated the country’s politics for more than a year, which Juncker, according to his own statement, with the overriding feeling that Romania lacks “a united front at home to foster unity in Europe…during the presidency,” and later expanded on that theme by saying that the current leadership in Bucharest does not currently have the capacity to appear as a “compact unit” in Europe.
Juncker’s criticism did not stop at Romania, as he also turned his attention to Hungary’s nationalist Fidesz party and its firebrand Eurosceptic leader Viktor Orban, whom Juncker said should be banned from the European People’s Party (EPP). the biggest political family in Europe and the one in which Juncker served as a, or Spitzenkandidat, throughout his career in Brussels.
“I have requested in the EPP to exclude the Hungarian Fidesz party,” Juncker said, only to add that “the Christian Democratic values on which the EPP is based are no longer compatible with Fidesz’s policy. But this request was rejected, said Juncker.