Should Romania forego EU presidency?

The European Commission has harshly criticised Romania on the rule of law and the fight against corruption in its latest Cooperation and Verification Mechanism report - just six weeks before the country is due to take over the rotating EU presidency. Neighbouring Bulgaria received a far more positive assessment. Commentators explain what is at stake for Romania and voice doubts that the country is currently in a position to lead Europe.

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Handelsblatt (DE) /

Europe can't afford a washout

Handelsblatt finds the prospect of Romania taking over the EU presidency worrying:

“The problematic state of affairs in the biggest country in Southeast Europe comes at a bad time for Europe. Because with the Brexit and the Italian crisis the EU is facing huge problems. Just what Romania can do to solve them is entirely unclear at present. In view of the difficult political situation, the Romanian government would do well to voluntarily decline the EU Council presidency. Because Europe can't afford a washout in the EU Council presidency in view of the huge challenges it faces.”

Contributors (RO) /

Romania's zero hour

Romania is at a crossroads, writes philosophy professor Dana Jalobeanu on the blog website Contributors:

“This is the moment when each and every one of us must choose: between [PSD leader Liviu] Dragnea and Europe. ... This is the moment when all those for whom the EU has any worth must express themselves: in writing, on the street, in parliament, outside city halls, wherever freedom of expression is still possible. ... What is at stake is our right to be European citizens: to travel, work, and study in Europe. What is a stake is the modicum of prosperity that has been transferred back to Romania in recent years by those who work in other EU countries. ... All that is at stake in Romania's zero hour.”

România Liberă (RO) /

Brussels applying double standards

The pro-government Romanian daily România Liberă voices doubts that Bulgaria really has behaved so much better than Romania:

“The monitoring of Bulgaria via the EU progress reports may end in 2019, EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans has announced. ... But weren't journalists from [the Romanian research network] Rise Project arrested only recently? Wasn't it Bulgaria where the police shield organised crime? Isn't it Bulgaria where the highest rate of criminal investigations per hour take place worldwide? ... If we remain under observation yet the Bulgarians are released from it, this will prove that Brussels has double standards. It is faking the information so that in Bucharest a political party comes into power that obeys the kleptocrats from Brussels.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Freeze funding and initiate proceedings

Die Press explains how the collapse of the young democracies in Eastern Europe can be prevented:

“It will take a combination of several different measures to prevent several European countries from drifting towards a form of controlled democracy with authoritarian features: from the selective freezing of EU funding to faster implementation of infringement proceedings by the Commission. At the same time there's no need to act like an arrogant schoolmaster. That only reinforces the feeling many people in the new EU member states have that they are seen as second-class citizens. Such resentment, in turn, serves the interests of the demagogues in Bucharest, Budapest and Warsaw and fuels their ethno-populism.”

Club Z (BG) /

Onus is on Bulgaria's government

The pitiful state of the media in Bulgaria must be tackled at the highest political levels, Club Z urges:

“Firstly, EU monitoring is directed above all at the government. Secondly, the criticism deals with the situation of the media - one of the foundations of Bulgarian democracy - to which the government can't simply close its eyes. Thirdly, the hazy ownership structure in the media sector is a question of regulation, which also falls under the government's responsibility. ... The government cannot simply exploit the weak situation of the media while at the same time washing its hands in innocence.”