Roth held talks with his counterpart Victor Negrescu, Presidential Adviser for European Affairs Leonard Orban, and President of the Chamber of Deputies Liviu Dragnea. Furthermore, Roth held discussions with representatives from the judiciary, civil society and the Roma minority. Alongside the many positive signals with regard to their common future in Europe, great concern about the upcoming judicial reform in the country was expressed in a number of the talks.
Romania will take over the EU Council Presidency for the first time in its history in the first half of 2019. Both the elections to the European Parliament and probably also the UK’s withdrawal from the EU are scheduled to take place during this period. Minister Delegate for European Affairs Negrescu presented a number of ideas for this important period to his German counterpart. Negrescu said that Romania aimed to continue to make progress with regard to the discussions surrounding fundamental European values and to bring the negotiations on the multiannual financial framework to a successful conclusion. He also cited improved dialogue between the public and European institutions as a further key focus of the Council Presidency. Negrescu said that a range of Citizens’ Dialogues were intended as a forum for listening to people’s expectations and concerns.
Minister of State Roth believes this to be the right signal at an important time:
We are witnessing how nationalism and populism within and outside Europe offer people purportedly simple and convenient solutions. As European democrats, it is up to us to keep on saying that, in the face of a crumbling world order, we need European cohesion and solidarity more than ever. After the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, Romania will be the sixth largest country in the Union and assume even greater responsibility. With its exceptionally pro European outlook and positive development, Romania is sure to rise to this challenge.
According to estimates, Romania is home to around 1.5 million Roma. As in many parts of Europe, their social participation still leaves much to be desired. Although the number of educational qualifications among the minority has risen in recent years, it remains far below average, as Roth learned in talks with Daniel Vasile, member of parliament, and Gelu Dominica, head of the organisation Impreuna. It was particularly important to raise awareness of the many positive developments and the rich cultural treasure of the Roma, said Dominica, who thanked Minister of State Roth for his commitment to the Roma and for his support in founding the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC).
Many representatives of civil society and the Romanian public prosecutor’s office were concerned and critical about the Government’s current draft judicial reform, which has yet to be adopted by Parliament. Although a reform is necessary overall, critics argue that parts of the bill are geared towards protecting politicians still in office from prosecution, despite proven misconduct on their part.“We hope that this difficult discussion can be concluded before the start of the EU Council Presidency. We need a strong Romania with a strong commitment to being a country founded on the rule of law that tackles corruption with all due resolve,” said Roth following his visit.