Juncker doubts Romania's capacity to lead EU

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomes Romania's PM Viorica Dancila in Brussels.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed doubts on Saturday about Romania's ability to take over the EU's six-month rotating presidency in January. In an interview with the German daily "Die Welt", he pointed out that althought "technically prepared", the "Bucharest government has not fully understood what it means to preside over the countries of the EU."

According to Juncker, 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". He also questioned the capacity of the country, faced with internal political tensions, to appear as a "compact unit" in Europe.

Romania assumes the EU's rotating presidency on 1 January for the first time since it joined the bloc in 2007, succeeding Austria. It comes as the EU is at loggerheads with the increasingly populist government in Bucharest on multiple fronts. Romania's left-wing government has recently begun to adopt the sort of nationalist rhetoric expounded by nearby Hungary and Poland.

Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD) and widely seen as Romania's most powerful man, has slammed the EU as "unfair", claiming Brussels is seeking to deny Bucharest the "right to hold its own opinions". One of the main reasons for the cooling of relations between Bucharest and Brussels is the PSD's planned overhaul of Romania's judiciary, which the government says is aimed at clamping down on "abuses" by judges and magistrates.

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