A selection of the most important events of the year 2019.
The Romanian 6-month presidency of the Council of the EU
A member of the European Union since 2007, Romania held, for the first time, the presidency of the Council of the EU in the first six months of 2019. Bucharest managed to finalize, in this capacity, 90 legislative files and to stage 24 hundred events. Seen as an absolute success, the European Summit in Sibiu (central Romania) on the future of the EU helped shape up the Strategic Agenda for 2019-2024. According to the then PM, the Social Democrat Viorica Dancila, the concept of cohesion between citizens, communities, regions and member states dominated the Romanian presidency. The Romanian mandate also focused on the EU’s social dimension, by promoting gender equality and fighting anti-Semitism, xenophobia and hate speech.
The defeat of the left-of-center parties at the European Elections
The vote of the Romanian electorate in the EU election on May 26 sent to the European Parliament representatives of six political parties. The National Liberal Party, the main right-of-center party in Romania, got most of the votes, around 27%. The Social Democratic Party, the main party in the then ruling coalition came next, followed by the USR-PLUS Alliance. Pro Romania, the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania and People’s Movement Party, with around 5% to 6% percent of the votes each, also sent two of their representatives to the European Parliament. The other seven parties that took part in the European elections, including ALDE, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, fell under the 5% threshold and did not make it to the European Parliament. In the Diaspora, Romanians again stood in endless queues in order to cast their ballot, and accused the Foreign Ministry of serious flaws in organizing the elections. At the same time with the election for the European Parliament, Romanians were asked to have their say in a referendum called by President Klaus Iohannis. Over 80% of the voters answer “Yes” to the anti-corruption fight.
The end of the PSD era
A day after the European Parliament election and the referendum on justice, Liviu Dragnea was arrested. Dragnea, officially the third-most powerful man in Romania as Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, but unofficially number one in political terms due to his chairmanship of the Social Democratic Party, the largest political party in the country, was sentenced to 3 and a half years in prison and put behind bars. Judges upheld the ruling passed about a year ago in a case involving fake jobs given to party members at the Teleorman County Social Assistance and Child Protection Directorate. Dragnea was sentenced for inciting abuse of office. More precisely, while a chairman of the Teleorman County Council, he made the heads of that public institution hire and keep on their payroll 2 Social Democratic Party members who cashed their salaries for years, although they never showed up to work. This is the second prison sentence for the former Social Democrat leader. He had already received a 2-year suspended sentence for election fraud in the 2012 referendum on impeaching the then president Traian Basescu. After Dragnea’s arrest, the then PM Viorica Dancila took the helm of the party and Social Democrat Marcel Ciolacu took over the chairmanship of the Chamber of Deputies.
Change of government
For the first time in three decades of post-communist rule, Romania has a National Liberal government. On November 4, Parliament endorsed the new cabinet headed by the Liberal leader Ludovic Orban. It was uncertain, till the last moment, if Orban would manage to get the 233 votes he needed in order to pass the test in Parliament. There were 240 votes in his favor eventually, in spite of the fact that the share of Liberal deputies in Parliament was only 20%. The Orban team took over the government from Viorica Dancila on October 10, following a no confidence vote in Parliament, initiated by the Liberals and supported by MPs from many other parties, who had branded the Dancila Government as the most toxic in the last 30 years and had pledged to adopt a responsible governing programme, focused on modernizing the country and improving the living standards of every Romanian.
Romanians the European institutions
Romanian MEP Adina Valean is the commissioner for transport in the new European Commission that took over on December 1st. Liberal Adina Valean, 51, a Math teacher, became a member of the European Parliament in November 2007, after Romania joined the European Union. Before that, she was a deputy in Romania’s Parliament (2004-2007). Previous to her nomination, Valean was one of the most influential Romanian MEPs and the president of the European Parliament’s Commission for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). Before that, she was a vice-president of the European Parliament (July 2014 to January 2017) and president of the Commission for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. She was fourth in a ranking of the most influential MEPs, released by Vote Watch EU in April. In 2009 she had a decisive contribution to the decrease in roaming mobile Internet tariffs. Valean is the fourth Romanian EU commissioner, after Leonard Orban, Dacian Ciolos and Corina Cretu, but points out that allotting the transport portfolio to Romania, a country that still does not have a coherent motorway network, has not upgraded its railway network for decades and whose national air company has lost more than 340 million euros in the last two years alone, is at least ironic.
Klaus Iohannis wins a second term as head of state
Incumbent President, Klaus Iohannis, supported by the National Liberal Party, won by a large margin the presidential election on November 24. In the second round he got 66% of the votes, double his contender, the former Social Democratic PM Viorica Dancila. Two days after the results after the clearer defeat of a Social Democratic candidate, Dancila resigned her position as president of the party. At the start of his new 5-year presidential mandate, Klaus Iohannis promised to further be a staunch supporter of the citizens’ rights and freedoms, in keeping with the democratic tradition of the Romanian people and the ideals of the anti-communist revolution of 1989.
And now the most notable results of the year 2019 in sports. On July 17 tens of thousands of people applauded Simona Halep, the trophy winner in Wimbledon, as part of an event hosted by the National Arena in Bucharest. Halep brought to the country the first ever trophy in the singles competition won by a Romanian, defeating the American Serena Williams. Simona Halep confessed that her main objective in 2020 would be winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, where she will be Romania’s flag bearer. President Klaus Iohannis granted Halep the National Order of the Star of Romania in the Rank of Knight, the highest distinction of the Romanian state. Halep ended 2019 in 4th position in WTA standings. Romanian-born Canadian player Bianca Andreescu finished her first season in the top 100 in 5th place. We switch to football as in June, Romania qualified to the semifinals of the UEFA Under-21 Championship 2019 held in Italy and San Marino and thus qualified to the Olympic games in Tokyo. Romanian footballers will thus take part in the Olympics after 56 years. In the European cups, the Romanian champions CFR Cluj qualified for the round of 32 of the Europa League after a 2-0 home win against Scottish side Celtic Glasgow and will be up against FC Sevilla of Spain in February.
(translated by Elena Enache)